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Lebanese Government Steps Down as Population Demands Accountability; Jimmy Lai Arrested on Suspicious of Colluding with Foreign Sources; Biden- Sanders Unity Task Force Tackles Pandemic and Unemployment Rates; Protecting Freedom of Expression; Reforming America's Health Care System. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 10, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
The entire Lebanese government resigns as a fed-up population demands accountability for last week's devastating explosion. I'll speak to the
former deputy prime minister who is calling for an international investigation.
Then in Hong Kong, a pro-democracy media tycoon is arrested as China throws down the gauntlet under its tough new security law. M.P. and
photojournalist, Claudia Mo, joins me on a democratic outpost now under real threat.
Plus, uncontrolled COVID in America exposes the massive failing up public health care. The Bernie and Biden camps of the Democratic Party have joined
forces ahead of the election to hammer out this and other issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
China, is -- it's a very savvy international actor and it is really trying to change the way we think about freedom of expression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Our Hari Sreenivasan talks to David Kaye, the for U.N. Special Rapporteur, on the global threats to free speech.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
And we begin in Lebanon where the entire government has just stepped down, this after days of protests that followed last week's devastating
explosion, killing at least 160 people and leaving 300,000 homeless. Prime Minister Hassan Diab admitted that the blast in Beirut was the result of
endemic corruption, but he did not take direct responsibility for what happened on his watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HASSAN DIAB, LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In this reality, we will step a step backward to stand with the people so that we
can fight the battle for change together and we want it to open the door for the national salvation who shared the Lebanese people, and today I
would announce the resignation of this government. May God protect Lebanon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, indeed, the country needs protection. Its economy and food security are now at breaking points, but calls for change have been years
in the making. The same factions have ruled Lebanon for decades and many have accused them benefiting from corruption while ordinary people starve.
Our next guest knows all about the establishment there. He is the businessman and former deputy prime minister, Ghassan Hasbani, and he's
joining me now live from Beirut.
Mr. Hasbani, welcome to the program.
Let me just ask you to tell us what you think is going to happen next? You've had the whole government resign. So, what next? I mean he talks
about a salvation government. I know that is a term of art, but the country needs salvation. How will it come?
GHASSAN HASBANI, FORMER LEBANESE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've been calling for action by this government since its formation. It was supposed
to be an independent technocratic government that was to bring about the change and the reforms that we were unable to perform due to being part of
a coalition or a national unity government in the past. Except that several months have passed and not much has actually been achieved in this regard.
I believe what's going to come next is hopefully the formation of what was expected about eight months ago, an independent government with no
influence from those parties and groups that have been influencing this government, and a government that's really able to take on the big
challenges. The other point that's being raised now is a question mark about the current parliament, and whether there's going to be a further
push for early parliamentary elections to bring about a complete change to the political system.
AMANPOUR: Clearly, that's what's needed, because the same actors in various different Rubik's Cubes coalitions have been running the place
since the civil war, and it's just clearly not working. We've heard and we see, you know, headlines saying, you know, referring to the explosion,
Lebanon's mushroom cloud of incompetence. We see other headlines saying, this is what the world breaking looks and sounds like. I mean, your country
is in the -- you know, is in the petri dish of about to become a failed state. Do you agree with that? Could it be a failed state any time soon?
HASBANI: Well, absolutely. What we have been trying to avoid, we joined previous governments in short periods of time as a minority opposition
party in the national coalition on the hope that this would bring stability and we can work on the reforms. But what we have seen is still there, and
we've seen nepotism, clientelism, appointed (ph) unprotection of public sector employees that effectively have been controlled by specific
controlled political groups.
In addition to this you, add sectarianism, and this leads to corruption, mismanagement, neglect which, in the end, you add to all of that non-state
actors that have the power on the ground, and you end up with a failed state. What we need to do now is to change all this situation and change
drastically the system that has been protecting this corruption. What you've seen in this explosion and the events is symptoms and results of all
of this put together, neglect, mismanagement, et cetera, protected by all these elements.
We can no longer tolerate this. The Lebanese public can no longer tolerate this. We have highly educated people, highly driven people. They succeed
all over the world, except that this political system in Lebanon has been creating opportunities for failure time and again for many years.
I was a teenager when I had to step out of Lebanon and go and create for myself an international life. Today, I came back to Lebanon a few years ago
to try to help my country, and what I am seeing now and what I have been faced with is this situation. This is no longer acceptable, and none of the
Lebanese can accept to have their children and the next generations go through the same political system for decades to come. This is no longer
AMANPOUR: So, Ghassan Hasbani, you were not in this government, you were in the previous government. You did resign when there were, you know,
demonstrations against the previous government. I just want to ask you, everything you've just said, we actually haven't heard an apology from top
ranking Lebanese officials. Not from the president, not from the prime minister. You saw him dodge the so-called bullet, dodge responsibility in
his speech today.
You were, you know, deputy prime minister and senior minister while that ammonium nitrate was sitting on that port. You know that there were many,
at least half a dozen, calls to have somebody deal with it, and they were ignored. I just want to know, would you take this opportunity on this
program and this platform to start by apologizing to the people?
HASBANI: Well, I do certainly apologize for not having been able to do enough to bring this to the light, because I had personally struggled for
many years, even before being a politician, being an activist, to try to highlight the major failures that have taken place in the system,
specifically in the Port of Beirut.
Just to give you an example, the Port of Beirut, what they call authority, is actually a temporary management committee that was established in the
early '90s. The current members of this committee were appointed back in 2001. This committee doesn't hold any legal status. It is not a kind of
public enterprise, it's not a private enterprise, it's simply a transmission committee that has been there since the early '90s.
I have been trying to highlight this. I've put a proposal for the government to reform the Port of Beirut. We represented the political
party. I was presenting in the opposition to all of this a clear plan for the reform of the Port of Beirut. The sheer amount of blockage that was
taking place and the layers and layers of protectionism and nepotism there, as I mentioned to you earlier, prevented any clarity on reporting from that
None of what was happening in this port made its way to any senior government position as cabinet. It might have made its way through specific
politicians and we'd have to find out in the investigations, but the cabinet was not exposed to anything what was happening within that port, be
it with the customs, be it with the port authority management, as well as other forces and security forces responsible for this was actually
completely in the dark in a black box. We had major concerns about what was happening in the port --
AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Hasbani, let me ask you this. Did you know it was there? I guess I'm asking you, because for at least six years customs officials
sent numerous letters to the courts seeking guidance, they never got a response. This stuff was there, more than 2,750 tons of highly explosive
ammonium nitrate and it was there, as we all know, and often sort of shipment on a Russian ship that came there, and then nobody dealt with it.
Did you know it was there?
HASBANI: Absolutely not. On top of that, the reports you are mentioning that have been exposed lately in the press do not mention any of that at
all. They simply mention that there are some goods, that there are letters that were sent to judges who may not have been the right judges to pass a
decision on this, actually, and they've returned the answer in such a way. They've been sent out once a year, just covering a paper trail and without
mentioning any of these dangers. All that was mentioned in those, apparently, was simply some, you know, harmful material for the employees
of the port.
It sounded like a tiny kind of health and safety -- a small health and safety issue. It was never highlighted in such a way, never made it to the
cabinets before or never was on the table of cabinets. Anyway, the line of responsibilities is very long. What was happening in the Port of Beirut,
all that trade that was taking place, all these activities, we were completely against having them to stay in such a way in the darkness, and
we have called for major reforms in the way the Port of Beirut was managed.
Unfortunately, this action has taken place, we have left the government and nothing happened.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you think is going to happen now? Because now, there is no turning away, there is no saying we don't know, we don't have any
idea, it never reached our desk. It has in a massive way. It's affected and killed people. You know, you've had decades of civil war, occupation,
invasion, you know, strife, car bombs, many of your leaders have been assassinated each time they try to take on the vested interest and actually
bring something resembling a proper state of affairs to your country.
What on earth do you think is going to make that happen now? And you've had, you know, President Macron say that unless there is real reform and
unless -- I mean, they've said Hezbollah's extra-legal control of the port, and I don't know whether you agree that it does have that, is ended, there
will not be, you know, IMF loans, bailouts, grants, all of that. How are you going to fix this now?
HASBANI: That echoes what we have been calling for inside the government and outside the government for the last several years, particularly the
last four years, and we've been calling for tighter controls on the ports, on the legal crossings and passages to the country, on the illegal
crossings into Syria as well, which calls also a major issue, to have better controls, to have the reforms in place so we unlock the
international support for Lebanon.
Now, the international community is echoing what we've been calling for. This is a major step for all of us in Lebanon who wanted these reforms to
happen, who wanted an end to this kind of extra governmental control on key strategic resources of the country as well as corruption control from
within. This needs to end today. We need also an international investigation into the incident or the major disaster that happened at the
port, because nobody trusts a local -- a purely local investigation because there are vested interests of people wanting to cover things up.
What we need is a transparent investigation at an international level that brings people to justice. It is no longer acceptable that people can still
do things like this and get away with it. We need to start from now, as well as we need to focus on the neutrality of Lebanon and the reforms that
have to take place in Lebanon. These are the three key topics now that need to be immediately addressed. Anything short of that would mean a
continuation of the problem.
AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed, and I was going to ask you, the government may have stepped down but your president is still Michel Aoun and he has been very
clear, no international investigation, and he's resorted to the old canard, foreign interference, foreign this, foreign that. There seems to be no
evidence that this was a foreign interference in terms of the explosion.
How are you going to convince him? How are the powers that be going to convince him there should be an international investigation?
HASBANI: Well, through any means legal, within the system, either through parliament, through protests on the streets that the people have initiated
already, through petitions and demands and through the hope that the international community also will step in and help us to do that.
This is not about the sovereignty of an investigation and sovereignty of the government. This is an incident of international nature and
international scale. Goods have passed from country to country and ended up in Lebanon somehow. We need to know how, and we need to keep pushing in any
available means on the hope that we can get to an end to this.
AMANPOUR: And just finally, the people have forced this now. They got no joy from any of the officials after the explosion. They've been on the
street. They were last year on the street. They are demanding that you take notice of their need not just for fixing this, but their need for proper
garbage collection, their need to have non-poison tap water, their need to have a non, you know, broken economy.
Do you not feel that it's time to answer the needs of people for public services and the basic services of a functioning state?
HASBANI: Indeed. This is basically the cornerstone of our demand as an opposition group and as an individual myself. This was my, basically, call
for action the last several years, pushing to re-establish basic services, do structure reforms, look at the garbage collection. Electricity was a
major, major disaster, sucking out all the value from the system or the financial value from the system piling up debt in billions of dollars,
causing the major collapse that we see today.
We have mismanagement of state on enterprises, a telecommunications sector that's decaying, among the few in the world where mobile operators are
fully owned and managed by the government itself rather than the private sector, and so on and so forth. No independent regulators, et cetera.
HASBANI: It is no longer acceptable that we can live in a failed state type of scenario. We need to go through these reforms. The people revolting
today, we've been trying to push for a change. Let us all work together to get this change to happen. And let's not forget, we've always been on the
side of people, we as a group, as political group and myself as an individual, and the resignation from the previous government that we're in
was basically in line with what the people we're demanding and we wanted to be on the side of the people, we continue to be on the side of people. And
hopefully, this would be the final realm in a very, very long struggle.
AMANPOUR: OK. Let's hope, because it's been a long, long struggle with many of these devastating rounds. Ghassan Hasbani, thank you so much for
Now, Beijing's crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong escalates with the most high-profile arrest yet under the new National Security Law. Jimmy Lai, who
runs Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy daily newspaper, was arrested on suspicion of "colluding with foreign sources." Many see it as a not to
subtle warning to the free press in that thriving democratic outpost. The Hong Kong government defends the law as necessary to protect national
security, but it's been denounced by the United States, the European Union and human rights groups.
Claudia Mo is a former journalist and a current politician there. She's an independent member of the legislative council and she's joining me now from
Thank you for joining us.
I know it's, you know, after midnight your time, but this is, I guess, really important. So, how do you evaluate in the bigger picture what
happened to Jimmy Lai today? I think it's something like 200 police marched in broad daylight into his headquarters and took him, his son and several
others. What does that say to you right now?
CLAUDIA MO, PRO-DEMOCRACY MEMBER, HONG KONG'S LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: Now, Christiane, you're right. It's 2:00 in the morning my time, so things are a
bit blurry. But then, perhaps that also sums up the feeling of Hong Kong after what happened to Jimmy Lai and the Apple Daily today, the Apple Daily
being considered by many as the last bastion of Hong Kong's free press, and they would meet all those theatrics. 200 police are barging into the
building a news building as though it's some sort of nuclear lair of some terrorists.
So, they are sending in a very dire signal to not just the local press but to the foreign press based in Hong Kong that you watch out, the National
Security Law is all applicable, and it's omnipresent and you could get yourself in the same situation. You just need to learn to behave. Because
we all knew about Beijing's anxiety to control ideology in a society, and they think Hong Kong has become so disobedient, probably in part thanks to
the foreign media.
So, we need to sort of, you know, show a force that we need to present, and that would teach them a lesson, and that's the main thing. And as far as
Jimmy Lai is concerned, he has always been at the top of their target list. That's an open secret in Hong Kong because he's a celebrity, and it's well
noted, and the footage of this raid on his Apple Daily headquarters, the building today, would be going around the world.
AMANPOUR: So, it obviously has a massive chilling effect, as you said, and of course, we all and you all have to be careful, because under this law,
what you say now, what I say now, could run afoul of it, therefore, we have to be very careful about what we say, which is what you've just said, the
Beijing government is trying to emphasize, you have to stick within these parameters and otherwise, you could be in trouble.
So, let's just take that as what's happening over there. How much further, then, do you think this is going to go in cracking down on democracy, the
free press being a major pillar of democracy?
MO: Now, it's very difficult to predict what's going to happen. The fact is it's quite obvious by now, it's a retaliatory measure on the parts of
Beijing and the Hong Kong government vis-a-vis the U.S. sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials. The sanctions that were just announced a
couple of days ago.
And don't we say an eye for an eye and everyone will go blind. The thing is, if the U.S. does something found nasty by Beijing, and Beijing will
retaliate, it goes on forever. And as a result, Hong Kong is being pushed into a dead end. Where are we going exactly? We don't know. But then, if
they think that, oh, by using all these very high-handed measures, Hong Kong people will stop complaining, they'll stop taking to the street to
protest, be it wrong, because our young in particular are bottling up plenty of antipathy, frustration to and against the authorities.
And once this coronavirus is gone, I don't know how this pent-up political frustration on the part of our young will --
AMANPOUR: OK. Claudia, can I ask you a question? Because there are many, including in your -- in Hong Kong, politicians, thinkers, who are basically
believing that China now, especially under President Xi, sees the current world order as an opportunity for China to establish its rule, its values,
its ideas. They look at the United States, this is how thinking apparently goes, sees sort of a shambolic response to coronavirus, and they think,
well, maybe it's our turn. We're not bound by any western ideas, morals, values or whatever.
Do you see that? Is that why you're worried? Do you think that's what's being laid the groundwork for?
MO: I think you're quite right the way you've put it. The thing is, if you are a member of the global village, you can't just say, oh, we have our own
values, our set of rules to abide by, because things don't work like that. We are in the year 2020, and we need to cope with civilization.
In Hong Kong alone, Carrie Lam always claims that, oh, well, what's wrong with our National Security Law? Every country has their own National
Security Laws. And don't they have their own security to look after? And if they can have theirs, why can't we have ours? They are applying double
But what Carrie Lam and the (INAUDIBLE) has been saying is forced logic, because they decided not to talk about the democratic structure and
groundwork available, and then actual civilized society that there are the balances and -- checks and balances, there are a separation of powers and
sharing of powers, and so on and so forth. They just say, you've got that and I've got that as well, so we're equal. This is not quite the case, and
that's not the sort of comparison we should be drawing. But they keep using that sort of logic and call you, oh, you've got the double standards.
AMANPOUR: Right. Claudia Mo, we'll keep watching. Thank you for bringing us up to date from Hong Kong. Thanks so much.
Now, in the United States, as we mentioned, coronavirus cases reached over 5 million, and for many Americans, expensive health insurance, if indeed
they have any health insurance, or spiraling health care bills are a huge part of the hardships that they are facing.
Progressives in the Democratic Party say the pandemic and high unemployment rates make an even stronger case for Medicare for All, but moderates say it
is too costly. The two sides are coming together on this and other issues through initiatives like the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force ahead of the
Now, with me to discuss the party's direction is Saikat Chakrabarti, he's is the former chief of staff for the congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-
Cortez, and Jennifer Granholm who's the former government of Michigan.
Welcome to the program.
So, let me ask you about -- well, first of all, I wonder if you think it's kind of interesting that China is looking at the U.S. reaction for the
coronavirus and thinking it's one more step in their puzzle to perhaps kind of take over as a superpower. But let's just talk about health care for the
Do you think, both of you, that had there been a, you know, national health care system like we have in the U.K. or in other parts of Europe,
coronavirus would have been dealt with in a different way? Let me ask you first, Governor Granholm, having been an executive of state.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Yes. I mean, clearly, the fact that so many people are still uninsured and that health care is tied
to work, and all these people are out of work and the gaps and the safety net that exists right now, clearly it would have been better if there had
been a system like there is in the U.K. or in Canada, but we don't have that system, unfortunately.
There is an opportunity, though, to do much better by our people in this election, and the best way, I think, for progressives to get Medicare for
All, for example, is to elect Joe Biden and elect as many Democrats as possible to Congress so we retake the Senate and expand the House Majority.
There is no progress on health care, though, if Biden loses.
AMANPOUR: Saikat, do you -- how do you answer that? But also, your two wings have been in close touch about trying to hammer out positions before
the convention, before the election. Do you agree with what Governor Granholm just said, the best way to Medicare for All is to elect Joe Biden
SAIKAT CHAKRABARTI, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Oh, absolutely. We need to, at this point, elect Joe Biden. I mean, if we
have another four years of Donald Trump and Republicans running the show, we're just going to see more and more cuts, then we're going to see, you
know, a crisis like the one we just faced.
But one thing I just want to mention, you know, and I think is important to point out is, if you look at the health care industry in America today, you
know, it's about 20 percent of our total GDP gets spent on health care. It's a huge drag on the American economy and yet, you know, we're not able
to face the coronavirus pandemic and provide people health insurance, right. And we have these situations where people are afraid to go to their
doctor in the middle of a pandemic, when we most want them to go see their doctor.
So, it's not working. And why is that not working? Why do we spend so much on health care in this country and have a broken system that has lower life
expectancies in most of the developed world? Is this massive lobbyist effort. You know, we -- the health care industry spends more money lobbying
Congress, it's over half a billion in 2019 alone than any industry in this country. So, we have -- there is this fundamental program we have to face,
which is in the power of the health insurance lobbyists, the power of the health care lobbyist and the fact that they are extracting this rent, this
predatory tax from the American economy.
20 percent of all of our GDP is getting sucked up out of the system, right. And so, any plan that tries to tackle in a real way the kinds of problems
we face from the coronavirus and the system we have right now has to take that on head on.
AMANPOUR: Let me put up this graph, this sort of graphic. It's a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, it was done last September, in fact. And
during the campaign, a big split in the party emerged over this Medicare for All. Interestingly, 40 percent were showing support for Medicare for
All, 55 percent supporting building on the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
I want to ask you both. So, starting with you, Governor Granholm, you know, there was this difference in the campaign, and it does look like the Biden
faction and Vice President Biden has been pushed slightly more in a progressive direction.
How, from the best of your knowledge, did the two sides in the Biden- Sanders task force come together and decide, you know, to try to get together in order to win and to do the best for the American people on
health care? How did you -- how did it go, do you think?
GRANHOLM: Yes, there was a good amount of time spent on negotiating this.
But I think both sides recognized, this is an existential issue, and if we're going to move forward, then, first of all, obviously, Joe Biden won,
and it was his plan to build on the Affordable Care Act.
But, to his credit, he really listened and will continue to listen to the Bernie Sanders, people who were on this task force. So, as a result of it,
I mean, one of the things that he had done was to lower the eligibility age for Medicare, which, of course, is our system for serving senior citizens,
from 65 to 60.
That was a commitment he made this spring. It also focused the task force on strengthening health care in the wake of the pandemic, including
providing access to free or low-cost coverage through a public option, and automatically enrolling Americans who are already enrolled in other safety
net programs, like Medicaid, into the public option through the duration of the health care crisis.
So, there was a lot of movement in that direction, including prescription drug reform, negotiating with the prescription drug companies. There is no
doubt that the current system does not work. But what he is doing is building on a program that did work, that Donald Trump and his
administration has attempted to dismantle.
And there is a unity now on the steps forward. I think that what the Affordable Care Act is and what Joe Biden's willingness to make adjustments
signify is that we will, as a country, have universal health care.
It's just a question of when and how much it costs and who is in Congress to be able to make that happen.
AMANPOUR: And, boy, does this pandemic show the necessity for that.
Saikat Chakrabarti, let me just ask you, Jennifer Granholm, governor, said that there is unity now. But -- and I had Bernie Sanders, Senator Sanders,
on my show, and he pronounced himself satisfied with a huge amount of this task force result.
But, as you know, there are some 360 or more Sanders delegates which have signed a petition vowing not to support any platform without Medicare for
all. What does that say to you? Is there going to be an issue over it during the convention? Is it -- is this just sort of a statement by some of
them, or is it going to become a major problem?
CHAKRABARTI: You know, I don't know what the Sanders delegates are going to do or what exactly their intentions are.
But the thing that worries me about the plans coming out of the Biden administration is that, you know, unless -- it's a little dishonest, in my
opinion, because I think any true public option that does go for universal health care coverage in this country, either you're going to have to force
providers to take it, which is going to totally disrupt and gut the private health insurance markets and lead to a bunch of unplanned business
closures, and like a lot of the health insurance industries are going to have to shut down in an unplanned way, or you're going to have to jack up
prices for the public option to try to compete and have providers take it.
So, I just think that, if you actually want to go for universal health care, let's plan to get there correctly, right? Let's not just do it in
this way that's going to disrupt the private health insurance markets in an unplanned way, it's going to cause all this disruption.
And let's not continue -- the way the Biden plan is trying to get around this is, they're limiting eligibility for the public option to people who
don't have employer-based health insurance in a lot of cases.
And I just think that is going to cause this complicated, messy system that's going to be -- it's going to be better than what we have right now,
but not going to be all that much better in the case of yet another pandemic, say.
And just one example I want to give for, like, the kind of problem that this might show up, there was this "New York Times" investigation about the
disparities of hospitals in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic.
And we saw there, there is this public hospital system and a private hospital system, and both systems are incentivized to essentially not
transfer patients, resulting in totally different mortality rates and terrible coverage in public systems and private hospitals that had extra
beds that ended up going unused.
And that's the kind of problem that I don't think will be solved and is going to lead to exact same issues the next time we have a pandemic in New
AMANPOUR: Governor Granholm, I wonder how you react to that, but also how you react to several recent elections which show very clearly progressive
candidates are winning over establishment candidates, whether in Missouri, in the Bronx, and elsewhere.
I mean, that, I guess, direction is just growing, isn't it?
GRANHOLM: Yes, it certainly is, and it's exciting.
I mean, Joe Biden has the most progressive platform of any candidate to be the general election nominee for the Democratic Party. It's very exciting.
And I think -- and I know that Joe Biden's team welcomes the discussion and the input and the shaping of this by the progressives, as well as listening
to the folks who are in the middle of the spectrum and who are more moderate.
He is -- this has been what he's done all of his life, is to try to craft solutions that bring wings together like that. And his platform and his
movement on these issues demonstrates a real willingness to lead.
To me, it's very exciting, especially -- whether it's health care or climate or any number of issues that he has moved on, it's really exciting
to see such a progressive platform.
And with respect to the issue about health care that was just raised in New York City, et cetera, nobody wants that kind of thing to happen. So you
have to have really great people in place to make sure that you can make these adjustments to law, and you have to have really great people in
Congress who are willing to make these adjustments to ensure that the system isn't upended, that upended -- would arguably occur if you did
Medicare for all, because that would be upending the system, too.
So, the question is, how do you do this? How do you achieve the goal of universal affordable health care in the middle -- especially using the
coronavirus as a reason to be very expansive, and afford it, and not kick people off their existing health care?
All of those things are going to have to be considered in the mix, and this is why Joe Biden, I think, is really the right person at the right time.
AMANPOUR: Well, thank you both very much, Governor Jennifer Granholm and Saikat Chakrabarti.
CHAKRABARTI: You bet.
AMANPOUR: Thank you both very much for taking part in this discussion.
Now, the House says -- the White House says that it is deeply concerned about reports of irregularities in Belarus' presidential elections.
Tensions are at boiling point, as democracy protests their clash with police.
The incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko apparently won a landslide 80 percent victory, securing a sixth term. But demonstrators say they have
been cheated by a rigged election in that former Soviet state.
Nicknamed Europe's last dictator, Lukashenko has drawn international criticism for his suppression of dissent and his aggressive crackdown on
journalists. Also, he did not take coronavirus seriously.
Meanwhile, our next guest has made protecting freedom of speech his life's work.
David Kaye spent six years as a U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Here is telling our Hari Sreenivasan why the coronavirus pandemic is the newest tactic in the authoritarian leadership playbook.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Christiane.
David Kaye, thanks so much for joining us.
What's the U.S. contribution, or lack thereof, been to the state of how the freedom of expression and opinion exists in the world?
DAVID KAYE, FORMER U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON FREEDOM AND OPINION AND EXPRESSION: The United States is really seen in some respects as an
outlier, as a zealous defender of freedom of expression, of free speech, of what we think of in the U.S. as First Amendment rights, prioritizing free
speech issues over almost all other kinds of rights.
That's traditionally how people have seen the U.S. commitment. And the truth is, the United States has been a very active proponent of things such
as Internet freedom, a free media. Through USAID and other funding mechanisms, the U.S. has supported independent media around the world.
So, the United States has played a pretty important role, even set up the special rapporteur position that I held for six years. It set up over 25
So, the U.S. has played a very important role. It's been increasingly absent under the Trump administration. But I think people still look to the
kind of values that you can find in American law around free expression, particularly in First Amendment jurisprudence.
SREENIVASAN: What was the thing that you were most surprised by in your findings, that you perhaps didn't expect at the levels that it was, and
what is the sense of urgency around that finding?
KAYE: Yes, I mean, I think that there are a couple of different things.
I think that your audience is probably quite aware of the fact that there's been a rise in authoritarianism over the last several years. There's been a
rise in populist illiberalism around the world. And that has been focused very much on independent media.
We have just seen this incredible rise of repression of independent voices around the world, and, by that, media outlets, but also human rights
organizations, activists, and others.
And I think the one surprising thing -- or maybe two surprising things for me have been, one, there was this continued relevance of the voice of the
United States. And I saw this early on. Even though there's a lot of skepticism about the U.S. and the U.S. government worldwide, this was
something that it was somewhat surprising to me that people still really like to hear the voice of American officials.
And over the last few years, they have missed that. The other part of it is I think that, particularly in the United States, we tend to think of human
rights and human rights law as being a kind of niche issue, almost paper that doesn't have real impact for people's lives.
But it is the vocabulary that people use around the world to assert their rights. And I think that was -- it was somewhat surprising to me, the way
in which human rights law is actually used by people to make claims, and even in their own domestic environments against their own governments.
SREENIVASAN: Just recently, we had the State Department lay out what it wants as the equivalent of a clean Internet, so to speak, not necessarily
the content online, but the way that information gets to you.
They are asking for countries to sign on and say that they will not use routers and hardware from China, not the cables from China that might be
laying undersea. What do you think that does to how the world perceives this flow of information?
KAYE: So, this is something that's really quite new. '
Secretary of State Pompeo announced this clean Internet program. It's very unclear how that program will be implemented. It's unclear why it's focused
only on China.
But when you step back and look at this program, at this agenda, at this agenda of saying to the world, we're going to separate out our Internet
from the Chinese Internet, it's very dangerous. We're already facing a situation where China, for many years, has had a firewall around its
And that's been a censorship machine, right? It's designed to prevent Chinese people in China from receiving information. And the language in
this latest initiative from the United States almost mimics the language of the Chinese firewall, even if it doesn't look exactly the same, even if the
agenda is not censorship.
It is suggesting to the world, I think -- and this is really the problematic part of it in principle -- it is suggesting to the world that
national security concerns can be a reason to limit freedom of expression, to limit the free flow of information, to limit communications.
And other governments are going to be thrilled to hear this. This is something that China, that Russia, that many other countries will be really
happy to know, oh, the United States thinks that using national security as a grounds to limit Internet access, for example, that that's fine, and they
will be happy.
That is an authoritarian playbook, not an American one.
SREENIVASAN: I mean, we lose the moral high ground there. I mean, this is something that we have critiqued governments around the world for when they
wanted a halal Internet in the Middle East or the great firewall that China has set up.
KAYE: It definitely seems like a geopolitical move, rather than a real move designed to protect the security and privacy of American citizens or
people in the United States.
But I think people will use this, governments around the world will use this to say, look, we have been saying the same thing for years, that we
need a sovereign Internet. And this is -- this is something the United States is doing. They're the great defenders of freedom of expression and
of Internet freedom. We should be able to do this as well.
SREENIVASAN: You wrote a book a while back, called the "Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet." Are you concerned that, as we see,
for example, China's Belt and Road Initiative rolled out, one of the things that they are able to sell to the countries that are becoming partners is
possibly a different version of the Internet than the one that people in the United States are used to?
KAYE: Yes, absolutely.
And I think that it's important for people to understand that the Chinese model, what they call a managed Internet, that that model is very, very
attractive to governments around the world. It's attractive to so many governments that want to control the narrative.
I mean, we even see this in the United States, at least on the level of President Trump constantly calling out the media as the enemy of the
people, that, even though he doesn't really have all the power that a government like Egypt might have to attack journalists or to control the
narrative or attack the media, he clearly wants to do that.
And it reflects what many governments around the world want to do. And so, when you look at China's interest in expanding its version of the Internet,
I mean, one -- one possibility -- or at least expanding its version of control of the Internet -- one possibility is that it will sell its
technology, it will sell its firewall technology, its filtering technology and so forth, so that governments are able to do what it does in creating
its own firewall.
But there's a broader problem also out there. And that is that China is -- it's a very savvy international actor. And it is really trying to change
the way we think about freedom of expression. It's trying to change the way that governments and the international organizations protect Internet
And it's doing this by getting involved in the Human Rights Council, which the United States left two years ago. It had a seat on the Council and it
withdrew from the Council for political reasons. China is saying, look, we're going to engage you in these different forums, and we are going to
say, this is what freedom of expression means, this is what online freedom means.
And over time, if there isn't a countervailing push from Democratic governments about saying, actually, the Internet is a place for the sharing
of information, it should be open, it should be secure, but it's a real place for open debate and sharing of information, as against the Chinese
model, if we don't do that, we're going to see the splintering of the Internet, which we're already seeing -- we will see it splintering in a way
that ultimately harms everybody's ability to communicate with friends, to learn information, to look at -- learn languages, to connect with
communities around the world.
It's a very serious problem, when we think about the future of online freedom.
SREENIVASAN: In the United States, there's this grand tension here between the private sector, the social platforms like Facebook and Twitter and
Google, different companies, saying, hey, we're not going to be the speech police. We're just platforms. We actually want to encourage a freedom of
And yet that has posed some different types of societal concerns for us now.
KAYE: That's absolutely true.
And I think, again, anybody who is a consumer of the news today knows that the platforms, the American platforms, but also outside the United States,
Chinese platforms like WeChat, or Russian platforms like VK, or some other platforms have enormous power over our public square, over the public
And whether we think of the platforms themselves as the public space, or we think of them as just having a huge impact on public debate, they clearly
have that impact.
And whether they like it or not, they are absolutely are making decisions about what is acceptable to say in public these days, right. They have
standards, they have rules that determine what you can post, what you can tweet, what you can like, all of those different things.
They have enormous power right now.
SREENIVASAN: So, how should companies deal with trying to monitor and suppress disinformation and misinformation on their platforms, but still
enable a place where people can have a free and fair exchange of ideas?
KAYE: Yes, this is this is a fundamental problem right now.
A colleague of mine in the Netherlands talks about the way the algorithms work, as suggesting that hate is a part of the business model of the
companies, right, because that kind of provocative content gets shared widely.
And we don't know why it gets shared that way. So, at the very kind of big level of understanding how information spreads on the platforms, we have
very little insight. And that's because the companies are quite opaque about their algorithms, about their artificial intelligence that allows
information to travel online.
So, this is a very significant problem for us as citizens. It's a very significant problem for us as really trying to understand why
disinformation travels so quickly around the Internet.
And I think there's there's definitely room here for governments to start to regulate in this space. Now, that doesn't mean regulation that involves
telling the companies, this is what your algorithm should look like. But they should be regulating at the very least transparency around the
algorithms, so that we on the outside can evaluate why it is that a hateful video or a video on YouTube that is inciting violence against a community
somewhere in the world, why is that so popular?
SREENIVASAN: You have been looking at this for a number of years.
And just around the time that you're wrapping up, here comes a global pandemic. What did the pandemic do to all of the challenges about freedom
of expression that you have been cataloguing?
KAYE: Yes, the pandemic has kind of focused the attention of the platforms and of the public on things that, frankly, academics, experts, and the
platforms themselves have been thinking about for many years, so disinformation, for example.
Since, at least 2016, but even before then, there's been concern among the public and among the platforms and governments, to a certain extent, around
disinformation, disinformation that typically is political and so forth.
And it's been hard for companies and governments to understand what to do about it, because they see it as political information. And they don't want
to -- for good reasons, they don't want to interfere with political debate.
And so -- and this is where this phrase that Zuckerberg has mentioned, we don't want to be the arbiters of truth, that's where that comes up, right,
because we don't want to decide, they're saying, between the truth of a political claim and the untruth.
The pandemic has really focused everybody's attention on, still, it's disinformation, but this is disinformation around the disease, around drugs
that might be useful or not against the disease, against vaccines that might be useful or might be in development.
And now the companies see, actually, disinformation that travels around our platforms can actually harm people. It could result in death. It could
result in the increase of the spread of the outbreak.
And so I think what we have seen is, the companies are pretty aggressive when it comes to pandemic disinformation, going so far as to take down, as
Twitter did very recently and Facebook did, take down Trump campaign posts around drug use and other things around the pandemic.
But it's also, I think, probably going to have a longer-term impact on the way the platforms and the way governments see the possibility of regulating
SREENIVASAN: You have even accused the White House of what you called an onslaught against press freedoms. The Trump effect is what you called it.
What does that mean?
KAYE: Well, clearly, over the last several years, President Trump has denigrated the press. There have been instances of attack over the last
several months, particularly in the context of Black Lives Matter protests, where journalists have been attacked directly by the police.
They have been detained by the police, even when they're clearly identifying themselves and identifiable to the police as journalists. And I
think that you can't -- you can't disconnect that from Trump's rhetoric, from the kinds of attacks that the administration has imposed on
They're -- we're still lucky in the United States that we do have a robust, independent media. We are, in fact, in a kind of golden age of
investigative reporting. There are great reporters out there who are pushing back against this.
And I think the public, by and large, recognizes the importance of having an independent media as a tool to check government. But the Trump
administration is pushing hard. Governments around the world see this, and they're happy that -- yes, at least authoritarian governments are happy
that the United States is acting this way, because it really gives them the opening to say, look, when we attack journalists who are covering protests,
we're not doing anything different than the United States is doing.
SREENIVASAN: David Kaye, thanks so much for joining us.
KAYE: All right, thanks so much for having me.
AMANPOUR: Important conversation, especially given our reporting tonight on all these challenges to democracy and what's going on in Hong Kong,
That is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.