Top Censored Media Stories of 2015
Note: To find the top media censorship stories of any year from 2003 to present, click here.
Project Censored specializes in covering the top stories which were subjected to media censorship either by being ignored or downplayed by the mainstream media each year. Project Censored is a research team composed of more than 200 university faculty, students, and community experts who annually review many hundreds of news story submissions for coverage, content, reliability of sources, and national significance.
The top 25 stories selected are submitted to a distinguished panel of judges who then rank them in order of importance. The results are published each year in an excellent book available for purchase at their website, amazon.com, and most major book stores.
A summary of the top 25 media censorship stories of 2015 provided below proves quite revealing and most informative. Each summary has a link for those who want to read the entire article. For whatever reason the mainstream media won't report these stories. Yet thanks to the Internet and wonderful, committed groups like Project Censored, the news is getting out. By revealing these examples of media censorship, we can stop the excessive secrecy and work together for a brighter future. And don't miss the "What you can do" section at the end. Please help to spread the word, and take care.
Note: Thanks to Tim Redmond for use of his summaries of the top 10. To find all of these stories and their sources on the Project Censored website, click here. The stories below actually cover a 12-month period spanning 2014 and 2015.
Top 25 Stories of 2015 Subjected to Media Censorship
1. Half of global wealth owned by the 1 percent (For full story, click here)
We hear plenty of talk about the wealth and power of the top 1 percent of people in the United States, but the global wealth gap is even worse. Oxfam International, which has been working for decades to fight global poverty, released a January 2015 report showing that by the end of this year, the wealthiest 1 percent will control more wealth than everyone else in the world put together. The Oxfam report provided evidence that extreme inequality is not inevitable, but is, in fact, the result of political choices and economic policies established and maintained by the power elite, wealthy individuals whose strong influence keeps the status quo rigged in their own favor. Another stunning fact: The wealth of 85 of the richest people in the world combined is equal to the wealth of half the world’s poor combined. The mainstream news media coverage of the report was spotty at best. A few corporate television networks covered Oxfam’s January report. CNN had the most coverage with about seven broadcast segments from Jan. 19 to 25. However, these stories aired between 2 and 3 a.m., far from primetime.
Sources: Larry Elliott, Ed Pilkington, “New Oxfam Report Says Half of Global Wealth Held by the 1%,” Guardian, Jan.19, 2015. Sarah Dransfield, “Number of Billionaires Doubled Since Financial Crisis,” Oxfam, Oct. 29, 2014. Samantha Cowan, “Every Kid on Earth Could Go to School If the World’s 1,646 Richest People Gave 1.5 Percent,” TakePart, Nov. 3, 2014.
2. Oil industry illegally dumps fracking wastewater (Full story here)
Fracking, which involves pumping high-pressure water and chemicals into rock formations to free up oil and natural gas, has been a huge issue nationwide. But there’s been little discussion of one of the side effects: The contamination of aquifers. The Center for Biological Diversity reported in 2014 that oil companies had dumped almost 3 billion gallons of fracking wastewater into California’s underground water supply. Since the companies refuse to say what chemicals they use in the process, nobody knows exactly what the level of contamination is. But wells that supply drinking water near where the fracking waste was dumped tested high in arsenic, thallium and nitrates. Although corporate media have covered debate over fracking regulations, the study regarding the dumping of wastewater into California’s aquifers went all but ignored at first. There appears to have been a lag of more than three months between the initial independent news coverage of the Center for Biological Diversity revelations and corporate coverage.
Sources: Dan Bacher, “Massive Dumping of Wastewater into Aquifers Shows Big Oil’s Power in California,” IndyBay, Oct. 11, 2014. “California Aquifers Contaminated with Billions of Gallons of Fracking Wastewater,” Russia Today, Oct. 11, 2014. Donny Shaw, “CA Senators Voting NO on Fracking Moratorium Received 14x More from Oil & Gas Industry,” MapLight, June 3, 2014.
3. 89 percent of Pakistani drone victims not identifiable as militants (For full story, click here)
The United States sends drone aircraft into combat on a regular basis, particularly in Pakistan. The Obama administration says the drones fire missiles only when there is clear evidence that the targets are al-Qaida bases. Secretary of State John Kerry insists that “the only people we fire a drone at are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest levels.” But the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which keeps track of all the strikes, reported that only 4 percent of those killed by drones were al-Qaida members and only 11 percent were confirmed militants of any sort. That means 89 percent of the 2,464 people killed by U.S. drones could not be identified as terrorists. In fact, 30 percent of the dead could not be identified at all. The New York Times has covered the fact that, as one story noted, “most individuals killed are not on a kill list, and the government does not know their names.” But overall, the mainstream news media has ignored the reporting these disturbing figures.
Source: Jack Serle, “Almost 2,500 Now Killed by Covert US Drone Strikes Since Obama Inauguration,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Feb. 2, 2015. Jack Serle, “Get the Data: A List of US Air and Drone Strikes, Afghanistan 2015,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Feb. 12, 2015. Steve Coll, “The Unblinking Stare: The Drone War in Pakistan,” New Yorker, Nov. 24, 2014. Jeremy Scahill, “Germany is the Tell-Tale Heart of America’s Drone War,” Intercept, April 17, 2015.
4. Popular resistance to corporate water grabbing (For full story, click here)
For decades, private companies have been trying to take over and control water supplies, particularly in the developing world. Now, as journalist Ellen Brown reported in March 2015, corporate water barons, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, the Carlyle Group and other investment firms “are purchasing water rights from around the world at an unprecedented pace.” However, over the past 15 years, more than 180 communities have fought back and remunicipalized their water systems. From Spain to Buenos Aires, Cochabamba to Kazakhstan, Berlin to Malaysia, water privatization is being aggressively rejected. Meanwhile, in the United States, some cities—in what may be a move toward privatization—are radically raising water rates and cutting off service to low-income communities. The mainstream media response to the privatization of water has been largely silence.
Sources: Ellen Brown, “California Water Wars: Another Form of Asset Stripping?,” Nation of Change, March 25, 2015. Victoria Collier, “Citizens Mobilize Against Corporate Water Grabs,” CounterPunch, Feb.11, 2015. Larry Gabriel, “When the City Turned Off Their Water, Detroit Residents and Groups Delivered Help,” YES! Magazine, Nov. 24, 2014.
5. Fukushima nuclear disaster deepens (For full story, click here)
More than four years after a tsunami destroyed Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, causing one of the worst nuclear accidents in human history, radiation from the plant continues to leak into the ocean. But the story has largely disappeared from the news. The continued dumping of extremely radioactive cooling water into the Pacific Ocean from the destroyed nuclear plant, already being detected along the Japanese coastline, has the potential to impact entire portions of the Pacific Ocean and North America’s western shoreline. Aside from the potential release of plutonium into the Pacific Ocean, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) recently admitted that the facility is releasing large quantities of water contaminated with tritium, cesium and strontium into the ocean every day. The plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., “admitted that the facility is releasing a whopping 150 billion becquerels of tritium and 7 billion becquerels of cesium- and strontium-contaminated water into the ocean every day.” The potential for long-term problems all over the world is huge—and the situation hasn’t been contained.
Sources: “TEPCO Drops Bombshell About Sea Releases; 8 Billion Bq Per Day,” Simply Info: The Fukushima Project, Aug. 26, 2014. Sarah Lazare, “Fukushima Meltdown Worse Than Previous Estimates: TEPCO,” Common Dreams, Aug. 7, 2014. Michel Chossudovsky, “The Fukushima Endgame: The Radioactive Contamination of the Pacific Ocean,” Global Research, Dec. 17, 2014.
6. Methane and arctic warming’s global impacts (For full story, click here)
Carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are a threat to climate stability. But there’s another giant threat that hasn’t made much news. The arctic ice sheets, which are rapidly melting in some areas, contain massive amounts of methane—a greenhouse gas that’s way worse than carbon dioxide. As the ice recedes, that methane is getting released into the atmosphere. All predictions about the pace of global warming and its impacts might have to be re-evaluated in the wake of revelations about methane releases. A 2013 study, published in Nature, reported that a 50-gigaton ‘burp’ of methane is ‘highly possible at any time.’ That would be the equivalent of at least 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Since 1850, humans have released a total of about 1,475 gigatons in carbon dioxide. A massive, sudden change in methane levels could lead to temperature increases of 4 to 6 degrees Celsius in just one or two decades. Such changes would have “unprecedented effects” for life on Earth. A huge story? Apparently not. The major news media have made very little mention of the methane monster.
Sources: Dahr Jamail, “The Methane Monster Roars,” Truthout, Jan. 13, 2015.
7. Fear of government spying is chilling writers’ freedom of expression (For full story, click here)
Writers in Western liberal democracies may not face the type of censorship seen in some parts of the world, but their fear of government surveillance is still causing many to think twice about what they can say. Lauren McCauley, writing in Common Dreams, quoted one of the conclusions from a report by the writers’ group PEN America: If writers avoid exploring topics for fear of possible retribution, the material available to readers—particularly those seeking to understand the most controversial and challenging issues facing the world today—may be greatly impoverished. A PEN America survey showed that 34 percent of writers in liberal democracies reported some degree of self-censorship, compared with 61 percent of writers living in authoritarian countries, and 44 percent in semi-democratic countries. Almost 60 percent of the writers from Western Europe, the United States … indicated that U.S. credibility ‘has been significantly damaged for the long term’ by revelations of the U.S. government surveillance programs. Other than Common Dreams, the PEN report attracted almost no major media attention.
Sources: Lauren McCauley, “Fear of Government Spying ‘Chilling’ Writers’ Speech Worldwide,” Common Dreams, Jan. 5, 2015. Lauren McCauley, “Government Surveillance Threatens Journalism, Law and Thus Democracy: Report,” Common Dreams, July 28, 2014.
8. Who dies at the hands of police—and how often (For full story, click here)
High-profile police killings, particularly of black men, have made big news over the past few years. But there’s been much less attention paid to the overall numbers—and to the difference between how many people are shot by cops in the U.S. and in other countries. In the January 2015 edition of Liberation, Richard Becker, relying on public records, concluded that the rate of U.S. police killing was 100 times that of England, 40 times that of Germany and 20 times the rate in Canada. In June 2015, the Guardian concluded that 102 unarmed people were killed by U.S. police in the first five months of that year—twice the rate reported by the government. Furthermore, the Guardian wrote, “black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people.” The paper concluded that, “32 percent of black people killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, as were 25 percent of Hispanic and Latino people, compared with 15 percent of white people killed.” And as far as accountability goes, the Washington Post noted that in 385 cases of police killings, only three officers faced charges.
Sources: Richard Becker, “U.S. Cops Kill at 100 Times Rate of Other Capitalist Countries,” Liberation, Jan. 4, 2015. Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland, and Jamiles Lartey, “Black Americans Killed by Police Twice as Likely to be Unarmed as White People,” Guardian, June 1, 2015.
9. Millions in poverty get less media coverage than billionaires do (For full story, click here)
The news media in the U.S. doesn’t like to talk about poverty, but they love to report on the lives and glory of the super-rich. The advocacy group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) analyzed the three major television news networks and found that 482 billionaires got more attention than the 50 million people who live in poverty. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who follows the mainstream media, or pays much attention to the world of social media. The top rung of society gets vast amounts of attention, for good and for ill—but the huge numbers of people who are homeless, hungry and often lacking in hope just aren’t news. The notion that the wealthiest nation on Earth has 1 in every 6 of its citizens living at or below the poverty threshold reflects not a lack of resources, but a lack of policy focus and attention—and this is due to a lack of public awareness to the issue. The FAIR study showed that between January 2013 and February 2014, an average of only 2.7 seconds per every 22-minute episode discussed poverty in some format. During the 14-month study, FAIR found just 23 news segments that addressed poverty.
Sources: “Millions in Poverty Get Less Coverage Than 482 Billionaires,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, June 26, 2014. Frederick Reese, “Billionaires Get More Media Attention Than The Poor,” MintPress News, June 30, 2014. Tavis Smiley, “Poverty Less Than .02 Percent of Lead Media Coverage,” Huffington Post, March 7, 2014.
10. Costa Rica setting the standard on renewable energy (Full story here)
Is it possible to meet a modern nation’s energy needs without any fossil-fuel consumption? Yes. Costa Rica has been doing it. To be fair, that country’s main industries—tourism and agriculture—are not energy-intensive, and heavy rainfall in the first part of the year made it possible for the country to rely heavily on its hydropower resources. But even in normal years, Costa Rica generates 90 percent of its energy without burning any fossil fuels. Iceland also produces the vast majority of its energy from renewable sources. The transition to 100 percent renewables will be harder for larger countries—but as the limited reporting on Costa Rica notes, it’s possible to take large steps in that direction.
Sources: Myles Gough, “Costa Rica Powered with 100% Renewable Energy for 75 Straight Days,” Science Alert, March 20, 2015. Adam Epstein, “Costa Rica is Now Running Completely on Renewable Energy,” Quartz, March 23, 2015.
More of the Top 25 Media Censorship Stories of 2015
11. Pesticide Manufacturers Spend Millions on PR Response to Declining Bee Populations (For full story, click here)
A May 2014 study from Harvard showed that two neonicotinoids significantly harm honeybee colonies. In April 2015, Science magazine published two additional studies corroborating the Harvard study. For pollinators, low-level exposure can lead to altered learning and impaired foraging; higher level exposure can be deadly. In response, three corporations that produce neonicotinoid pesticides—Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsanto—have engaged in massive public relations campaigns, costing more than $100 million to deny public health findings.
12. Seeds of Doubt: USDA Ignores Popular Critiques of New Pesticide-Resistant Genetically Modified Crops (For full story, click here)
Despite nearly 400,000 petition signatures from citizens, health professionals, and farmers expressing public opposition, in Sept. 2014 the USDA approved a new generation of genetically engineered corn and soybeans using 2,4-D. Spokespersons for numerous organizations, including the Center for Food Safety and the Organic Consumers Association, condemned the USDA decision. 2,4-D not only threatens crop integrity, but is also associated with public safety risks, including various forms of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, hormone disruption, and birth defects.
13. Pentagon and NATO Encircle Russia and China (For full story, click here)
The US has established military bases in Romania and Bulgaria with plans for another in Albania, in an attempt to surround Russia. Bases with missile defense systems are located in Turkey, Poland, and Romania, while US Navy destroyers with comparable capabilities operate in the Black Sea. In encircling China, the US Navy has Aegis destroyers with missile capabilities patrolling the region. In addition, there are thirty ground-based missile defense systems in South Korea as well as at bases located in Hawaii, South Korea, Japan, Guam, Okinawa, Taiwan, Australia, and the Philippines.
14. Global Forced Displacement Tops Fifty Million (For full story, click here)
On World Refugee Day 2014, the global total of people who had undergone forced displacement was the highest on record since World War II. A Global Trends report compiled by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) established a figure of 51.2 million globally displaced people at the end of 2013, an increase of six million from 45.2 million in 2012. The globally displaced population consists of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people—those who have fled their homes to other parts of their home countries.
15. Big Sugar Borrowing Tactics from Big Tobacco (For full story, click here)
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reported in June 2014 that “food and beverage manufacturers along with industry-supported organizations” have actively sought to ensure that Americans continue to consume sugar at high levels. The sugar industry has adopted many of the same tactics previously developed and employed by the tobacco industry, including attacking scientific evidence; spreading misinformation through industry websites, research institutes, and trade associations; deploying industry scientists; influencing academia; and undermining policy.
16. US Military Sexual Assault of Colombian Children (For full story, click here)
According to an 800-page report commissioned by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), US military personnel raped at least fifty-four children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007. Abundant information is provided about the sexual violence as well as the US contractors’ “absolute impunity” due to “bilateral agreements and the diplomatic immunity of United States officials.” US military contractors also “filmed [the abuse] and sold the films as pornographic material.”
17. Media “Whitewash” Senate’s CIA Torture Report (For full story, click here)
Despite President Barack Obama’s claims that he officially banned torture in 2009, these practices continue today. Obama's administration is exploiting the Senate's CIA torture report to convince the world that the intelligence community’s systematic embroilment in torture was merely a Bush-era aberration that is now safely in the past. In fact, Obama’s 2009 executive order rehabilitated torture. Revisions to the US Army Field Manual added nineteen different methods of interrogation that went far beyond the original Geneva Convention prohibitions against torture.
18. ICREACH: The NSA’s Secret Search Engine (For full story, click here)
The NSA has developed a “Google-like” search engine called ICREACH, which has the capacity to gather personal information. This search engine can access over 850 million personal records, including private e-mails, chats, and some phone locations. The NSA is sharing the data collected through its ICREACH program with nearly two dozen US government agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and DEA.
19. “Most Comprehensive” Assessment Yet Warns against Geoengineering Risks (For full story, click here)
A comprehensive pair of reports by dozens of researchers convened by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) offered “a damning critique of geoengineering. The first of the two NAS reports found that most proposals to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—through processes such as fertilizing the ocean with iron to dissolve carbon dioxide—are too expensive to be widely implemented. The Academy’s second report evaluated proposals to seed the atmosphere with particles to reflect sunlight back into space, a process known as albedo modification.
20. FBI Seeks Backdoors in New Communications Technology (For full story, click here)
Responding to announcements by Apple and Google that they would make customers’ smartphone and computer data more secure, in Oct. 2014 the FBI’s director James Comey announced that the Bureau was seeking to enlarge its data collection capabilities to include direct access to cell phones, tablets, and computers through an expansion of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. Comey proclaimed that expanding surveillance was in the interest of “public safety” to protect the nation against “potential terrorist threats.”
21. The New Amazon of the North: Canadian Deforestation (For full story, click here)
Since 2000, Canada has led the world in deforestation, despite being overshadowed by reports of the forests in Brazil and Indonesia. With only 10 percent of the world’s forests, Canada now accounts for 21 percent of all deforestation in the world. Surges in oil sands and shale gas development, logging, and road expansion have been the major contributors to the destruction of Canada’s forests. Deforestation by Canada and other countries deposits more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than does all of the world’s transportation machinery.
22. Global Killing of Environmentalists Rises Drastically (For full story, click here)
From 2002 to 2013, at least 908 people were killed globally due to their environmental advocacy, with the rate of murder doubling in the last four years. Latin America and Asia show the highest rates of violence as tensions over limited natural resources in these regions escalate. Brazil remains overwhelmingly more dangerous for environmentalists than other countries; twice as many environmentalists were killed in Brazil as in any other country. However, Brazil is just one especially striking case in what is a global trend.
23. Unprocessed Rape Kits (For full story, click here)
A White House report cited a 2011 study of more than 2,000 law enforcement agencies, which found that 44 percent of the agencies did not send forensic evidence obtained in rape cases to a laboratory because the suspect had not been identified; another 15 percent said they did not submit the evidence because the prosecutor did not request it; and 11 percent cited the lab’s inability to produce timely results. A five-month study conducted by CBS News in 2009 had found a minimum of at least 20,000 unprocessed rape kits across the US.
24. NSA’s AURORAGOLD Program Hacks Cell Phones around World (For full story, click here)
The NSA has hacked cell phone networks worldwide for many years. At least nine NSA documents that show how the NSA has spied on hundreds of companies, as well as other countries that are close to the US. Through a secret program codenamed AURORAGOLD, the NSA sought security weaknesses in cell phone technology to exploit for surveillance. The documents also revealed NSA plans “to secretly introduce new flaws into communication systems,” which would make those systems easier for the NSA to access.
25. Greenland’s Meltwater Contributes to Rising Sea Levels (For full story, click here)
Atmospheric warming is capable of reaching thousands of meters below Greenland’s massive ice sheet, potentially increasing the glaciers’ rate of flow and creating pools of “meltwater” trapped below the ice. Two separate but related studies confirmed that surface melt can drain down to fill concealed lakes under the ice, ultimately contributing to rising sea levels.
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