By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A morally repugnant ban against a journalist

Hollman Morris

This past March, Media Nation celebrated when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reversed a Bush-era ban on South African scholar Adam Habib, who had been prevented from traveling to the United States on unproven and undocumented charges that he was somehow tied to terrorism.

Now the Obama administration — and Clinton’s State Department — are doing what appears to be exactly the same thing to Hollman Morris, a Colombian journalist. Morris, the Washington Post reports, was recently denied a visa to enter the United States so that he could spend a year at Harvard University as a Nieman Fellow.

Morris is not exactly a favorite of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, a right-wing strongman with a miserable human-rights record. The Uribe government has accused Morris of playing nice with the FARC, a left-wing guerrilla movement whose viciousness is beyond question, and which the U.S. government regards as a terrorist organization. By most accounts, though, Morris is guilty of nothing but practicing journalism — which, in Uribe’s eyes, is bad enough.

Not to get all conspiratorial, but it should be noted that the Clintons have longstanding ties to Uribe. In fact, when then-presidential candidate Clinton’s chief political strategist, Mark Penn, was thrown overboard in April 2008, it was over his own unsavory dealings with the Uribe government.

What makes the ban against Morris especially repugnant is that, according to the Spanish news agency EFE, his and his family’s safety has been threatened, and he has been living “under protection” for quite some time. Now the Obama White House has placed him in even greater peril. Fortunately, Morris is currently traveling in Europe, and it sounds like he has no plans to return home anytime soon.

The ban against Habib appeared to be based on nothing more than his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq — hardly a novel view. The exclusion prevented Habib from speaking at an academic conference in Boston, a circumstance that led to a 2008 Boston Phoenix Muzzle Award for Condoleezza Rice and Michael Chertoff, then the secretaries of state and homeland security, respectively.

Likewise, in the absence of any evidence from the Obama administration, it appears that the ban against Morris is motivated by nothing more than a desire not to offend Uribe and the incoming president, Uribe protégé Juan Manuel Santos. Needless to say, Hillary Clinton is an early contender for a 2011 Muzzle.

More coverage: Nieman Foundation curator Robert Giles recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times on Morris’ behalf. The Boston Globe editorialized against the ban. Joshua Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab has a good round-up of other coverage. And we discussed the Morris case last Friday on “Beat the Press,” on WGBH-TV (Channel 2).

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  1. Dan Storms

    Morris and Habib are in some ways lucky that the only sanction taken so far against them is denial of a visa to come to the U.S. According to newly established American doctrine, if President Obama decided that these gentlemen were supporting terrorism, even if only by speech and with no other overt act, he could order them assassinated without further due process. He has already claimed that right by targeting an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who voices support for al-Qaeda and may have some non-operational involvement with terrorist acts but who has not been charged, indicted, or tried for anything yet. If you can take out an American without due process, how much easier would a foreigner be? But, as Dana Priest reports today in the Washington Post, we have more or less surrendered many of our rights to the shadow government of the National Security imperative, so what’s a murder or two?

  2. B.A. DuBois

    So, for those of you who thought the Obama Administration was going to be a refreshing breath of fresh air… how’s that hope and change?

  3. Neil Sagan

    “for those of you who thought the Obama Administration was going to be a refreshing breath of fresh air”

    It has been refreshing but clearly not enough change.

    Please try to make the argument we’d all be better off with “Get off my Lawn” McCain and the bard of Wasilla Sarah Palin.

  4. BP Myers

    Way I remember it, McCain was in Colombia’s hip pocket. Can’t imagine he’d do anything different.

    As for Palin, she wouldn’t even know where it was.

  5. Reda StCyr

    All I can say is go Bama Do your thang!

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