US Lawmakers’ Letter Denouncing Radio Sputnik Proves First Amendment Protections Are Necessary

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Dan Kovalik, a human rights and labor lawyer who is author of the book “No More War: How the West Violates International Law by Using ‘Humanitarian’ Intervention to Advance Economic and Strategic Interests,” joined Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear on Friday to discuss the congressional letter to the FCC and highlight the blatant hypocrisy expressed by both lawmakers and the US government when it comes to media that does not parrot mainstream positions.

According to the letter to FCC chair Ajit Pai on February 13, signatories Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CN), Michael Doyle (D-PA), Jerry McNerney (D-NM), Eleanor Norton (D-DC), Sharice Davids (D-KS), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) believe the FCC’s “continued inaction” to reprimand or remove Radio Sputnik for its broadcasts is “a stunning abdication of its responsibility to protect American airwaves.”

“The whole idea … that the US promotes is that in a society with a free flow of ideas, you should be able to say anything you want – regardless of who you are, by the way – and if you’re wrong, then I should be able to prove you’re wrong with my counter-ideas,” Kovalik told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou. “There shouldn’t be any speech that is seen as somehow threatening to the democratic system. If it is threatening, then maybe there’s a problem with the system.”

Not to mention that the US Agency for Global Media, an international public broadcaster funded by the US government and formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, maintains a presence on airwaves around the world through a variety of franchises, including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio y Television Marti and Radio Farda.

However, those are only the “overtly government-sponsored US propaganda sources,” Kovalik noted. “How about CNN, Fox News, that are also broadcast throughout the world in multiple languages?”

He took it a step further and argued that Hollywood films, which are oftentimes influenced and sometimes censored by the CIA, Department of Defense or other federal bodies, promote particular ideas about what the US is or claims to be.

“Those are probably more powerful than any propaganda tool in the world, and those things are broadcast, again, everywhere in the world,” he noted.

Moreover, the congressional letter to the FCC also raises the question of free speech: a right that is supposedly protected under the First Amendment. While the congress members repeatedly reference their duty to uphold the US Constitution in the missive, they instead appear to cherry pick their obligations to the government’s founding document.

“You don’t need a First Amendment to protect most of the mainstream media, which does nothing but parrot the government line. They don’t need any protection … because governments are happy to have pro-government media,” Kovalik explained. “What you need is a First Amendment to protect things like Sputnik, which give another viewpoint – and that’s what it is. It’s not propaganda, but a different viewpoint of the world, which is actually very critically needed.”

One particular grievance of the letter references the disclosure of Radio Sputnik’s “true identity” to listeners. The congressmen declare that it is “shameful” the FCC has not concluded its inquiry into the matter with regard to Sputnik.

Kovalik pointed out that the name “Radio Sputnik” does not leave much to the imagination in terms of the station’s ties. “It’s not called ‘Apollo 11 Moon Landing Radio,’” he quipped. “Meanwhile you have people on – many of whom, like John [Kiriakou], Ray McGovern, others – who worked for the US government. These are hardly Russian tools.”

“People talk about freedom all the time; they talk about free speech all the time. But then when someone exercises their free speech to say something that’s critical, that goes against the mainstream, then people cry out for that person to be repressed in some way,” Kovalik said. “Everyone advocates for freedom until someone actually exercises freedom.”

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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Sputnik / Vladimir Astapkovich

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