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A Journalist Speaks Out

William Thomas films Kuwait oil fires -Michael Bailey photo



By William Thomas




When I undertook my first classes at Marquette University’s J-School in 1966, I was thrilled to be entering a profession vital to the public good.


Secure in journalism’s strong ethical guidelines, and proud of a heritage calling powerful people to account, I rolled five-sheet “books” of copy paper and carbon into my assigned typewriter and strove against remorseless deadlines and one-finger typos to compose news stories answering the 5-step reportorial “pyramid”: what, when, where, who and how.




Back then, news was news and not what I felt or a president or advertiser dictated. In the heady 60’s of anti-war protests, university sit-ins and Black Power marches, there was no better classroom for practicing photojournalism than the streets of Milwaukee and Chicago, and the mud of Woodstock.


Throughout my career, I’ve been forcibly reminded of the risks a reporter faces for adhering to a fact-checked, ground-truth agenda – rather than the blatant-falsehood agenda that passes for mainstream propaganda today.

As an award-winning, professional journalist since 1967, I’ve confronted martial law, minefields, angry loggers and club-wielding tactical police to “get the shot” and the story and help where I could.


Daybreak Singing Pass 1989

Daybreak Singing Pass, spot where my vision quest was answered, 1989

Here in Canada, after being instructed during a five-day vision quest in BC’s Coast Mountains “to speak for the voiceless ones,” I was the first to report on the terrible health toll from provincial pulp mills and the forest devastation that feeds them. I was also legally SLAPP’d by the massive multinational, Fetcher Challenge, for interfering with their clearcutting in the Walbran Valley. 


They lost.


In winter 1990, on the eve of my departure with artist Carl Chaplin on a two-man peace mission into a  gathering Desert Storm, my girlfriend at the time was accosted by plainclothes police in a Vancouver parking lot, roughly handled, and terrorized into warning me to back off from that venture.


She did.


I didn’t.

William Thomas filming in oil-shrouded Kuwait at noon -Michael Bailey photo 

In Amsterdam, where I put together the Gulf Environmental Emergency Response Team, Ottawa pressured the Dutch government to prevent me from proceeding. According to the military source who tipped me, the Dutch checked out GEERT and told the Government of Canada: “We approve of what he is doing.” (In the Schiphol airport boarding area I nodded to an undercover RCMP officer I recognized from the Tsitika Valley blockade.) 


Later, my dispatches for Environment News Service, sent over the only functioning fax machine in war-wrecked Kuwait City, resulted in invitations to address the 100th Anniversary of the International Peace Bureau in Helsinki – and the Mukhabarat, who were less impressed. During questioning over my counter-narrative oil fires coverage, Kuwait’s secret police demanded, “What are you doing?”


“Telling the truth,” I replied. My three Earthtrust buddies and I were quickly expelled.


The shooting continued. After returning to Canada, the RCMP offered “any amount of money you care to name” to surrender videotapes I’d made inside a native encampment during the armed siege at Gustafson Lake.


I refused.


I was then threatened with imprisonment if I did not hand over hours of interviews and face-edited “bang bang” footage. But the tapes were no longer in my possession. 


Enter the CBC, which signed my death warrant by  betraying our strict agreement on how my footage would be aired – before proceeding to compound their perfidy by handing over all of my tapes to the RCMP without legal challenge or demur.


But that corporation had not paid for and did not own my tapes. The understandable result was a contract put on my life by those whose trust I had evidently betrayed.


Next, I was hauled into a courtroom and forced to testify under protest against the same Shuswap community that had allowed just one reporter into their besieged camp. 


The morning of the trial, while praying for assistance to the Spirit that animates all things, an eagle flew out of Surrey’s sprawling concrete maze to offer eye-to-eye reassurance through my hotel room window.


(The eagle feather I carried had already proven a powerful guarantor of truth-telling. Later that day, when I pulled it from under my shirt, an angry young Shuswap warrior gave me a curt nod and walked away.)


The Crown’s polite attempts to pervert press freedom failed when the defence ended up keeping me on the stand as their unexpected key witness for a second day. (In the courthouse washroom, I shared a laugh with my would-be assassin over his roadside bust en route to collect my head-bounty.)

Elsewhere on the investigative journalism front, my front-page photo-illustrated stories exposing deadly pollution from the Crofton pulp mill, and the flash-flooding folly of a new "rain-funnel” Vancouver Island highway built without adequate storm drains resulted in government interventions forcing expensive emissions controls and adequate highway drainage. 

Less happily, publication of my thoroughly-documented articles on the dangers of cellphone radiation and microwaved food resulted in the termination of my award-winning stint as a correspondent for Monday Magazine in the provincial capitol, after advertisers complained. 


Now that we’re somewhat clearer on the tag – "William Thomas, investigative journalist" – I can report that the “protections” conferred by Canada’s alleged press freedoms carry the same weight as “protections” against mining and clearcut logging in BC’s provincial parks.


As for the plight and precedence of Mr. Assange, these are dark days for anyone whose freedoms depend on an unfettered press and the rights of “real” investigative journalists to do our jobs. And even blacker for anyone who dares take these bedrock democratic principles for granted.


Revoking Assange's asylum violates Article 79 of Ecuador’s constitution, which forbids extradition of its own citizens. Aussie Julian Assange also enjoys Ecuadorian citizenship. Which makes the forcible arrest inside an Ecuadorian embassy from outside the U.S.of a non-US citizen for publishing nearly 1 million documents revealing U.S. war crimes, Hillary’s traitorous duplicity, and illegal spying on world leaders and citizens – such a catastrophic precedent.


If extradited to an imploding USA, Assange will face a secret tribunal, Gitmo style, in which he will have zero rights to learn the charges and evidence against him – lest that somehow further violate national insecurity. As U.S. attorney Bill Simpich warns, once extradited to the USA, Julian Assange will be prevented from presenting the essential elements of his defense because “The government doesn’t want a fair fight. In a fair fight, the government will lose.”


Stay tuned.


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See also: Stories Broken By William Thomas 

“RESIST MUCH, OBEY LITTLE”   发件人     William Thomas 2023