All the news not fit to print

This year’s Project Censored book dedicated to Gary Webb

The media watchdog group Project Censored has released Censored 2006, the latest annual roundup of what it calls the “25 most important news stories not covered by the corporate media in 2004-05.” Project Censored operates out of Sonoma State University, where the project editors are quick to point out that these stories aren’t actually censored by the government so much as “self-censored” by the mainstream press.

But topping the list this year: “Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government,” detailing the myriad ways in which this administration has limited information under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Bush has expanded the breadth of information considered “exempt” from disclosure for security reasons, and “Quite commonly, the Bush administration simply fails to respond to FOIA requests at all,” says the Project Censored report. U.S. Representative Henry Waxman told the project editors, “The Bush administration has an obsession with secrecy.” But the obsession was considered newsworthy by only a handful of media outlets.

Not surprisingly, many of the top spots on the censored list go to stories surrounding the war in Iraq. At No. 2: “Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Deathtoll.” When, in October 2004, the British medical journal The Lancet published its study showing that more than 100,000 Iraqis had died since the U.S. invasion, the report made barely a ripple in the American press, lost in the clamor of the fall presidential election. The project’s editors note that the U.S. press—following the lead of the U.S. military—still avoids printing Iraqi casualty numbers.

At No. 6: “The Real Oil for Food Scam” casts a different light on the accusations of corruption in the U.N.’s oil-for-food program before the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The reports made great fodder for political attacks on the credibility of the United Nations and Secretary General Kofi Annan. But the Project Censored report finds that most news organizations overlooked the United States’ own involvement in administering the program. “If Hussein did smuggle $6 billion worth of oil … he didn’t do it with the complicity of the U.N. He did it on the watch of the U.S. Navy,” said Joy Gordon, who covered the story for Harper’s magazine and is cited in Censored 2006.

At No. 19 is a story involving the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and ethical concerns about that company testing AIDS drugs on child wards of the state at a New York Catholic children’s home.

The whole story list, with sources, can be viewed at Censored 2006 is making its way into bookstores now.

This year, Project Censored dedicated the book to investigative reporter Gary Webb, who committed suicide last December. Webb’s investigative stories detailing the connections between the Contras, the CIA and the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles cost him his job at the San Jose Mercury News. But Webb was partly vindicated much later by the CIA’s own internal investigation. He was a reporter at SN&R at the time of his death last year. In his honor, Webb’s introduction to the Censored 1999 book is being reprinted in Censored 2006.