Thursday, August 10, 2006


A civil rights group accused the police department of bullying photographers and filmmakers by detaining them and threatening them with arrest unless they destroyed their images or showed them to officers. The New York Civil Liberties Union made the claim Monday in a rewrite of a lawsuit brought earlier this year against the city on behalf of an award-winning filmmaker from India who was blocked from videotaping near a famous midtown Manhattan building.

The lawsuit, in U.S. District Court, was filed in January after filmmaker Rakesh Sharma said he felt humiliated when he was detained in May 2005 by police who saw him use a handheld video camera near the MetLife building, which sits atop an underpass near Grand Central Terminal. He was shooting footage for a Sept. 11-related documentary.

Police have told the NYCLU that reports about photographers are the most common complaint called into their terrorism hot line, NYCLU associate legal director Chris Dunn said. "While investigations may be appropriate in certain cases, people cannot be arrested for taking pictures, and police officers cannot coerce them into destroying images," Dunn said.

The expanded lawsuit says many other photographers and filmmakers have been treated by police the way Sharma was. The city had not seen the rewritten lawsuit but would review it thoroughly, city attorney Susan Scharfstein said. In court papers, the city has said it is entitled to government immunity from liability because its employees acted reasonably and did not violate the Constitution.

The lawsuit alleges the city has no policies, procedures or training for investigating complaints about photographers. It seeks to force the city to establish reasonable policies and to properly train officers to protect First Amendment rights. It also seeks compensatory damages for Sharma, who was taping background footage for a documentary examining changes in the lives of ordinary people such as taxi drivers after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Indian censors banned his awarding-winning 2003 documentary, "Final Solution," saying it might trigger unrest. It shows the 2002 religious rioting in the Western state of Gujarat, which killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. The NYCLU lawsuit says Sharma's documentaries rely on candid footage of people, places and events. It describes him as a law-abiding resident of Mumbai, India, who had never been arrested or detained before his New York experience.



State Sen. Sheila Kuehl has given up her hotly contested campaign to force changes in California school curriculum to reflect the contributions of gays and lesbians. Faced with a certain veto by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kuehl unveiled amendments Monday to Senate Bill 1437 that delete any requirement to alter curriculum. "I'm very disappointed that the governor twisted our arms on this," the Santa Monica Democrat said of the amendments, which she said eliminated 90 percent of her bill. Kuehl said she did not talk personally with Schwarzenegger, but that his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, made the governor's opposition perfectly clear.

Supporters of SB 1437 had hoped that publicizing the contributions of gays and lesbians would give pride to homosexual students and promote tolerance among heterosexual peers. "It would have raised everybody's consciousness," said Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat who -- along with Kuehl and a handful of other legislators -- is openly gay. Though the new SB 1437 will not mandate curriculum changes, Kuehl said it could be more acceptable to Schwarzenegger and still represent a "small step forward" in gay rights.

Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman, said the Republican governor had not read Kuehl's amendments and has made no decision on supporting them. Kuehl's changes to SB 1437 were approved Monday by the Assembly, 56-2, with 21 legislators not casting ballots. SB 1437 now will be reprinted to reflect the changes, then returned to the Assembly for a vote on the bill's merits. The bill passed the Senate in May on a party-line vote, 22-15, with Republicans opposed. The new SB 1437 leaves intact provisions to prohibit instruction or any school activity that "reflects adversely" upon anyone because of their sexual orientation. Kuehl's bill also would ban the adoption of textbooks or other instructional materials that place gays and lesbians in a negative light. Under SB 1437, schoolteachers could not inform their students, for example, that homosexuality is immoral or wrong.

The bill applies to public school teachers, not those on privately funded campuses. Violations of SB 1437 could be reported to the state Department of Education for possible reprisals.....

More here


Monica Attard says bias is more about the views of the complainers. Not so fast, sister. Not all opinions are equally valid, writes Andrew Bolt.

They can change the hosts of ABC's Media Watch, but they can't change its taxpayer-funded agenda. The show is now hosted by Monica Attard, who follows five Leftist predecessors, and on Monday it did what it always does in our war on Islamist terror. That's right: it ignored or excused a savage media bias that makes the West seem the real villain in this war. Here are examples of that bias from just the past fortnight -- not one of which Media Watch mentioned:

A REUTERS photographer has been sacked for doctoring pictures (one run by the ABC) to make Israeli attacks on Lebanon seem worse than they were.

HARROWING pictures from Qana, bombed by Israel, seem now to have been staged for the newspapers, with the corpse of a dead girl being paraded by several men at several locations.

THE Age gave over part of its opinion page for a piece by a spokesman for the Hezbollah terror group.

CHANNEL 9 reported from a tour of Beirut bomb sites, which a CNN reporter said was a "heavily orchestrated Hezbollah media event" -- and made the very points about civilian casualties Hezbollah wanted made.

But the rankest example of this bias came from Sunday Age columnist Terry Lane. Two Sundays ago Lane wrote he'd seen video evidence of a former "US Army Ranger", Jesse Macbeth, who had "served in Iraq for 16 months" like someone "who joined the SS" and had "orders" to "do whatever it takes in the field to make them (civilians) fear you". Macbeth had said he'd gone into basements during raids to "make sure everything was dead": "Whether they were women or children . . . we had to finish them off." But a quick check on Google confirmed that this anti-war porn was, of course, a hoax. Explained a mortified Lane: "I fell for it because I wanted to believe it." And of course he did. Lane is a Marxist with such loathing for America and its allies that during the Iraq war he wrote: "I want the army of my country, which is engaged in an act of gross immorality, to be defeated".

How deeply this loathing affects his judgment still. By last Sunday, Lane's apology had morphed into this bizarre defiance: "The Macbeth fraud is plausible because it fits the facts." Really? Which facts could possibly fit this tale of SS-style US death squads with orders to shoot civilians? Said Lane: "In the place of Macbeth's lies about shooting survivors in basement bomb shelters, I should have quoted from the BBC report in March: Recent figures from the campaign group, Iraq Body Count, put the minimum number of civilians killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion three years ago at between 33,710 and 37,832."

Oops. You did it again, Terry. In fact, Iraq Body Count in no way says what you imply -- that mass-murdering US troops, just like Jesse Macbeth, have killed 37,000 Iraqi civilians. Look at the IBC's website to see its own description of how those people (and not only civilians) died. You'll find pages of accounts like these: "street sweepers (killed by) roadside bomb", building laborers killed by "suicide minibus bomb", a Baghdad University security chief shot dead, worshippers at the Al-Qubaisi mosque killed by a bomb and even a "sheep seller killed by booby-trapped head of girl".

Terry, are you so hate-blinded that you can't even see that the overwhelming majority of these deaths are caused not by US troops, but the terrorists they fight? US soldiers have orders not to kill civilians, but save them. We couldn't get a better example of how bias messes with a journalist's grasp of the facts -- one that helps us understand so much of the coverage of this war. Yet Media Watch ignored Lane and -- typically -- tried instead to defend the bias of the ABC's children's program Behind the News.

BTN had tried to "explain" the fighting in Lebanon to children like this: "When Israel was created in 1948 many Palestinians were forced from their land and some went to southern Lebanon. This led to the formation of groups like Hezbollah . . . Hezbollah has been fighting with Israel to reclaim lost land and to remove foreign troops from Lebanon."

Attard on Media Watch at least conceded this report contained "mistakes" which were "profound". For a start, Hezbollah is Lebanese, not Palestinian, and was formed in the 1980s, not the 1940s. But she then smacked the ABC for saying these "mistakes" meant BTN "failed to meet the requirements of balance and impartiality". What was bias anyway, Attard seemed to ask. And she got several commentators to give conflicting views on the bias of BTN, as if all their views were equally valid. She concluded: "Complaints of bias often say more about the views of the complainer than the media". So no bias at BTN then. Just "mistakes". Like Lane's?

But not so fast, sister. First, not all opinions are equally valid. And certainly not the views you sought. You see, to prove the BTN report could also be seen as biased against Hezbollah, Attard put on Keysar Trad -- but didn't tell viewers things about him that might make them doubt his judgment. Attard didn't say Trad was the former spokesman of the pro-Hezbollah Mufti of Australia, the extremist Sheik Taj Al-Din Al-Hilaly. She also failed to say he had been a translator for the pro-Osama bin Laden and pro-jihadist Nida'ul Islam magazine, where he wrote: "The criminal dregs of white society colonised this country . . . and the descendants of these criminal dregs tell us that they are better than us." If viewers knew that, would they think Trad's view of "balance" was . . . balanced?

But is Attard's view any better? If she criticises any reporting on Islamist extremism it is to attack those who at least ask hard questions -- and to defend those trying to dodge them. It's bad enough that Media Watch long ago stopped being -- or never was -- an impartial judge of media sins. But far worse is that it now serves as an apologist not just for bad journalism, but for the toxic ideologies such journalism defends with its shameless "mistakes".


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