Yesterday, I blogged Glenn Greenwald's Guardian story about CNN suppressing its own award-winning documentary on human rights abuses in Bahrain, which Greenwald linked to CNNi's commercial relationship with the ruling Bahraini regime. I was quickly contacted by two different PR flacks from CNN with a list of small, picky points it disputed about Greenwald's article, presented as though this constituted a thorough rebuttal. I immediately noticed that CNN's reps didn't dispute that the company had threatened to cut off Amber Lyon's severance payment if she continued to speak out on the issue, so I asked about it.
CNN's reps both told me they couldn't comment on "individual employees," which is awfully convenient. How nice for them that they can prepare and circulate a dossier that disconfirms minor elements of its critics' stories, but that it has some nebulous confidentiality code that prevents it from confirming the most damning claims made by those critics. Given that Lyon is no longer a CNN employee, and that she has divulged this threat, this feels more like an excuse than a reason. I certainly hope that CNN's own investigative journalists wouldn't accept such a pat evasion from the PR flacks that contact them.
Glenn Greenwald has published a thorough rebuttal to CNN's memo:
CNNi has nothing to say about the extensive financial dealings it has with the regime in Bahrain (what the article called "the tidal wave of CNNi's partnerships and associations with the regime in Bahrain, and the hagiography it has broadcast about it"). It has nothing to say about the repellent propaganda it produces for regimes which pay it. It has nothing to say about the Bahrain-praising sources whose vested interests with the regime are undisclosed by CNN. It provides no explanation whatsoever for its refusal to broadcast the iRevolution documentary. It does not deny that it threatened Lyon's severance payments and benefits if she spoke critically about CNNi's refusal. And it steadfastly ignores the concerns and complaints raised by its own long-time employees about its conduct.
In sum, CNNi's response does not deny, or even acknowledge, the crux of the reporting, and simply ignores the vast bulk of the facts revealed about its coverage of, and relationship with, the regime in Bahrain. Indeed, one searches its response in vain for any explanation to the central question which New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof asked nine months ago: