(UR) A broad coalition of journalists and news organizations published the first portion of information from the Panama Papers — some 11.5 million documents tracing the offshore banking practices of the world leaders and global elites. But how these organizations chose to present their information and, indeed, their methodology for analyzing the sizable leak — through a decidedly pro-West, anti-BRICS lens — reveals at least as much as the documents, themselves.
Obtained from an anonymous source by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the millions of files from the database of prominent offshore Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca comprise 2.6 terabytes of information — more than either Wikileaks or Edward Snowden previously revealed.
“The Panama Papers is a global investigation into the sprawling, secretive industry of offshore that the world’s rich and powerful use to hide assets and skirt rules by setting up front companies in far-flung jurisdictions,” ICIJ explained. “[T]he investigation exposes a cast of characters who use offshore companies to facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion, financial fraud and drug trafficking.”
Though damning evidence certainly abounds in this trove of files, something appears to be missing. Despite fingering Russian President Vladimir Putin for his allegedly shady offshore dealings, no equivalent U.S. or European leaders of the critical ‘weight’ are implicated — a discrepancy not lost on former torture whistleblower and British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray.
“These Panamanian lawyers hide the wealth of a significant proportion of the 1%, and the massive leak of their documents ought to be a wonderful thing,” Murray wrote in his blog. “Unfortunately the leaker has made the dreadful mistake of turning to western corporate media to publicise the results. In consequence, the first major story, published [Sunday] by the Guardian, is all about Vladimir Putin and a cellist on the fiddle.”
“But why focus on Russia?” he queried. “Russian wealth is only a tiny minority of the money hidden away with the aid of Mossack Fonseca. In fact, it soon becomes obvious that the selective reporting is going to stink.”
Murray doesn’t downplay the significance nor express doubt about Putin’s involvement in such activities, but calls out the bias inherent in the journalistic coalition’s cherry-picking in deciding what to analyze and thus publish from the data dump.
Both Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Guardian explain the bulk of the search in the leaked documents performed by corporate media focused on individual leaders’ and politicians’ dealings with countries subject to sanctions by the United Nations — specifically, North Korea, Syria, Zimbabwe, and, of course, Russia.
“The filtering of the Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda,” Murray continued. “There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires — the main customers.”
Even further to the point, as emphasized by the Guardian, “much of the leaked material will remain private,” and — without intending irony — added, “there are compelling reasons for publishing some of the data.”
Of course, without allowing independent and non-western journalists, much less the public, to access the database, what constitutes ‘compelling’ remains a dubious uncertainty — if not a downright manipulative assertion. Without access to verify these mainstream reports — or the ability to independently ascertain whether an imminently more crucial item has been omitted from them — we are left to trust the often notably unreliable corporate-run, mass media.
Additional hints the leak reports amount to a propaganda campaign are found close to their source — the so-called International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — which as Murray explained, “is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity.”
CPI’s list of funders includes George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and an extensive list of similar groups.
Such ostensibly public-interest organizations often employ a premise of charitable work as a tool to promote the agendas of their corporate roots — whether consciously and blatantly or through surreptitious means. So, as Murray also asserted, “do not expect a genuine expose” of the corporate West, as the “dirty secrets of western corporations will remain unpublished.
“Expect hits at Russia, Iran and Syria and some tiny ‘balancing’ western country like Iceland.”
So far, this precisely — and lamentably — summarizes mainstream reporting on the Panama Papers. In just one example substantiating Murray’s prediction, TIME Magazine listed world leaders implicated by the leaked documents — including Putin and his associates, Assad and company, various politicians from Argentina and the Ukraine, and (surprise!) none other than the prime minister of Iceland.
In fact, it’s doubtful any true revelations will materialize from the millions of Mossack Fonseca files without their being publicly searchable as Wikileaks admirably did with its Hillary Clinton email database. Were ICIJ acting in the interest of investigative journalism as its name contends it does, leaving no stone unturned would be the publicly-stated goal — and thus the information would be accessible to all.
“I know Russia and China are corrupt, you don’t have to tell me that,” Murray concluded. “What if [ICIJ looked] at things that we might, here in the west, be able to rise up and do something about?”
Edward Snowden’s massive revelations concerning domestic and international surveillance by the U.S. immediately springs to mind. To wit, Murray advised,
“Never forget the Guardian smashed its copies of the Snowden files on the instruction of MI6.”
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