----- Original Message ----- From: FAIR-L <FAIR-L at FAIR.org> To: <FAIR-L at LISTSERV.AMERICAN.EDU> Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 2:49 PM Subject: [FAIR-L] Initial Reports from Seattle Gloss Over WTO Issues
> Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
> Media analysis, critiques and news reports
> Media Advisory: Initial Reports from Seattle Gloss Over WTO Issues
> December 1, 1999
> As trade ministers from over 130 countries meet in Seattle this week for
> World Trade Organization summit, tens of thousands of activists from all
> over the world have converged on the city to protest both the undemocratic
> structure of the group and its record on labor and environmental issues.
> But the news coverage anticipating the protests has shed little light on
> specific charges being made against the WTO by most of the protesters. As
> the conference gets under way on November 30, a few trends in the coverage
> have already emerged.
> To begin, news stories preceding the conference demonstrated a fundamental
> lack of understanding of the issues involved. A November 1st article in US
> News & World Report was headlined "Hell No, We Won't Trade: How an obscure
> trade organization became a lightning rod for protest." While one can
> the merits of labeling a group with international jurisdiction over global
> trade an "obscure" organization, "We Won't Trade" is a grossly misleading
> characterization of the anti-WTO arguments.
> The article goes on to note that "For the moment, the movement against
> trade seems to have little traction in the United States." This is a
> puzzling conclusion for an article that notes that "up to 50,000
> demonstrators" are planned to "attend mass rallies, a march, teach-ins and
> prayer services" to protest the Seattle trade meeting. Nonetheless, the
> assertion is backed up by this: "All major presidential candidates support
> free trade and the WTO."
> Reports prior to the summit, and many appearing this week, argue that the
> WTO stands to "open up" trade around the globe. That is inaccurate, as
> Baker pointed out recently in FAIR's Economic Reporting Review
> (http://www.fair.org/err/991108.html ):
> "While its rules are designed to facilitate foreign investment, such as a
> U.S. auto manufacturer building a factory in Indonesia, in other areas the
> WTO has taken little action to facilitate trade, while in some areas its
> rules are intended to impede free trade. In the case of professional
> services, such as those provided by doctors, lawyers and other highly paid
> professionals, the WTO has done virtually nothing to facilitate
> international trade and competition. In the case of intellectual property
> claims, such as patents and copyrights, the WTO has worked to impose these
> protectionist barriers on developing nations, at an enormous cost to their
> Nor do many media accounts explain what the protesters are focusing on--in
> most cases, a specific set of concerns and issues that have been before
> WTO in the past few years (summarized well at
> http://www.accuracy.org/press_releases/PR112999.htm ). ABC's Peter
> commented that "it seems as though every group with every complaint from
> every corner of the world is represented in Seattle this week."
> CBS Evening News explained some of the background on the same night's
> newscast, but bungled one of the core criticisms of the WTO. Dan Rather
> reported that the WTO had ruled on many environmental issues, but declined
> to make the simple point that the WTO has ruled *against* environmental
> restrictions in every case that has come before it. Indeed, Rather's
> reference to the WTO's ruling on "fishing restrictions aimed at saving
> endangered species" might have mislead viewers into thinking that the WTO
> was intervening on behalf of threatened animals.
> Some reports, rather than dealing with the concerns of the protestors,
> instead focused on the hypothetical danger they pose. Tony Snow's first
> question to teamsters president James Hoffa, Jr. on Fox News Sunday
> (11/28/99) was: "Do you worry that there's going to be any violence
> Likewise, NBC Nightly News (11/29/99) devoted their lead WTO segment to
> security concerns in Seattle ("The stakes are high, so is the security, so
> is the provocation"), highlighting local authorities' precautions against
> potential chemical or biological attack."
> The report was followed by a segment by NBC financial correspondent Mike
> Jensen extolling the benefits of free trade. Jensen concluded that "most
> experts say getting rid of trade barriers on both sides is a good thing
> American workers and consumers. But no matter what comes out of this
> four-day meeting--and a lot of analysts don't think it will be much--world
> trade has such momentum, almost nothing can get in its way."
> Yet, as Dean Baker points out in a recent ERR, there is "near consensus
> among economists that trade has been one of the factors that has increased
> wage inequality in the United States over the last two decades." But that
> "consensus" is decidedly harder to find in mainstream press accounts.
> The theme of free trade "momentum" is also present in a story on MSNBC's
> website (http://www.msnbc.com/news/340513.asp ), which includes a link to
> special section encouraging readers to "find out more about the hurdles on
> the way to free trade."
> Similarly, a recent Associated Press report called protesters' concerns
> "far-fetched," and continued by noting that "for every campaigner lying
> down on a sidewalk this week to protest the WTO's efforts to reduce trade
> barriers, there is a happily employed Seattleite whose job depends on free
> A disturbing indication of mainstream media attitudes toward coverage of
> WTO meeting came when ABC's Seattle affiliate announced that it would "not
> devote coverage to irresponsible or illegal activities of disruptive
> groups," adding that "KOMO 4 News is taking a stand on not giving some
> protest groups the publicity they want.... So if you see us doing a story
> a disruption, but we don't name the group or the cause, you'll know why."
> a revealing choice of words, news director Joe Barnes described civil
> disobedience as "illegally disrupting the commerce of the city." (KOMO has
> requested comments on its policy at tips at komo4news.com .)
> This decision by a corporate-owned news outlet to explicitly ignore the
> messages of groups practicing civil disobedience underscores the
> of independent journalism. Organizers in Seattle have made a priority of
> setting up an independent media center (http://www.indymedia.org ), and
> is planned for the coming week, including a daily newspaper, a daily radio
> broadcast (World Trade Watch Radio, http://www.radioproject.org ) and
> from-the-scene video documentaries that will be available via satellite to
> many public television stations.
> For more information, see FAIR's Resources on Trade at
> http://www.fair.org/issues-news/trade.html .
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