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“Shadows of Liberty”: New Film Explores How Corporate Control of Media Erodes Press Freedoms

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The new documentary “Shadows of Liberty” had its U.S. premiere last night at the National Conference for Media Reform in Denver. Using individual cases of journalists whose attempts to tell their stories have been muzzled by corporations and the government, the film shows how a corporate-controlled media can silence the truth about issues ranging from war to labor practices. In one instance, CBS refused to re-air an investigation by the prize-winning journalist Roberta Baskin on Nike’s use of sweatshop labor in Vietnam. [includes rush transcript]

Related Story

StoryMay 17, 2005Investigative Journalist Recalls Leaving CBS After Encountering Fierce Resistance to Re-Air Expose on Nike Labor Practices
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to our last segment of the broadcast. We’re here at the National Conference on Media Reform, here in Denver, Colorado. Last night was the premiere of a film that talks about how freedom of the press in the United States is eroding under increasing corporate control. Shadows of Liberty had its U.S. premiere here at the National Conference for Media Reform. Using individual stories of journalists whose attempts to tell their stories have been muzzled by corporations and the government, the film shows how a corporate-controlled media can silence the truth and pave the way to war. The film is directed by Jean-Philippe Tremblay, who is joining us now in Denver. But first we’re going to go to the trailer of Shadows of Liberty.

AMY GOODMAN: All we ever get is a veil of distortion and lies and misrepresentations that obscure reality.

UNIDENTIFIED: Good evening. We have a lot of news to tell you about.

UNIDENTIFIED: Giant media corporations decide what is news and what is not news.

DANNY GLOVER: This is to control people’s ideas. It’s to control their imagination.

UNIDENTIFIED: The news we rely on is in the hands of the commercial enterprises.

UNIDENTIFIED: If it didn’t appear in The New York Times, Fox News, CNN, it never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED: There are certain events in journalism that you may not cover.

ROBERTA BASKIN: There were incidences of physical abuse.

UNIDENTIFIED: CBS decided this is not a story we’re going to fight for.

UNIDENTIFIED: All of a sudden, the plane exploded. And one guy goes, “Oh, you think it’s a missile.”

UNIDENTIFIED: It was a complete act of deceit.

RUPERT MURDOCH: Well, we basically supported the Bush policy.

UNIDENTIFIED: When that many people die, you owe it to them to find out what really happened.

MONTAGE OF VOICES: Spying, censorship, militarism, secrets, corruption, power, lies, profit, profit, profit.

UNIDENTIFIED: This is the mother of all scandals.

AMY GOODMAN: Corporations are making profit off the killing.

UNIDENTIFIED: You cannot go against the White House and survive.

DUANE CLARRIDGE: There has never been a conspiracy.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Wars really are started by the mainstream media.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was the trailer for Shadows of Liberty. The film’s director, Jean-Philippe Tremblay, joins us now in Denver. He’s a London-based filmmaker, originally from Quebec. His past films include Journey and Rock Bottom Fill. But this is his first feature documentary.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

JEAN-PHILIPPE TREMBLAY: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Why did you decide to do this film?

JEAN-PHILIPPE TREMBLAY: We decided to do this film with DocFactory and the Bertha Foundation because we’re dedicated to independent media. The goal was really to make films that change the world. And it became obvious to us that the media is one of the most, if not the most, important subject that we need to deal with today. And that’s why we made the film. I mean, really, we wanted to honor journalists, not only in the States, but from around the world, that are dedicating their lives to bring us truths that we need to hear, about power, about governments, so that citizens can make the right choices for their lives, for their families, and hold power accountable. So that’s why we made the film.

AMY GOODMAN: Jean-Philippe, the examples in your film are extremely powerful. And that’s what we’re going to turn to right now. We’re going to turn to a clip of the film, and this is a clip that involves Roberta Baskin. She is a reporter for CBS. The first story in the film is about this reporter, CBS chief correspondent, who traveled to Vietnam in 1996 to report on labor abuses at Nike factories. This is a clip of Roberta Baskin describing some of what she found.

ROBERTA BASKIN: One of the things that really shocked me was to discover that the word “Nike” had become a verb. The word “Nike” meant to abuse your employees. There were incidences of physical abuse, women who had their mouths taped shut for talking on the line, 15 women who were systematically hit with the top part of a Nike shoe around the face and the neck. It was this disparity between seeing the corporate image that the company sells and the reality in these factories: “Just do it, or else.”

AMY GOODMAN: The report sparked protests and boycotts across the country, as Nike rushed to deny the allegations. CBS asked Roberta Baskin to do a follow-up report. The film explains what happened next.

NARRATOR: As Baskin was putting together the updated news report on Nike’s labor practices, she received unexpected news from inside CBS.

ROBERTA BASKIN: I got a call from my executive producer, who said, “The story is not going to air. It’s been taken off schedule. There’s some sort of deal being made between Nike and CBS News for the upcoming Winter Olympics.” And the air went out of my soul.

BRIAN HEALY: CBS News was paying an enormous amount of money for the rights. And so, by definition, they would be seeking out commercial sponsors who would pour lots of money into it so that they could recoup the millions that they were paying for the rights of the Olympics.

CBS ANNOUNCER: The 18th Olympic Winter Games on CBS.

NARRATOR: As CBS revealed their Olympic coverage, the deal between Nike and CBS was plain to see.

ROBERTA BASKIN: Correspondent after correspondent are wearing these Nike jackets on the air, with a little CBS something or other—you really couldn’t read it—and a big swoosh on the shoulder. That was the deal. Nike had convinced CBS News to turn its correspondents into billboards. It was heartbreaking.

BRIAN HEALY: The CBS News correspondents were furious. They had to wear the Nike parkas whenever they appeared on air. It’s just not done.

NARRATOR: Baskin wrote a memo requesting CBS management to take the Nike logo off the correspondents.

ROBERTA BASKIN: CBS had crossed this incredible line. How do you trust serious stories when you’re seeing the reporter wearing a bunch of logos? Immediately, the president of CBS News responded, saying, “This was a breach of professional etiquette.” It meant that I should shut up. How dare I raise a question about the integrity of CBS News?

AMY GOODMAN: That was Roberta Baskin from the film Shadows of Liberty. You also heard former CBS News producer Brain Healy in that clip. Jean-Philippe Tremblay, why did you choose to open the film with this story?

JEAN-PHILIPPE TREMBLAY: Well, Roberta Baskin is just an example of an amazing journalist. She’s one of the most awarded female journalists here in the United States. She’s won something like over 75 journalistic awards. And the report—the reporting that she does is always trying to tell us what’s happening with power. Here we see an example with the Nike corporation. And because she’s reporting on the Nike corporation, she’s stopped by the very power that she’s working for, CBS News, because they have made a deal with Nike corporation.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jean-Philippe Tremblay, we link to Shadows of Liberty at our website and let people know where else it will be premiering in other parts of the world and in this country. As we wrap up our broadcast today, we are very excited to be broadcasting from the National Conference for Media Reform. Jean-Philippe Tremblay is a London-based filmmaker originally from Quebec.

Well, starting at noon Eastern time today, you can watch a live stream of this conference on our website, democracynow.org. Also, Democracy Now! has a job opening, an experienced annual giving manager to build viewer and listener financial support for our daily news hour. Visit democracynow.org for more information.

Thanks to our amazing crew here in Denver Open Media: Tony Shawcross, Ann Theis, Jeremy McKinnon, Chris Haugen, Brandon Stiller, Mike Hancock, Diana Aqra.

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Investigative Journalist Recalls Leaving CBS After Encountering Fierce Resistance to Re-Air Expose on Nike Labor Practices

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