Every year since 1976, Project Censored has performed an invaluable service — shedding light on the most significant news that’s somehow not fit to print. While journalists everyday work hard to expose injustices, they work within a system where some injustices are so deeply baked in that stories exposing them are rarely told and even more rarely expanded upon to give them their proper due.
That’s where Project Censored comes in.
“The primary purpose of Project Censored is to explore and publicize the extent of news censorship in our society by locating stories about significant issues of which the public should be aware, but is not, for a variety of reasons,” wrote its founder Carl Jensen on its 20th anniversary.
Thus, the list of censored stories that’s the centerpiece of its annual book, State of the Free Press | 2021 doesn’t just help us to see individual stories we might otherwise have missed. It helps us see patterns — patterns of censorship, of stories suppressed and patterns of how those stories fit together.
The stories listed below are only part of what Project Censored does, however. State of the Free Press | 2021 has chapters devoted to other forms of obfuscation that help keep censored stories obscured. So, if the Top 10 stories summarized below leave you hungry for more, Project Censored has all that and more waiting for you in State of the Free Press | 2021.
1. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
“In June 2019 the Canadian National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report, which received widespread news coverage in the United States,” Project Censored notes.”U.S. corporate news outlets have provided nearly nothing in the way of reporting on missing and murdered Indigenous women in the United States.”
That’s despite a problem of similar dimensions, and complexity, along with the election of the first two Native American congresswomen, Deb Holland and Sharice Davids, who, Ms. Magazine reported, “are supporting two bills that would address the federal government’s failure to track and respond to violence against indigenous women [and] are supported by a mass movement in the U.S. and Canada raising an alarm about missing and murdered indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).”
Four in five Native women experience violence at some time in their lives, according to a 2016 survey by the National Institute of Justice, cited in an August 2019 Think Progress report.
“About nine in 10 Native American rape or sexual-assault victims had assailants who were white or Black,” according to a 1999 Justice Department report.
“Although the number of Native Americans murdered or missing in 2016 exceeded 3,000 — roughly the number of people who died during the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack — the Justice Department’s missing persons database logged only 116 cases that year,” Think Progress noted. “The sheer scale of the violence against Native women and the abysmal failure by the government to adequately address it, explains why the issue was given such prominence during this week’s presidential candidates’ forum in Sioux City — the first to focus entirely on Native American issues.”
But even that didn’t grab media attention.
There are multiple complicating factors in reporting, tracking, investigating and prosecuting, which were explored in coverage by The Guardian and Yes! Magazine, as well as Ms. and Think Progress.
“Campaigners, including the Sovereign Bodies Institute, the Brave Heart Society, and the Urban Indian Health Institute, identify aspects of systemic racism — including the indelible legacies of settler colonialism, issues with law enforcement, a lack of reliable and comprehensive data, and flawed policymaking — as deep-rooted sources of the crisis,” Project Censored summed up. “As YES! Magazine reported, tribal communities in the United States often lack jurisdiction to respond to crimes.”
This was partially remedied in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, known as VAWA, but “it left sex trafficking and other forms of sexual violence outside tribal jurisdiction, YES! Magazine reported.”
The House voted to expand tribal jurisdiction in such cases in its 2019 VAWA reauthorization, but, Ms. reported, “The bill is now languishing in the Senate, where Republicans have so far blocked a vote.”
Another facet of the problem explored by Yes! is the connection between the extractive fossil fuel industry and violence against Native women. The Canadian report “showed a strong link between extraction zones on the missing and murdered women crisis in Canada,” Yes! noted. “It specifically cited rotational shift work, sexual harassment in the workplace, substance abuse, economic insecurity, and a largely transient workforce as contributing to increased violence against Native women in communities near fossil fuel infrastructure.”
“It creates this culture of using and abuse,” said Annita Lucchesi, executive director of the Sovereign Bodies Institute. “If you can use and abuse the water and land, you can use and abuse the people around you too.”
Project Censored concluded, “As a result of limited news coverage, the United States is far from a national reckoning on its crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.”
2. Monsanto “Intelligence Center” Targeted Journalists and Activists
In its fight to avoid liability for causing cancer, the agricultural giant Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) created an “intelligence fusion center” to “monitor and discredit” journalists and activists, Sam Levin reported for The Guardian in August 2019.
“More than 18,000 people have filed suit against Monsanto, alleging that exposure to Roundup [weedkiller] caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto covered up the risks by manipulating scientific data and silencing critics,” the Hill summarized. “The company has lost three high-profile cases in the past year, and Bayer is reportedly offering $8 billion to settle all outstanding claims.”