- Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Britain, 11 August 2021. | Photo: EFE
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Seen from Nicaragua, the lawfare attack on Craig Murray and its suppression by international news media, contrasts sharply with the international prestige awarded to Carlos Fernando Chamorro, son of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and a leading media figure of the country’s political opposition.
By Stephen Sefton, Tortilla con Sal,
Although lawfare is a term coined only recently, unjust abuse of the law for political motives goes back to the judicial murder of Socrates and beyond. So gross injustice inflicted on individuals committed to truthful reporting like Julian Assange, others before him and since, and now, most recently, Craig Murray, should come as no surprise in itself. In the cases of Julian Assange and Craig Murray, the authorities clearly intend to convey the message that they can do what they like. Essentially, the Scottish and United Kingdom rulers and their fellow-traveling news managers are flaunting their abuse of power and control so as to intimidate and criminalize actual and potential dissent, while insisting to the general public that nothing of significance has taken place.
Seen from Nicaragua, the lawfare attack on Craig Murray and its suppression by international news media, contrasts sharply with the international prestige awarded to Carlos Fernando Chamorro, son of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and a leading media figure of the country’s political opposition. Chamorro has collaborated with the United States government ever since 1996, when he worked to facilitate US intervention in Nicaragua’s presidential elections. Subsequently in 2004 he became a formal partner of USAID via a contract with Casals and Associates, a subsidiary of the US military contractor Dyncorp.
In those days and later on too, Chamorro used foreign government funding from the US and elsewhere to support his political allies in Nicaragua via his non profit Centro de Investigaciones para Comunicación (CINCO). In 2008, the Sandinista government tried to investigate Chamorro’s abuse of CINCO’s non profit status funding a political group, part of the opposition electoral alliance for that year’s municipal elections. Back then, international mainstream media mounted an aggressive campaign claiming the investigation into Chamorro’s law-breaking threatened freeedom of speech. In the end, Chamorro settled his differences with the authorities and continued his virulent attacks on the government of president Daniel Ortega, absurdly claiming he was the victim of a dictatorship.
Thanks to reporting by writers like Jorge Capelán, William Grigsby of Radio La Primerísima and the Grayzone’s Ben Norton, Chamorro’s financial relationship with USAID and European government agencies, is quite well documented. Even so, Chamorro himself has constantly posed as an independent journalist while at the same time consolidating a media propaganda conglomerate funded directly or indirectly with millions of dollars by foreign governments, principally the US. His propaganda media group consists of various entities including CINCO and its subsidiary online media outlet, Confidencial, as well as the private media companies Invermedia, and Promedia.
CINCO was stripped of its non profit status in 2018, because Chamorro had again abused CINCO’s non profit status, using foreign government money to promote and facilitate the violent failed coup attempt of 2018. Even so, his television programs and his on line media outlet, Confidencial, continued to broadcast constant anti-government propaganda, attacking, among other things, the government’s successful policy to control COVID-19 in Nicaragua. Traveling between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, he continued to collaborate with the US government despite President Trump’s 2019 designation of Nicaragua as a threat to the national security of the United States.
But his position effectively became untenable in July 2020 when the La Primerísima radio station reported a document outlining the USAID Responsive Assistance to Nicaragua program for an unconstitutional overthrow of the government in the context of the run up to the general elections scheduled for November 7th this year and their aftermath. That is the never-reported context in which investigations of possible lawbreaking were begun into the finances and activities of foundations run by Chamorro’s sister Cristiana and by his cousin Juan Sebastian and into other figures who have either facilitated US funding to Nicaragua’s political opposition or openly called for punitive US measures against their own country.
Despite his well documented mercenary status as a US government propagandist paid to destabilize Nicaragua, practically all international news media falsely describe Carlos Fernando Chamorro as an independent journalist. During the violent failed coup attempt of 2018, Chamorro’s Confidencial, along with Miguel Mora’s 100% Noticias and Radio Corporación, were the coup promoters’ most important propaganda outlets. They all to greater or lesser degree justified, incited and even instigated opposition attacks and arson and the murder and torture of Sandinistas and then systematically lied to cover up those heinous crimes, blaming them on the government and its supporters. Despite this record of odious falsehood, Chamorro is portrayed as a brave outspoken defender of free speech and awarded international journalism prizes for his consistently hateful, mendacious propaganda,
The contrast with the figure of Craig Murray could not be more stark. Murray gave up a well paid diplomatic career on principle in protest at the UK government’s refusal to condemn horrific human rights violations by the Uzbekistan authorities. He became a leading anti-war campaigner, a position which also led him to defend Julian Assange, on whose recent extradition hearings he was practically the only reliable source reporting that farrago in detail. Murray has no secure income, depending on financial support from contributions of people who admire his writing, his anti-war position and his outspoken defence of fundamental freedoms. Craig Murray was prosecuted by the Scottish authorities for reporting that demonstrated convincingly how members of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s political team almost certainly conspired to frame former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond on false charges of sexual abuse.
Salmond was exonerated of all charges in an extremely controversial jury trial veryembarrassing for the Scottish government. Subsequently, Sturgeon’s political team and their media allies supported an anomalous criminal prosecution effectively indicting Craig Murray for having publicly defended Alex Salmond, exposing their coruption. As Scotland’s former Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill MP has noted, Murray was unjustly singled out for doing what other reporters had done, who were not prosecuted. “That people have been charged in Scottish courts and have faced possible terms of imprisonment for simply doing exactly the same as the mainstream press has done but not faced prosecution is simply unacceptable. There is also a reason that I am required to raise it here: it is that the position of the Lord Advocate of Scotland is no longer tenable. There has to be a separation of powers of having one individual who is both a legal adviser to the Scottish Government and also the head of the prosecution service in Scotland.”
In Scotland the figure of the Lord Advocate is the chief legal adviser to the Scottish government but is also the Public Prosecutor, a confusion of roles that has been the matter of particular controversy since Scotland’s first devolved parliament in 1999. The Lord Advocate is appointed by the British monarch based on the recommendation of the Scottish First Minister, since 2014, Nicola Sturgeon. The case against Murray was heard without a jury via a corrupt criminal justice system staffed by individuals politically loyal to the Scottish government.
The lead judge in Murray’s case, the Lord Justice Clerk, the second most important judicial post in Scotland, was Lady Leeona Dorrian. Like Lord Advocate James Wolffe, she too was appointed by the British monarch in 2016 on the recommendation of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Dorrian had a material interest in successfully prosecuting Murray and giving him a vindictive sentence satisfactory to her political boss since as Kirsten MacDonald put it “Many believe her ambition is to replace Lord Carloway, who retires shortly, as Lord President – Scotland’s top judge. The appointment will be made by the Queen on the recommendation of Nicola Sturgeon.”
Precisely this kind of squalid political cronyism and abuse of the judicial system has served to imprison many prominent progressive political figures like former president of Brazil Lula da Silva and former vice president of Ecuador Jorge Glas as well as to persecute former Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, among many others. In one sense those politicans are relatively fortunate because reporters in Latin America are at much more risk of politically motivated violence than they are of persecution via lawfare. In Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Haiti and elsewhere in the region, reporters are regularly attacked and even killed for exposing official wrongdoing.
That in itself should make people stop and think when they read Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s phony complaints of unjust repression, as if journalists in the US or Europe found taking Russian or Chinese government money to spread anti-government propaganda and destabilize their countries would not face official reprisal. In any case, a comparison between the treatment of Carlos Fernando Chamorro and that of Craig Murray or Julian Assange is salutary. Treasonous mercenary hirelings like Chamorro get feted by Western news media and win prizes from prestigious Western institutions. By contrast, those same imperialist news media and institutions subject genuine good faith reporters and publishers like Craig Murray and Julian Assange to vindictive smears and slanders, making them pariahs while their basic rights are systematically denied by a corrupt injustice