The war on whistleblowers

A note from the editor

Vanessa Baird

Spilling the beans

When I was growing up there was one thing you did not do: tell tales.

I suspect the reasoning behind it was that adults didn’t want to become embroiled in children’s squabbles.

Times have changed – and brought a greater realization of the harm done by putting secrecy (and often loyalty) above addressing wrongdoing. The recent coming to light of sex-abuse cases, going back decades, has made this explicit.

So common is the term ‘whistleblower’ today that it’s easy to forget its relative newness. It only became a household term in the 1970s, popularized by US activist Ralph Nader. Whistleblowing tends to come in waves – and it’s fair to say we are witnessing a tidal one right now. Necessary it most certainly is, as revelations show the extent to which we – the public – are being infantilized by the states that rule us and their so-called security apparatus.

All is not lost, though, as the courage of whistleblowers testifies. One of the contributors to this month’s Big Story, David Morgan, drew my attention to this poem by Emily Dickinson: We never know how high we are/Till we are asked to rise/And then if we are true to plan/Our statures touch the skies.

As usual, she says it best, with fewest words.

Also in this month’s issue, Tim Gee travels to Yasuní in Ecuador to see how local people and environmentalists are still determined to resist oil interests intent on drilling into the heart of one of the world’s most ecologically valuable troves of natural biodiversity.

And finally, Louise Gray catches up with Angélique Kidjo, the dynamic and fearless musician from Benin who makes archbishops dance and speaks truth to tyrants.

Vanessa Baird for the New Internationalist co-operative.

The big story

Illustration: Ben Jennings/Cartoon Movement

Don't shoot the messenger!

Admired by the public, reviled by those in power, whistleblowers are on the frontline of democracy. But need they be martyrs? Vanessa Baird asks.

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Is this the age of the whistleblower?

It would seem so, from the column inches, air time and cyberspace given to Edward Snowden.

According to campaigners, the 29-year-old former systems analyst at the US National Security Agency (NSA) is close to being the perfect whistleblower.

A quick look at the video clip interview with Laura Poitras shows why.1 Measured, thoughtful, Snowden comes across as...


Blasts from the past

A historic look at some who took the plunge to make a difference.

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'I had to do it'

Psychoanalyst David Morgan on what makes some people risk all to speak out.

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‘Injustice must be resisted,’ insists Father Musala.

Brave Father Musala

The cleric who exposed sex abuse in Uganda’s Catholic Church talks to Patience Akumu.

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Money shouts

Whistleblower Ian Taplin investigates whether exposing banking malpractice has got any easier.

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Dead bastards

Heaven help military personnel who blow the whistle. Alexa O’Brien is tracking the case of Chelsea Manning.

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Ranbaxy, which sells generic drugs all over the world, was fined $500 million by a US court.

Cheap drugs and the millionaire whistleblower

Sandhya Srinivasan writes from India on the curious tale of Dinesh Thakur and the generics maker Ranbaxy.

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A toxic hangover: Donald Moncayo's farmland has been contaminated by Texaco's oil extraction in Ecuador.

Yasuní: a cautionary tale

Tim Gee visits Ecuador to uncover the reasons for the failure of the much-heralded initiative to ‘keep the oil in the ground’, and discovers a new wave of activism that could yet secure the future of the national park.

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Kholoud and Nidal’s wedding video screening inside their apartment. Though seen as pioneers, they insist they are not fighting religion. ‘We believe in civil marriage as a civil right, and in Lebanon as a non-sectarian regime,’ Khouloud explains.

Love unites us

Nadja Wohlleben’s photos capture Lebanon’s silent constitutional revolution.

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Muhammad and Ansa Munawar lost their 17-year-old son, Waleed, in the May 2010 attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore. Their respective fathers were both killed in religiously motivated attacks in the 1980s.

A question of belief

Persecuted in Pakistan for being 'non-Muslim', the Ahmadi community has sought refuge abroad. But intolerance is not easily escaped, as Samira Shackle discovers.

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The legend with the cartoon reads: ‘Over three billion people (almost half the world) live on less than $2.50 a day.’

Open Window: Ali Divandari

Ali Divandari from Iran, with ‘$O$’

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Big Bad World - Wheel of fortune

The climate change wheel of fortune by P J Polyp

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Only Planet - Fox news

Only planet cartoon by Marc Roberts

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Scratchy lines - With us or against us

That's for us to ask! - a cartoon by Simon Kneebone

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The long walk

Where do you go when your home no longer exists? Ruby Diamonde hears one woman’s story.

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A word with Angélique Kidjo

Louise Gray talks to the award-winning musician about the resilience of African music, and why she won’t be pigeon-holed.

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Top: people in a makeshift camp in Chocó province seeking to return to land controlled by paramilitary-linked businesses; a street scene in Silvia, near Popayan, in the south, where there is a higher proportion of indigenous people. Middle: the capital, Bogotá, is famous for its graffiti;  but the smog-bound vista on the right shows its high-rise centre and how it sprawls. Bottom: tourism potential on the Caribbean coast; a quiet moment in Chocó province; ‘safe journey’ is the message from the army, which has made the roads secure but at a cost to human rights.

Country Profile: Colombia

The facts, figures, flag and photos from Colombia.

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Film, Book & Music Reviews

Mixed Media: Music

Mixed Media: Music

Marinah by El Baile de las Horas; The Phoenix and the Turtle by Beverley Martyn.

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Mixed Media: Film

Mixed Media: Film

The Past, directed by Asghar Farhadi; Plot for Peace, directed by Carlos Aguilo and Mandy Jacobson.

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Mixed Media: Books

Mixed Media: Books

The Man Who Loved Dogs by Leonardo Padura; Charlie Chaplin by Peter Ackroyd; Feminist Activism, Women’s Rights and Legal Reform by Mulki Al-Sharmani; The People by Selina Todd.

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