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INK Centre for Journalism: snout in CIA feeding trough

In this first installment of a two part series, Titus Mbuya* untangles the intricate web of relationships and deceit involved in the funding of the newly established Ink Centre for Investigative Journalism, and the Sunday Standard newpaper, by a network of American foundations which are used for CIA covert operations

INK Centre for Investigative Journalism (INK), a Gaborone based “investigative” journalists organization, is an operation of the American ubiquitous spy organization, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). INK’s main sponsor locally is the United States embassy.

The directors of the local chapter of INK are Ntibinyane Ntibinyane and Joel Konopo. Ntibinyane and Konopo are former editors of Mmegi and The Botswana Guardian respectively.

According to INK’s website it is Botswana’s first non-profit, non-partisan news organization. “The centre develops investigative journalism in the public interest essential in promoting an open, accountable and just democracy.”

INK’s ties to the CIA can be traced through an intricate network of organizations that fund it and to which INK is affiliated. On their website INK proudly states that they are affiliated to the International Community of International Journalists (ICIJ) which also funds them. INK is also funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), as well as the U.S. embassy in Gaborone.

The Washington DC-based ICIJ is the organization that was responsible for managing the dissemination of the infamous leaked Panama Papers in April, a phenomenon that was heralded, in some quarters, as an earth-shattering piece of investigative journalism. INK and other ICIJ associated news organizations were given the priority to access the Panama Papers to give them as much publicity as they could.

In Botswana the Panama Papers mentioned the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, over whom INK raised a false alarm that he could be evading tax by investing in an offshore registered company. INK published the story about Kirby in the Johannesburg based paper, Times which carried the headline “Botswana judge’s offshore investments raises (sic) questions.” What INK did not know is that when used in a law-abiding fashion, most of the services provided by the offshore industry are completely legal—simply being mentioned in the leak in no way implicates a person as guilty of a crime.

The Panama Papers, perhaps the ICIJ’s main claim to fame to date, has since been widely condemned as a CIA operation. The biggest blow for the Panama Papers was their denunciation by the most respected investigative journalism organization in the world, Wikileaks of crack journalist, Julian Assange.

According to Wikileaks, billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and the United States Agency for International Aid (USAID) – and by extension the CIA, via the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), directly funded the Panama Papers’ report. Wikileaks went as far as to question the integrity of ICIJ by tweeting, “US funded attack story on Putin via USAID. Some good journalists but no model for integrity,” USAID is one of the sponsors of ICIJ.

Various personalities and organisations world-wide have castigated the Panama Papers as an aborted hit-job against Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin by the CIA. Former British diplomat, Craig John Murray, says, “ICIJ and CPI are attempting to highjack investigative journalism and trade on the notoriety of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks to take down Putin”. The whole plan to use the Panama Papers to “expose” Putin’s “hidden billions” backfired as Putin was not implicated in the Papers and instead friends of the United States were the ones who came out badly in the exposition.

ICIJ is an offshoot of the Washington DC-based Centre for Public Integrity (CPI). The CPI is funded by the CIA- connected Ford Foundation and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation (OSF), among others. In 2015 OSF granted ICIJ $1.5m. Like the Ford Foundation, OSF has collaborated on many occasions with USAID/CIA in various operations around the world, most notably in Eastern Europe. Regarding this association, Frances Stonor Saunders, the author of “Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War”, writes, “The CIA considers foundations like Ford the best and most plausible kind of funding cover”.

The main funder of ICIJ is Soros’ Open Society Foundation. The links of Open Society Foundation to the CIA are well documented. In 2012 the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), an OSF funded organization, was implicated in a scandal involving funding of a Malaysian newspaper. The paper, Malaysiakini, was also funded by the Washington DC-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) - a front of the CIA. One of the editors of the paper, Y.L. Chong, resigned upon finding out that they were beneficiaries of such funding.

The National Endowment for Democracy was formed in 1983 following a bipartisan initiative by the United States Congress. The brains behind the formation of NED was then CIA director William J. Casey who worked with senior CIA covert operations specialist Walter Raymond Jr. The two focused on creating a funding mechanism to support groups inside foreign

countries that would engage in propaganda and political action that the CIA had historically organized and paid for covertly. To partially replace that CIA role, the idea emerged for a congressionally funded entity that would serve as a conduit for this money. The National Endowment for Democracy was born.

According to Phil Agee, a former CIA officer, “NED is nothing but a mega conduit, through which the tens of millions that are set aside for meddling in the internal affairs of other countries goes through, and then goes to foundations. These groups (foundations) then pass the money on to recipient countries. NED channels it through the foundations.” It is in that context that such organizations as Ford Foundation, Soros’ myriad of foundations are used as conduits for CIA funds to be channeled to the likes of ICIJ and INK, down the value chain, to carry out work for the spy agency.

INK’s main funder is Johannesburg-based OSISA, another Soros foundation. In 2015 INK received US$120,000 (about P1,300,000) to establish the local chapter of INK centre of Investigative Journalism. According to the grant documents, the money would also be used for conducting seminars and short courses as well as for advocacy.

In the southern African media context OSISA is usually associated with media advocacy associations and training centres like the Johannesburg-based Institute for the Advancement of Journalists (initially sponsored by the CIA funded NED) and the Mail & Guardian’s Amabhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism. Konopo and Ntibinyane are products of Amabhungane.

Another sponsor of INK is the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), an international association of nonprofit organizations that purportedly, support, promote, and produce investigative journalism. The United States-based GIJN is financed by the Open Society Foundation, which has supported GIJN since its founding in 2003. It is also supported by Ford Foundation, Adessium Foundation, among others.

INK’s main sponsor, locally, is the United States embassy in Gaborone. Speaking at an INK workshop funded by USAID last year, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Timothy Smith said, “Investigative journalism is one area that is at the centre of attention at the US embassy.” He added, “With our support, INK will live up to their mandate which is to work with media houses and even go as far as supporting them with grants to uplift journalists who show interest.”

Through its association with all these Soros/CIA funded organizations INK is part of the intricate web through which the giant spy agency gets access and receives intelligence on government, media and civil society in the respective states where they operate. INK and it’s ilk, in the various countries where they exist, are used by their international funders to undermine the sovereignty of their respective states under the pretext that they are holding their national institutions accountable.

Who is Open Society Foundation? 

The New York based Open Society Foundation (OSF) was founded by Hungarian-born American philanthropist, George Soros, in 1979.  From that year, as an advocate of “open societies”, Soros financially supported dissidents including Poland’s Solidarity movement, Charter 77 in then Czechoslovakia and Andrei Sakharov in the then Soviet Union. On the homepage of the OSF website Soros is described as “Investor philanthropist” who “established the Open Society Foundations to help countries make the transition from communism”.

In 1984, Soros founded his first Open Society Initiative (OSI) in Hungary and pumped millions of dollars into opposition movements and independent media. The Open Society Initiative now has local chapters in Africa, Eastern Europe, South America and Asia. In this part of the world OSI operates through the Pretoria-based Open Society for Southern Africa (OSISA). OSISA is the main sponsor of INK. Their grant to INK in 2015 was US$120,000 (about P1,300,000).

Soros worked closely with USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy (now doing work formerly assigned to the CIA) and others to foment a series of “colour” revolutions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Ostensibly aimed at building up a “civil society”, these initiatives were designed to weaken the existing political structures and pave the way for eastern Europe’s eventual colonisation by global capital.

According to some observers, since the end of the Cold War, Soros has supplanted the CIA to entrench globalization and US hegemony in the world. He personally says his goal is to “promote globalized capitalism and democracy”. The CIA is piggy-bagging on Soros “philanthropic” work through his foundations to carry out its operations in the developing world, especially in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.

*Titus Mbuya blew the cover on the defunct Newslink, a Gaborone-based newspaper that was funded by the South African Apartheid government in the 1990’s.




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