2020 was a chaotic year for the planet. While the Covid-19 pandemic dominated global politics, The Grayzone continued shining a light on the machinations of empire, from the persecution of imprisoned journalist Julian Assange to the defeat of a US-backed coup regime in Bolivia, from the growing corporate war on free speech to the OPCW’s scandalous Syria cover-up.
Throughout the year, The Grayzone’s website had more than 5.24 million views and 2.48 million unique visitors. Our small, independently funded team of journalists published nearly 300 reports, filing on-the-ground dispatches from Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Colombia.
1. Documenting state persecution of imprisoned journalist Julian Assange
The Grayzone editor-in-chief Max Blumenthal published a series of exclusive reports on imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, some of which were brought up by the defense in the UK extradition case against the Australian journalist.
A key part of this anti-China disinformation campaign was unsubstantiated accusations made about the country’s Uighur community. Singh showed how the US government pours millions of dollars into the coffers of extremist separatist groups like the World Uyghur Congress to turn up the heat internationally on Beijing.
3. Exposing OPCW’s Syria cover-up and state-funded actors assisting it
In a series of exclusive reports by Aaron Maté, The Grayzone exposed corruption in global chemical watchdog the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the body’s manipulation and cover-up of an investigation into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria in April 2018.
In February, we revealed a chilling email from a former senior OPCW official who warned of a climate of intimidation against dissenting inspectors, and also published the leaked UN testimony of one of the dissenting inspectors on the Douma mission, Ian Henderson.
Also in March, we published a statement provided to The Grayzone by an anonymous OPCW official who came forward to voice alarm at the Douma cover-up. This official denounced the “abhorrent mistreatment” of the two dissenting inspectors, and also warned of a climate of intimidation designed to keep other staffers “frightened into silence.”
In May, we revealed that OPCW Director General Fernando Arias had made false claims about dissenting inspector Ian Henderson in a bid to minimize his role in the Douma probe. Leaked documents obtained by The Grayzone undermined Arias’ claims that Henderson “was not a member” of the Douma investigative team and only played a “minor supporting role.”
In September, Aaron Maté testified about the OPCW cover-up in a session of the United Nations Security Council. In his remarks, Maté called the scandal “one of the most important, and overlooked, global stories in recent memory” and urged the UN and OPCW to let the dissenting inspectors air their concerns.
In October, the US, UK, and France took the extraordinary step of blocking the UN testimony of José Bustani, the OPCW’s first director general. Bustani had come to speak out in support of the inspectors. After the unprecedented censorship of the veteran diplomat, The Grayzone published his suppressed remarks. Shortly after, Bustani gave an exclusive interview to Aaron Maté on Pushback in which he praised the inspectors, criticized the OPCW cover-up, and revealed that he had been spied on during the lead-up to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
In another exclusive, renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky made his first public remarks on the OPCW scandal in an interview on Pushback. “What happened certainly arouses very severe suspicions… The United States and its allies want the evidence provided by some of the top inspectors to be banned,” Chomsky said. “And the OPCW is capitulating to this, which is pretty shocking.”
Also in October, The Grayzone exposed a hoax by Bellingcat, the NATO member state-funded website. Bellingcat attempted to denigrate OPCW inspector Brendan Whelan — and whitewash the cover-up he challenged — by publishing part of a letter that it claimed was sent to Whelan. Bellingcat asserted that the letter undermined Whelan’s concerns, and suggested that both he and The Grayzone had kept it from the public. In reality, the letter that Bellingcat claimed was sent to Whelan was never actually sent. It also contained ludicrous assertions. In exposing Bellingcat’s hoax, The Grayzone exclusively published the actual OPCW letter that Whelan was sent — as well as Whelan’s initial letter to the OPCW, which detailed concerns that have yet to be addressed.
In November, we sent, and published, a series of questions to the BBC over a falsehood-ridden podcast that it aired. The 10-part series, Mayday, attempted to whitewash the White Helmets and the OPCW’s Douma cover-up. Despite initially agreeing to, the BBC has yet to provide answers.
Finally, The Grayzone closed the year with another exclusive report that showed that OPCW executives privately criticized the manipulation of a Syria chemical weapons probe, and supported dissenting inspector Brendan Whelan’s efforts to challenge the cover-up. One official, however, feared helping the “Russian narrative.” The report also provided new details on how other senior officials carried out the cover-up.
5. Showing Bolivia’s democratic victory against a US-backed coup regime
Despite intense Covid-19 restrictions, The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal, Anya Parampil, and Ben Norton managed to travel to Bolivia in October to report on the repression of the US-backed coup regime, and its historic loss in national elections.
The materials reveal how every aspect of the Syrian opposition was cultivated and marketed by Western government-backed public relations firms, and how international media coverage of the conflict was heavily influenced, distorted, and even created by these contractors themselves.
8. Dispelling regime-change propaganda against Venezuela
Max Blumenthal and Anya Parampil reported from inside Venezuela during its December National Assembly election, where they dispelled media myths about the country’s democracy and shined a light on US government-led regime-change operations.
Blumenthal reported from a pro-government rally, where average Venezuelans spoke about the hybrid war on their homeland.
Parampil interviewed pro-Chavista voters, who are totally ignored in mainstream corporate media, in a video package from the polls.
The Grayzone also exposed how violent Nicaraguan coup-plotters who were dubbed “political prisoners” by US government-funded opposition groups and subsequently released under pressure by Washington and the Organization of American States then went on to murder innocent people, including their own pregnant girlfriends.
Ben Norton was the only international reporter who got access to the small gathering marking the 41st anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, which was held in the capital Managua under tight Covid-19 restrictions on July 19.