In between breathless condemnations of the Bush administration for stifling its free speech, endless court filings demanding classified and sensitive information from the military and intelligence agencies, and self-pitying media industry confabs bemoaning their hemorrhaging circulations (with the exception of the New York Post), my colleagues in the American media don’t have much time to give thanks. Allow me:
Give thanks we don’t live in Bangladesh, where you can be put on trial for writing columns supporting Israel and condemning Muslim violence. Just ask Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of Blitz, the largest tabloid English-language weekly in Bangladesh. He is currently facing a sedition trial for speaking out about the threats radical Islam poses in Bangladesh. He has been imprisoned, harassed, beaten and condemned. In court last week, his persecutors read these charges against him: "By praising the Jews and Christians, by attempting to travel to Israel and by predicting the so-called rise of Islamist militancy in the country and expressing such through writings inside the country and abroad, you have tried to damage the image and relations of Bangladesh with the outside world." For expressing these dissident opinions, he faces the possibility of execution.
Give thanks we don’t live in Egypt, where bloggers have been detained by the government for criticizing Islam and exposing the apathy of Cairo police to sexual harassment of women. Just ask Abdel Karim Suliman Amer, 22, who was arrested earlier this month for "spreading information disruptive of public order," "incitement to hate Muslims" and "defaming the President of the Republic." Ask Rami Siyam, who blogs under the name of Ayyoub, and has been outspoken in his criticism of Egyptian brutality. He was detained this week along with three friends after leaving the house of a fellow blogger. His host, 24-year-old reformist Muslim Muhammad al-Sharqawi, had been detained by the Egyptian government this spring as he left a peaceful demonstration in Cairo where he had displayed a sign reading, "I want my rights." Sharqawi was beaten in prison over several weeks.
Give thanks we don’t live in Sudan, where editors can lose their heads for not kowtowing to the government line. Ask the family of Mohammed Taha, editor in chief of the Sudanese private daily Al-Wifaq, who was found decapitated on a Khartoum street in September. He had been kidnapped by masked jihadi gunmen. What did Taha do that cost him his life? He insulted Islam, and dared to question Muslim history, the roots of Mohammed and other Muslims. Before his murder, his paper was shuttered for three months and he was hauled into court for "blasphemy."
Give thanks we don’t live in China, the world’s leading jailer of journalists and Internet critics. Consider Yang Xiaoqing, jailed for five months because he reported corruption among local officials in the central Hunan province. Or Yang Tianshui, sentenced to 12 years in jail this spring for posting essays on the Internet supporting a movement by exiles to hold free elections. Or Li Yuanlong, a Guizhou reporter for the Bijie Daily jailed for two years on subversion charges because he dared to criticize the ruling Communist Party on foreign websites. Or any of the other 32 journalists and 50-plus bloggers behind bars.
Give thanks we don’t live in Lebanon, where outspoken writers pay with their lives. Journalist and Christian Orthodox activist Samir Kassir, who was critical of Syrian involvement in Lebanon, was assassinated in a Beirut car bombing in 2005. His colleague, An-Nahar newspaper manager Gibran Tueni, was killed in a car bombing last December. Lebanese TV anchorwoman and Christian journalist May Chidiak survived a separate car bombing last fall, but lost an arm, leg and use of one eye.
Give thanks we don’t live in Russia, where investigative journalists routinely wind up dead. Last month, unrelenting reporter and Putin critic Anna Politkovskaya was found shot dead in her apartment. In the days before her death, Politkovskaya had been working on a story about torture in Chechnya, according to her newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. She joins a death toll that includes Paul Klebnikov, the U.S.-born editor of the Russian edition of Forbes, who had been investigating the Russian business underworld and was gunned down outside his Moscow office in 2004; Valery Ivanov, editor of the newspaper Tolyatinskoye Oborzreniye, also shot dead after investigating organized crime and drug trafficking in 2002; and Larisa Yudina, editor of the opposition newspaper Sovetskaya Kalmykia in southern Russia, who was stabbed to death by former government aides.
Give thanks we don’t live in Denmark, where the cartoonists who dared to caricature Mohammed and challenge creeping sharia are still in hiding, in fear for their lives.
Give thanks we don’t live in Italy, where a spineless judge bowed to jihadists and put famed war journalist Oriana Fallaci on trial for her sharp-tongued critiques of Islam. She succumbed to cancer before they could exact a vengeful penalty against the lioness. But they made the price of "insulting" Islam known far and wide to the cowering Western media.
Give thanks we live in America, land of the free, home of the brave, where the media’s elite journalists can leak top-secret information with impunity, win Pulitzer Prizes, cash in on lucrative book deals, routinely insult their readership and viewership, broadcast enemy propaganda, turn a blind eye to the victims of jihad, and cast themselves as oppressed victims on six-figure salaries.
God bless the U.S.A.