#MosulSOS: RT penetrates fog of war around civilians’ plight in besieged Mosul

The US-led coalition’s liberation of Mosul is in its final phase. While Western media praise the operation, RT has been there on the ground witnessing what they don’t talk much about: the plight of the people and the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe.

LIVE UPDATES: Death & destruction: Learn more about liberation of Mosul

Innocent people are being caught in the crossfire between terrorists and the US-led coalition, eye-witnesses have been telling RT’s Murad Gazdiev in recent weeks as he visited refugee camps and hospitals in Iraq. While it is a known common practice for jihadists to use civilians as human shields, it seemingly has not stopped the coalition from trying to regain control over the city by any means necessary.

“On the day that our house was hit, a dozen other homes were destroyed by airstrikes in our neighborhood. It is a deep injustice,” one local at the Rojava hospital in Erbil recalled.

Refugees in the Hazar refugee camp near Erbil, northern Iraq, confirmed that they had seen bombs falling on them indiscriminately.

“I saw it with my own eyes: The planes that were targeting Islamic State destroyed civilians’ houses and killed five people. The children were scared to death from hearing bombs exploding. They are traumatized,” a woman said.

Last week, the RT crew was at Hamam al-Alil refugee camp, located to the south of Mosul, where people shared the hardships and adversities they had endured until they finally managed to flee the besieged city.

“Our situation is really bad, no water, no food, we have nothing, even drinking or washing water we can’t get, even the flour… we can’t make bread,” a man said, adding that shelling or not, they would have still left their homes due to hunger.

“Our situation is miserable, we suffered from ISIS, they trapped us in our houses for five days. We stayed in our house for five days without food and water,” another former Mosul resident says.

But despite mounting witness accounts, the humanitarian fallout from Mosul siege remains widely underreported both in mainstream and social media, in stark contrast to the apparently similar military operation to liberate Aleppo carried out by Syrian government troops backed by the Russian air force.

RT has raised the issue with a range of journalists and human rights organizations, including the European Court of Human Rights, the International Press Institute, the National Union of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the Centre for Investigative Journalism, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and numerous others. However, only a handful of organizations have responded so far.

The head of Human Rights and Safety at the International Federation of Journalists, Ernest Sagaga, believes that coverage of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Mosul is hampered by residents’ lack of access to the “internet and social media to pass on information to the outside world about their plight.”

“It takes either civilians who escape from the city to tell their stories to the media or a few journalists to access areas liberated to report on the situation,” Sagaga told RT, adding that his organization is greatly concerned and closely monitoring the situation in Mosul.

READ MORE: ‘They were bombing randomly’: Mosul civilians doubt coalition’s careful targeting claims

The Society of Professional Journalists encouraged news organizations to “seek truth and report it,” but according to Jennifer Royer, “none of SPJ’s leaders at this time are really experts in international journalism or what is happening in Mosul” – thus the SPJ was not in a position to “comment on why international media is or isn’t covering one story in the same way it covered another.”

Reporters Without Borders said it was not part of their “mandate” to speculate on why international media seem to have less an interest in the Mosul crisis coverage compared to Aleppo.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged “journalists working in conflict zones and UN partners responsible for humanitarian issues to be more objective and more assertive in presenting what they see in the crisis areas.”

“Those who have seen pictures from Mosul cannot help feeling anxiety… More civilians have definitely fled from there than left Aleppo during its liberation,” Lavrov added.

The siege of Mosul began in October 2016 comprising Iraqi troops, backed by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Shiite militias, and the US-led coalition. The eastern half of the main IS (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) stronghold outside Syria was recaptured in January. By that time, hundreds were killed and at least 180,000 people had fled their homes.

“It’s terrifying to think of the risks families are facing. They can be killed by booby traps and in the crossfire and could be used as human shields,” Lise Grande, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq said.

According to the UN, around 750,000 people were still trapped inside in the western half of the surrounded city as of January. Some 5,000 people have been fleeing the city on average every day since the siege intensified last month. Grande predicted in late February that the US-backed offensive in western Mosul could displace up to 400,000 civilians.

“Since the assault, first on east Mosul and then west Mosul began, we have seen just a remarkable change at Mosul, moving from tens of civilians reported killed every week or even every month, to hundreds reported killed every week now by coalition airstrikes,” said Chris Woods of the London-based Airwars monitoring group, alleging that the Western media is downplaying the crisis.

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US senator wants to probe RT as a ‘foreign agent’… What’s next, public executions?

US senator wants to probe RT as a ‘foreign agent’… What’s next, public executions?
A bill introduced by US senator Jeanne Shaheen that seeks to grant the Justice Department powers to investigate RT’s “funding sources and foreign connections” is yet another example of McCarthyism-style persecution of dissenting voices, RT’s editor-in-chief has said.

“At such pace they’ll soon start shooting our journalists at the squares. Greetings to Senator McCarthy from Senator Shaheen,” RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said, drawing parallels with an old school Cold War witch-hunt straight from the 1950s.

The proposed amendment to the Foreign Agents Registration Act dubbed the “Foreign Agents Registration Modernization and Enforcement Act,” is touted as a response to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. The bill would provide the Justice Department with additional powers to demand organizations to disclose their suspected foreign connections and the sources of its funding.

FARA is an old legislation dating back to 1930s, which requires “political and quasi-political” agents representing the interests of foreign powers to disclose their relationship with foreign governments and funding sources. FARA, however, does not restrict the activities of a foreign media, as it’s protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, ensuring freedom of speech.

“We have good reason to believe that RT News is coordinating with the Russian government to spread misinformation and undermine our democratic process,” Shaheen said in a statement“The American public has a right to know if this is the case.”

While RT being a Russian state-funded news outlet is common knowledge, Senator Shaheen presented this fact as something requiring additional investigation. However, numerous foreign state-owned media outlets, operating in the US, which include the BBC, France24, and DW, do not seem to bother Senator Shaheen. All of them openly proclaim promoting their country’s values (BBC) or vision (France24), while a Russian perspective is for some reason perceived as being vile “propaganda” and a “foreign influence.”

Good reason to believe @RT_America is coordinating w/ Russian gov to misinform, undermine our democratic process 1/3

@SenatorShaheen lol RT is by definition coordinating with Russian gov. DO YOUR JOB. Single-payer healthcare NOW. Stop the distractions.

Senator Shaheen also claimed that RT had “boasted it can dodge our laws with shell corporations” without substantiating any of these supposedly “public statements.”

To expose RT’s alleged wrongdoings, the Senator cited US “intelligence reports,” namely the notorious and widely ridiculed 25-page document from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

READ MORE: US Senator accuses RT of hacking Google, RT suggests he should learn how search engines work

The report was supposed to be devoted to the alleged “Russian hacking,” but instead and to a great extent, focused on Russian media coverage of the US elections. It rehashed a lot of old unsubstantiated accusations against RT, but did not specify how exactly it could have “influenced” the “democratic process.”

healthcare, deportations, muslim ban, financial and environmental regulations…but don’t worry Sen. Shaheen’s got RT for us

The proposed legislation although unlikely to advance has already attracted a great deal of skepticism, with some Tweeting that the bill was just a new way to distract American citizens from the real and important issues.

In recent months, attacks against Russian media outlets have been on the rise from US and European officials and MSM, who have been branding virtually any messages conveyed by Moscow as “propaganda” that needs to be tackled.

Last December, former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, called for RT and Sputnik to be branded as “foreign agents” over their alleged “involvement” in the US presidential elections, claiming that the media outlets “campaigned” for Donald Trump. McFaul did not provide any proof for his accusations and he clearly did not pay much attention to our coverage of the campaign to make such an assumption.

Former US State Department spokesman John Kirby in November refused to answer a question from an RT journalist at a press briefing, adding that he would not view RT employees at the same level as other media. Kirby has also expressed similar attitude to the Sputnik news agency. Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman called the “outrageous” press briefing incident a “new form of segregation.”

READ MORE: ‘McFaul’s idea to brand RT foreign agent part of concerted crackdown on dissenting voices’

The European Parliament also made a move against “hostile propaganda” by adopting a resolution that bizarrely places Russian news on the same security threat list with brutal beheading and mass murder videos by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists and other jihadist groups.

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German state bans political rallies for foreign officials amid escalating spat with Turkey

German state bans political rallies for foreign officials amid escalating spat with Turkey
The German state of Saarland has introduced a ban on election campaigns on its soil by foreign officials; a move which is likely to fuel the already raging diplomatic row with Turkey.

Saarland, a small south-western state, is the first to introduce a ban on foreign officials holding political rallies on its territory, Suddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Authorities are planning to “take all possible steps to ban such performances on Saarland soil,” the state’s Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer promised.

The first targets of the ban are Turkish officials who have been campaigning in European cities with dense Turkish populations in an effort to drum up votes for the upcoming referendum that may significantly increase presidential powers of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“After the recent debate about campaign appearances of Turkish government officials in Germany, Saarland will ban such appearances,” the region said in a statement.

“Election appearances which put at risk domestic peace in our country must be banned,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a statement.

There have been calls for imposing a general ban in Germany, but it hasn’t been supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

However, Saarland decided not to wait for the rest of the country and introduced a regional ban.

“We here in Saarland have no problem with certain people but rather with their message. Our liberal democracy is not a haven from which to promote undemocratic goals,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said, however, expressing the hope that Saarland would set an example “for the EU as a whole.”

Germany issues travel warning for Turkey

Meanwhile, Germany along with the Netherlands have recently updated their advice for travelers to Turkey.

The German Foreign Ministry warned that tourists should expect protests and heightened security risks in Turkey. “Travelers are therefore advised to stay away from political rallies and large crowds,” the updated advisory cautioned on Monday.

The same kind of precautions were issued after the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July.

The Dutch Ministry has also called on its citizens to be vigilant. “There have been diplomatic tensions between Turkey and the Netherlands. Be alert and avoid large crowds,” the ministry said.

In the past days, Turkey has repeatedly threatened to impose sanctions against the Netherlands with Erdogan saying the Dutch government has been acting like Nazis for prohibiting Turkish officials from rallying on its territory.

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