The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

New Internet TV shows increases viewership in first five weeks

New Arab Internet Show challenges one-sided American media coverage of Arab World issues
(Chicago/June 29) -- A new weekly online Internet discussion program is now available for public viewing. The program, entitled CounterPoint, features two veteran Arab American journalists discussing the news headlines each week and offering an alternative to the usually one-sided discussion featured in mainstream American TV.

Co-Hosts Ray Hanania and Ali Alarabi are veteran Arab American journalists and syndicated columnists.

The show format has the two co-hosts discuss and debate issues, such as the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, fundamentals of Palestinian politics, challenges facing the Arab American and Muslim American communities, the repressive media response to the release of the report on AIPAC's control of the US Congress and more.

At the end of each show, they also feature new and recent books published by Arab and Muslim Americans.

All of the shows are available online and can be viewed at any time using a high speed DSL or broadband connection. The shows are filmed in high quality digital format using a SONY VX 2100 Camera. Show information is located at

Five shows have been posted since the show's launch May 25, 2006. Other links to online documentaries and cable TV programs are also available.

"The Internet is giving Arab Americans the power to sidestep the bias in the American news media. The question is are we smart enough to take that opportunity or do we continue to allow the mainstream American news media to define us in distorted and inaccurate stereotypes," said Hanania.

Hanania, a co-founder of the National Arab American Journalists Association, said the show will be featured at the national convention of the Society of Professional Journalists in Chicago August 24 - 26 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

"We are going to protest anti-Arab bias in the mainstream American media at the convention in a big way," Hanania promised. "The journalism abuses against the Arab and Muslim American community and the Arab World are outrageous and must be challenged."

For more information visit

or contact Ray Hanania at 312-933-9855

# # #

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bridges TV Collapses under pressure on Palestinian issue

Bridges TV Collapses (under pressure?)

(By Judy Andreas)

Dr. Hesham Tillawi is a Palestinian American who hosts a program called Current Issues TV. It is seen each Thursday night on Cox Cable in Lafayette, Lousiana. The show has become Internet success with thousands upon thousands of listeners tuning in each week.

Dr. Tillawi provides a place in which Palestinian, and other Middle Eastern concerns, can be discussed. His guests have spanned the spectrum from Congressmen Paul Findley, author of "They Dare To Speak Out" to Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli nuclear technician (and whistle blower) who spent many years in prison for divulging the extent of Israel's nuclear weapons' program to Alan Watt, whose "cutting through the matrix" is thought provoking on many levels. Dr. Tillawi has had a vast assortment of people pass through his Internet doors. Israel Shamir, talked freely about the racist politics of his native country, Israel. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, talked about his controversial book "The Holocaust Industry". The parade of guests has been lengthy and learned.

And yet, do not, for one minute, get the impression that Dr. Tillawi is anti-Jewish. His problem rests with Israel and its treatment of the Arabs and Muslims. This was demonstrated quite clearly recently, when he had a male and female on his show who made racist comments about ALL Jewish people. Dr. Tillawi was quick to defend Jewish people and show the hypocrisy of those guests.

Towards the close of 2005, Bridges TV, a Muslim owned channel, began airing Current Issues. It became a huge success and, by the end of May of 2006, Bridges was showing Current Issues five times a week.

"We were getting rave reviews", stated Dr. Tillawi. "Of course, for a program to be shown five times a week, it would have to be a resounding success".

Then, in May of 2006, the proverbial "other shoe" dropped. Dr. Tillawi was informed by Aasiya Zubair, the Director of Programming at Bridges TV, that some of the "Jewish cable operators" located in the areas of the country receiving Bridges, had complained to them about the program. She also told him that one of their editors had been fired for not editing some of Current Issues programs by removing certain material that they found "offensive to Jews." In addition, Dr. Tillawi was informed that viewers had been complaining about the contents of the show. He was incredulous.

"How could the majority of "Muslim customers" have changed their minds overnight?"

He had been getting nothing but positive feedback from the viewing audience. The show was presenting Arab and Muslim issues and was wildly popular.

When Dr. Tillawi questioned Bridges and asked for some proof of their allegations, they could produce nothing. He shook his head in disbelief.

"It's a shame that a channel claiming to be friendly to Muslims would remove the only show being broadcast nationwide that tells the truth about Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Islam, etc" Dr. Tillawi said sadly. "Bridges can only be built on truth and sometimes that truth is ugly".

A matter of concern to all Dr. Tillawi's viewers is the disturbing "coincidence" that occurred shortly before Bridges burned theirs with Dr. Tillawi. The Anti Defamation League added Dr. Hesham Tillawi's name to their list of most "notorious anti-Zionist, anti-Semites. This begs the question "Did Bridges get any pressure from the ADL to drop Current Issues TV?"

Dr. Tillawi has no plans of going "gently into that good night".

He was resolute. "Now the gloves are coming off and we are not going to worry about whose toes get stepped on when it comes to the truth".

Judy Andreas

Bridges TV succumb s to pressure and censors Palestinian TV Program

First nationwide Pro-Palestinian Television Program in the US is the latest victim of attack on Free Press.

Press Release
Media Contacts:
Hesham Tillawi
Mark Glenn

It is just another example of the fact that in America freedom of speech has its limits, and particularly when the topic of discussion happens to be Israel. Fall on the ‘wrong side’ of the truth, and a person can lose his job or his platform for speaking his mind.

It seemed as if nothing could stop it. It went from having 2 viewers a week to hundreds and then thousands and then hundreds of thousands and then, once it gained syndication on an American cable and a Satellite channel called Bridges TV, millions. It was being aired 5 times a week for 5 months on Bridges TV with nothing but praise from both executives and viewers alike, and then, out of the blue came a call from Bridges informing the show’s producer that they were coming under pressure from "Jewish Cable Operators". Bridges’ Programs Director and the show’s producer set up a system of rating for each program to inform Bridges if the content of the show has ‘Jewish’ material or not. Apparently though, this was not enough, as two weeks later the show was removed from the Bridges TV line-up.

The program in question is called “Current Issues with Hesham Tillawi” and runs Live every Thursday evening from 8-10 PM Central Time in the US from Lafayette Louisiana. Besides running on cable, the program is also streamed live and archived on the Internet where at present it is watched in more than 63 countries around the world at Tillawi, a Palestinian-American citizen is the host of the show and has been making some impressive waves in the last year with some of the guests he has interviewed, including members of the US Congress, high ranking officials within the US military establishment, international figures such as ex-Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu and many others.

More importantly though {and most likely the reason why the heat came down from on high} is the fact that it is a program where there is no such thing as political correctness when it comes to discussing the goings on in the Middle East, and in particular how these items relate to the state of Israel.

Late in 2005 Bridges showed interest in broadcasting Current Issues on their network that spans the US. Bridges TV is a Muslim--owned channel whose theme is dedicated to the issue of Islam and to the current goings on in the Middle East. In December 2005 Bridges agreed to start airing Current Issues and by the end of May the following year, Current Issues was playing 5 times a week and getting rave reviews by Bridges viewers. Then, in May 2006 Aasiya Zubair, Director of Programming at Bridges TV informed Dr. Hesham Tillawi that some of the “Jewish cable operators" located in areas of the country where Bridges TV is broadcast had complained to them about the Current Issues program. She also informed him that Bridges TV had fired one of their editors for not editing some of Current Issues programs by taking out materials that in their opinion was “offensive to Jews”. Two weeks later Bridges TV made the decision to stop airing the show and in a letter to Dr. Hesham Tillawi Mrs. Zubair wrote the following notice:

"Dear Hesham, I would like to inform you that we will no longer be airing Current issues anymore. I have been getting a lot of complaints from our viewers," and in a follow-up letter Mrs. Zubair wrote:

"Dear Hesham, It is not about the cable operator, it is about the customers too who by majority are Muslim and who have complained about the show. For now I would suggest it is best to part ways."

Tillawi response was "How could the majority of "Muslim customers" change their mind overnight regarding a show that is presenting current events from an Arab and a Muslim point of view?"

Tillawi asked Bridges TV to produce those so-called complaints from viewers. As he tells, it, they were unable to produce even one negative comment. In prior conversations with Ms Zubair she stated that they were getting many emails in support of the show.

“This is censorship, plain and simple” claims Tillawi. “Its a shame that a channel claiming to be friendly to Muslims would remove the only show being broadcast nationwide that tells the truth about Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Islam, etc. In its promotional material, it claims to be a channel dedicated to “building bridges,” but we say bridges can only be built with the truth, as ugly as it may be.”

When asked if he was surprised at this latest development, Tillawi’s answer was “No…I knew that this would happen eventually, I just did not know that it would happen this quickly. Unfortunately you cannot tell the truth about Israel indefinitely in the United States, supposedly the freest country of the world.” He continued his thoughts on the matter with “We feel this shameful decision by Bridges TV management will go down in infamy because now Muslims are censoring other Muslims from telling the truth to the world about the thousands of Palestinian, Iraqi, and Afghani children who are being killed by the Israeli-American War machine.”

The rest of us have to wonder what the reason was for this censure? Was it the programs dealing with the use of Depleted Uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan? Was it the interview with His Excellency Afif Safieh, the Palestinian Ambassador to Washington telling the truth concerning the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians? Was it the interview with the Syrian Ambassador revealing what America's intentions were in the Middle East? Was it the interview with Dr Norman Finkelstein exposing Zionism and what it is? Was it the interview with Congressman Paul Findley exposing AIPAC and the Jewish control of congress? Was it the interview with Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear scientist who exposed the Israeli Nuclear capacity? Was it the interview with Israel Shamir who exposed the racist policies of his country, Israel? Was it the interview with Dr. Steven Sniegoski who stated that the war against Iraq was for Israel? Or could it be the interview with Alison Weir exposing the reality of the Palestinian-Israeli issue? Maybe it was the interview with Lt Col Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked at the Pentagon and exposed the influence of the Neocons and the Israelis at the Defense Department? The list goes on and on with interviews that the Main Stream Media would not even touch due to the Jewish influence over the media.

Tillawi added that “We always spoke out against this influence over the media and now we ourselves have become victims of this influence. One thing that hurts like hell is the fact that it was a Muslim who pulled the plug to stop the show from reaching a nationwide audience.”

It is interesting but probably not coincidental to note that a short time before Bridges TV ended its association with Current Issues, the ADL, domestic branch of Israeli Intelligence operating in the United States, added Dr Hesham Tillawi to its list of most ”notorious anti-Zionist,anti-Semites”. Those who are familiar with the tactics of the ADL know that the typical way that they do business is to threaten and intimidate anyone who is involved with the business of exposing the truth as it pertains to Israel and the way that the Jewish agenda works in the United States. Therefore it is not unreasonable to expect that in some fashion Bridges TV was contacted by a representative of the ADL and told to cease broadcasting episodes of Current Issues or face the consequences.

When asked whether this latest setback would affect the way that he and the producers of Current Issues do business, he said. “Absolutely it will…Now the gloves are coming off and we are not going to worry about whose toes get stepped on when it comes to discussing the truth. There is a great lesson here about appeasement and giving into the demands of a bully. Bullies never get enough, and even when you give them everything they want they still aren't satisfied.”

This is not the end, but the beginning. Current Issues will continue broadcast on Cox Cable, Amazonas Satellite and the Internet, until we find a brave man or a brave woman who will put us back on nationwide syndication.

Hesham Tillawi, PhD International Relations is a Palestinian American writer, Political Analyst and a TV show host. His program Current issues with Hesham Tillawi can be viewed Live every Thursday evening between 9-11 PM Central Standard Time on Cox Cable system Channel 5 in Louisiana, Nationwide on Bridges TV, and Worldwide on Amazonas Satellite, as well as Live on the Internet at and can be contacted at Interviews then archived for on demand viewing at

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Arab journalists honored in Dubai

Arab Journalists Honored in Dubai
K.T. Abdurabb, Arab News
April 2006

PHOTO CAPTION: Hewlett-Packard Managing Director for Middle East Joseph Hanania, right, presents the award for best investigative article to Msaed Ahmed Al Osaimi of Al-Majallah magazine at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, on Wednesday. (AN photo by Jack Jabour)

DUBAI, 28 April 2006 — Distinguished journalists from the Arab media were honored at the Arab Journalism Awards ceremony here on Wednesday night in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed ibn Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.

The ceremony was held at Madinat Jumeirah. Senior media representatives, diplomats, academics and government officials from across the Arab world attended the event.

Extensive participation by the region’s media leaders and the excellent judging procedure made the awards very comprehensive, said Khalfan Al-Roomi, chairman of the Board of the Arab Journalism Awards.

The Dubai Press Club, under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed ibn Rashid Al- Maktoum, presented the awards for the best works in 2005.

Msaed Ahmed Al Osaimi of Al-Majallah magazine, a sister publication of Arab News, won the award for best investigative article.

Salama Ahmed Salama from Egypt won the best columnist category award while Hussian Mohammed Al Shbaili of Al Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, won the award for best business article in 2005.

Sami Abdul Emam of Al Bayan won the award for best sports article. The award for best article on environment was presented to Amal Suroor of Nusf Al Duniya magazine, Egypt.

Jumana Haddad from the publication Al Nahar of Lebanon won the award for best interview.
Best photojournalism award went to Suhaib Jadallah Hasan, Reuters, Palestine.

The award for best IT article was presented to Jamal Mohammed Al Dwairi, Al Khaleej, UAE.
Best political article award went to Mohammed Amin Al Masri of Al Ahram, Egypt.
Emad Hajaj of Al Ghad, Jordan, won the award for best caricature.

Nabeha Mhaidli, managing editor of Tuta Tuta Magazine, Lebanon, received the award for best children article.

Sheikh Mohammed also honored journalists who lost their lives or were injured while performing duty.

He presented special awards to Gibran Tuwaini’s family, Sameer Kaser’s family, Atwar Bahjat’s family, May Chidiac’s family and Jawad Kadem.

Sheikh Mohammed concluded the awards ceremony by presenting the Media Personality of the
Year Award to Salahuddin Hafiz from Egypt for his outstanding contribution to the development of Arab Media.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Columnist launching online show on MidEast Issues (Editor & Publisher) June 5

Columnists Launching Online Show on Mideast Issues
By E&P Staff Published: June 05, 2006 2:25 PM ET

NEW YORK Columnists Ray Hanania and Ali Alarabi are co-hosting an online TV program called "CounterPoint" that officially launches tomorrow.The 30-minute show discusses and debates Middle East-related issues. Among the topics will be Israeli-Palestinian relations, Hamas, the Haditha massacre, the influence of America's Israel lobby, and U.S. media coverage of the Middle East.

"CounterPoint" will "help Americans hear another side of the Middle East story," said Hanania, who noted that the mainstream media doesn't have enough Arab-American voices -- especially on Op-Ed pages.Hanania, whose self-syndicated column was formerly distributed by Creators Syndicate, already does a cable TV show on Arab-American issues that's also available online.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Algerian Publisher released from jail after 2 years

ALGERIA: Publisher released after two years in prison

New York, June 14, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release today of Mohamed Benchicou, publisher of a newspaper critical of the Algerian government, who was jailed two years ago for allegedly violating currency regulations.

“We are relieved that our colleague Mohamed Benchicou is once again a free man, but his release doesn’t alter the fact that he spent two years in prison on spurious charges,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.

Benchicou’s daily, Le Matin, was forced to close in 2004 when the state printer demanded the newspaper settle its outstanding debts immediately. Benchicou was freed from El-Harrache prison outside the capital Algiers. He was jailed for allegedly failing to declare currency he brought into the country after a trip to France. The charges were viewed by journalists and human rights groups as retaliation for Le Matin's critical editorial line against the government.

The prosecution was brought shortly after Le Matin alleged that Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni had tortured detainees while he was a military security commander in the 1970s. Benchicou, a frequent government critic, further angered officials in February 2004, when he published a book about President Abdelaziz Bouteflika titled Bouteflika, An Algerian Fraud.

Several criminal defamation lawsuits are also pending against Benchicou for articles published in Le Matin. He faces possible jail time if convicted in these cases or if past convictions are upheld on appeal.

Over the years, Algerian authorities have used tough criminal laws that prescribe prison terms in order to prosecute several leading journalists who are critical of the government, according to CPJ research.

In 2001, the government toughened these laws when the Algerian Parliament approved a series of new amendments to the penal code that prescribe prison terms of up to one year and fines up to 250,000 dinars (US$3,200) for defaming the president. A separate amendment imposes similar punishments for defaming Parliament, the courts, the military, or other state institutions. Writers, publishers, and responsible editors are held accountable for offending articles, along with publications themselves, which can be fined up to 2.5 million dinars (US$32,000).

“Through its use of these draconian laws Algeria continues to undermine basic press freedoms,” Cooper said. “We call on the authorities to dismiss all pending criminal charges against Mohamed Benchicou and other journalists, and to reform Algerian law in accordance with international standards.”

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit

Bridges TV Expands its reach to Adelphia Cable TV

Bridges TV Goes Mainstream on Adelphia Cable

The Network Is No Longer a Premium Service on Adelphia Cable

BUFFALO, N.Y., June 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Bridges TV announced today the addition of its network to Adelphia Digital Basic Cable service on channel 260. The network was formerly a premium service for $14.95 per month. Bridges TV is a 24x7 English language network focused on bridging the gap between Western and Muslim worlds.

Dr. Khalid Qazi, President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) in Western New York, stated, "By expanding Bridges TV to basic cable, Adelphia has shown genuine openness and outreach towards American Muslims giving them a voice in the mainstream media." Dr. Qazi added, "This is an excellent example of a partnership between the local community and the local cable. The best way for the community to appreciate Adelphia is for them to consider Adelphia as their preferred provider."

Bridges TV is now available on Adelphia's Digital Cable service in the City of Buffalo and surrounding suburbs of Western New York at no extra charge.

The expansion of Bridges TV to basic cable (digital) allows Adelphia Cable customers exclusive 24/7 access to news stories, current affairs and unique programming in English focused on bridging the gap between Western and Muslim worlds. Last month, the FBI & Muslim Town Hall on Bridges TV received significant media attention and viewership. The U.S. State Department plans similar television town halls on Bridges TV."The content on Bridges TV is unique with no duplication on the dial," said Nancy Sanders, the News Director of the network and a 20-year veteran of an ABC News affiliate.

Sanders added, "Americans can now get a completely unique perspective on issues from Danish Cartoons to Dubai Ports." After the uproar over the Danish cartoons about Prophet Muhammad, Bridges TV is airing the award winning film "Muhammad, Legacy of the Prophet" on Tuesday, June 20th at 8pm ET / 9pm PT. The film, produced by Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer, delivered record Nielsen ratings last year for PBS.

Bridges TV got started in 2005, after 10,000 people contributed $100 each to start a network that would give American Muslims a voice in the mainstream media. However, the network got launched as a subscription-based premium service. This limited the ability of the network to build bridges, as mainstream Americans were unlikely to watch a "Muslim" pay channel. "Today Adelphia has made the dream a reality," said Fayyaz Hussain, President of the Pakistan American Association in WNY.

Mr. Hussain added, "Our organization now plans a community-wide initiative to bring new Digital Cable and High- Speed Internet customers to Adelphia."

Last month MPAC awarded its prestigious annual Media Award to Mo Hassan, CEO of Bridges TV, for helping 8 million American Muslims gain a voice in the mainstream media. "When you give a disenfranchised people a voice, it creates a win-win for everyone," said Hassan.

About Bridges
TV Bridges TV is a 24/7 English language network available in nearly one million cable and satellite television households nationwide. The first of its kind, Bridges TV gives 300 million Americans an opportunity to engage in a dialog with 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. For more information about Bridges TV, call 716-961-3109 or visit

About Adelphia Communications
As one of the nation's leading cable companies, Adelphia serves more than 5.3 million residential customers nationwide, including over 300,000 customers throughout the Buffalo Niagara region. In addition to cable entertainment, Adelphia offers Digital Cable, High Definition TV (HDTV), Digital Video Recorder (DVR), High-Speed Internet (HSI) and OnDemand services.

Contact Information:Mo S. Hassan, CEO of Bridges TV, Tel: 716-308-6593; EM: mohassan@bridgestv.comEarl Wells, E-3 Communications, Tel: 716-854-8182This release was issued through eReleases(TM). For more information, visit

Source: Bridges TV CONTACT: Mo S. Hassan, CEO of Bridges TV, +1-716-308-6593,, or Earl Wells of E-3 Communications, +1-716-854-8182Web site:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Arab Journalists waned to attend SPJ Convention AUgust 24 - 27

Arab Journalists Wanted for SPJ Convention

The Chicago Chapter of the National Arab American Journalists Association (NAAJA) is calling on all Chicago are a professional journalists to participate in the national convention of the Society of Professional Journalists to be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Chicago beginning Thursday, August 24, through Sunday August 27.

NAAJA members can join SPJ at a discount, if they are not already members, but also must register for the convention in order to attend.

Information about the convention programs and registration are available online at

NAAJA will host a booth and distribute information about its members and also on the issue of bias in the mainstream American news media. NAAJA works closely with the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) to address issues of diversity and media bias. The Chicago Chapter is headed by Future News Newspaper Publisher and Editor Mansour Tadros which is a co-sponsor of the booth with NAAJA and CounterPoint, the Internet online TV program co-hosted by Ray Hanania and Ali Alarabi.

For more information about NAAJA, visit


Society of Professional Journalists offers Arab Journalists booth at convention to convey concerns over media bias

Society of Professional Journalists grant Arab Journalists status at Chicago National Convention August 24 - 27

The Society of Professional Journalists has granted a booth to members of the National Arab American Journalists Association to allow them to distribute information and materials addressing the issue of bias in the mainstream American news media.

NAAJA, which was founded in 1999, has several independent chapters around the country and works closely with the Asian American Journalists Association to address diversity and bias issues. NAAJA also adopted the SPJ Code of Ethics as the basis for their own membership.

The Chicago Chapter is headed by Future News Newspaper Publisher & Editor Mansour Tadros who will manage the booth with NAAJA co-founder Ray Hanania. The booth will feature information addressing bias in the media, the imbalance of views on Middle East issues on the Op-Ed pages of the majority of the mation's 4,500-plus newspapers, and will provide resumes and information on Arab Americans who are professional journalists or who are at an entry level seeking full-time work.

"We intend to make our voices heard when the editors and reporters and publishers come to Chicago from newspapers around the country," Tadros said.

"It is important that as Americans we participate fully in all of the important professional associations reflecting the diverse careers of our Arab community. Journalists play a very important part and Arab American journalists must find a positive way to encourage change and improvement in the way the American media covers all issues including the Middle East."

SPJ also announced that SPJ and the Chicago Headline Club (The Chicago Chapter of the SPJ) will extend to Chicago-area members of the National Arab American Journalists Association a discount on SPJ's annual dues. NAAJA members (new members only) will be able to sign up for only $60 (that's $50 for national dues, and $10 for Headline Club dues). Normally, the total rate is $92 ($72 for national dues and $20 for local dues), SPJ officials said.

This offer is good up to an during the SPJ national conference in Chicago, which will be held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago Hotel on Aug. 24-27 (Thursday through Sunday). If other members of the NAJA attend the conference who do not live in the Chicago area, SPJ officials said they will consult with the local chapter nearest them to determine a discount local dues rate.

"The purpose of our efforts was to present to the nations media our concerns that the Arab American voices of professional journalists are not reflected in the media coverage of the Middle East conflict, and the related issues of the War on Terrorism, the conflict in Iraq and other Middle East regional issues," Hanania said.

"We are not against the SPJ but believe that the convention offered us an opportunity to take our message of concern directly to attendees. The SPJ has once again demonstrated their professionalism by inviting us to participate. We have based our own organization efforts on the trailblazing standards set by SPJ and many of our NAAJA members are SPJ members also. We also work very closely with the Asian American Journalists Association and believe membership in these professional journalism groups serves to strengthen all of our commitments to objective and professional journalism and the important issue of diversity."

Hanania is also a member of the Media Watch Committee of the AAJA and is the co-host with award winning journalist Ali Alarabi of the Internet TV and Cable TV program CounterPoint."


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Analysis of Diane Buttu's Commentary of Media coverage of Palestine-Israel conflict

Diane Buttu was an adviser to the Negotiations Affairs Unit which supported the Palestine National Authority during and after the peace process. And while she frequently addresses issues of journalism and media coverage, she is a lawyer by training and her journalism experience basically comes from a layman's point of view.

To help add power to here observations and opinions, I thought it important to add some perspective to her commentary below which appears in full. My comments are in [brackets] below certain points that she makes.

To me the issue isn't just that Israel manages the media, but that the Palestinians have NO real media, no real public relations and no real PR spokes people. What they do have are usually elected officials or party leaders or activists who combine both news-making with self-PR management which is not PR at all.

You cannot have good media coverage without a strong and professional PR strategy in place and the Palestinians lack a good PR strategy. In fact, they have no PR strategy at all.

As a side note, knowing the Palestinian leadership the way I do, I am sure DIane will take this critique as an "attack." It's the usual response when some addresses an area that needs to be improved. We don't like to be told we are not doing things right. So we attack the messenger. This isn't intended as an attack. It is intended to help people reading it better understand the challenges we face as Palestinians.

Ray Hanania
National Arab American Journalists Association

On Journalism and Media
By Diana Buttu

Watching Western television or reading newspaper reports of Palestine
always leaves me perplexed. If I did not live in Palestine and bear
witness to Israel’s military occupation, I would be left with the
impression that Palestinians and Israelis are equals – with no
occupation existing – and that this conflict simply requires
“concessions” on both sides. I would be unaware that the Palestinians
have, for almost 39 years, been denied their freedom and unaware that
for more than five decades dispossessed of their land. I would be
unaware that this conflict is between, on the one hand, an occupied
party – the Palestinians – fighting for their independence, freedom and
the application of international law, and on the other hand, the
occupying party – Israel – which has denied freedom, independence and
the application of international law to the Palestinians for almost
four decades. Unfortunately, I am not the only person who would walk
away with such impressions. Independent studies carried out in Europe
and the United States have similarly concluded that media coverage of
this occupation is tilted to the point where a significant number
respondents in one survey believed that it was the Palestinians
occupying Israel!

While Jerusalem is one of the major reporting centres for Western
journalists, it begs the question, why does the reporting from
Israel/Palestine deviate so much from the reality of the situation? The
answer lies not in media bias – that is not to say that there is none
or that editorial control over reporting from Palestine is not
heavy-handed – but in a number of other factors that impact the way
journalists cover this area. Through my experience with Western
journalists, I have learned that the vast majority really want to tell
the story and are thirsty for knowledge but are hindered by a number of
factors, a few of which are outlined below.

Israel Frames the Issue of the Day
Western journalists often fall victim to Israel’s framing of the issues
and the arguments. Take for example the recent Hamas PLC victory. Since
the elections, Israel has made much of Hamas’s lack of recognition of
Israel and the signed agreements. Israel, for its part, claims that it
will not “deal with” the new Palestinian government and has its Western
allies lined up supporting it. As a result, story after story has hit
the front page of prominent newspapers and pundits have been brought in
to assess whether Hamas will eventually recognize Israel and the signed

[The fact is that Hamas and the Palestinians did not frame the issue themselves. Framing is a very common practice in PR Strategy. It's simple to do. But when one side frames issues and the other side does not, especially because of a lack of any PR mechanism in place, then it might appear that Israel controls the issue through its framing process.]

Yet, the reality of the situation is ignored. Israel has, for almost
six decades, failed to recognize the Palestinians which is, in essence,
the heart of this conflict. If Israel had recognized the Palestinians,
it would not engage in a colonial enterprise on their land and would
not continue to deny them their freedom. Ignored by journalists are the
statements by Golda Meir and others claiming that there are no
Palestinians, and actions by Israeli leaders up to the current day,
whereby colonies are built without reference to the Palestinians.
Journalists seem to have forgotten that Ariel Sharon, for his part,
declared Oslo null and void within the first year of his premiership
and that Kadima – a party whose sole purpose is unilateralism – was
formed before there was even a hint of a Hamas victory. While President
Abbas was in power, Israel failed to “deal with” him and even hinted,
at times, that he was “irrelevant.” The recent past seems to be ignored
and instead, Palestinians are once again on the defensive.

[As political activists without media training often do, they veer away from the focus of media bias and then insert opinion out of context, unframed and without any sense of strategic delivery, all fundamental to effective communications.]

Terminology and Numbers
One of the reasons for a lack of clear understanding of the occupation
is the misuse of terminology. (I will, for the moment, not address the
term “terrorist” for which there is no clear definition but instead
focus on terms for which there is a clear definition). Take, for
example, the term “military occupation.” Without clearly specifying to
readers/viewers that this conflict is between an occupying party
(Israel) and the people it occupies (the Palestinians), journalists
remove the legal basis under which Israel must behave. As an occupying
power, Israel has a duty to protect the Palestinians – not experiment
in its use of heavy weaponry and torture against the Palestinians.
Viewed in this light, Israel’s assassination policy is not only illegal
but reprehensible. I once had a long conversation with a Western
journalist who lamented that during an interview with a Palestinian
activist, she had used the term “occupation” incessantly. When I asked
what the problem was, the journalist responded, “We are tired of
hearing about the occupation,” oblivious to the fact that I, as a
Palestinian, am tired of living it.

[Misuse of terminology exists in part because the Palestinians are AWOL from the PR battle. Israelis address the issues from both an activist and government perspective AND from a strategically designed PR Strategy that "defines" through "framing" the terms used. Another important issue is that through years of Palestinian PR neglect, the audience has accepted the terminology that the Israelis use. Palestinians fail to recognize their failure in this process and address it as if it was devised by the Israelis and imposed on audiences like Americans. The fundamental truth of PR is that you MUST speak to an audience in the language they understand. It isn't the message but how yu deliver the message, and it is not about speaking English. It is about speaking "American cultural norms" to an American audience. You must use the terms they understand and you cannot change those terms untill you have a PR strategy in place that is working. ANy effort to CHANGE the terminology will appear to audiences as a political argument rather than a factual truth. It's a god point but complaining about it doesn't help. In fact, complaining about this only makes it worse in audience eyes.]

Examine also the terms “settlement” or “colony” – both of which are
increasingly disappearing in Western reporting in favour of terms such
as “Jewish neighbourhood” and “Jewish suburb” (both used liberally by
newspapers such as the New York Times). How is the average reader to
understand that these structures are illegal, that their presence has
denied thousands of Palestinians rights and access to their land, that
the presence of these “neighbourhoods” has led to the fortified
military structures around Palestinian cities, towns and villages, and
that, as a result of these innocuous “suburbs” Palestinians need to
obtain Israeli permission to be able to pass these seemingly harmless

The term “1967 border” also seems to be fading in Western reporting.
(Perhaps this is a reflection of the truth since Israel has been
erasing the 1967 border for decades). Instead, journalists make
academic leaps justifying to me and others that Israel’s colonization
in East Jerusalem is somehow “different” from that of the rest of the
West Bank, owing to the fact that Israel has “incorporated” these areas
into Israel. As a result, they often under-cite the number of settlers
– 220,000 instead of the true figure of 430,000+ – claiming that the
difference is made up by Jerusalem settlers whose status is somewhat
“unique.” What these journalists fail to realize is that for East
Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents, it is the same occupation and denial
of freedom. Simply because Israel has incorporated the areas does not
mean that it has ended its military hold over the Palestinian residents
of the city, who are still required to prove that Jerusalem is their
“centre of life,” unlike the Israeli settlers living on their land.

With the failure to report these issues accurately, reality becomes
blurred: without an “occupation” without “colonies” and without
“settlers,” this conflict can be easily viewed as one in which
Palestinians hate Jews and Jews hate Palestinians.

If It Bleeds, It Leads
Israel’s methodical strangling of the Palestinians is rarely reported.
The daily closure policy, the ongoing land confiscations to build
Israeli-only colonies and roads and the incessant construction of the
Wall are now seen by many Western journalists as a “routine,
un-newsworthy” activity. Yet, it is this methodical, daily activity
that lies behind the acts of violence that are reported.

Instead, television and newspaper reporting is peppered with violence.
As I quickly learned when I moved to Palestine, “If It Bleeds, It
Leads.” But not all acts of violence make the lead. Palestinian suicide
operations always make the news whereas Israel’s use of military
weapons against a stateless, army-less population does not. When the
next suicide operation occurs (as undoubtedly will happen) Israeli
deaths will certainly be reported, whereas the killing of Palestinians
that leads to the suicide operation will not. Instead, newspaper and
television reports will use phrases such as “break in relative calm” or
“break the lull in violence.” Ignored will be the scores of Palestinian

["If it bleeds it leads" is a fundamental driving force of all journalism, not just in the Middle East. The issue of course returns to the absence of Palestinian professional PR and professional media. Activists are not journalists and while they assume that role in Palestinian society, they are actually contributing towards undermining the Palestinian cause. Vanity and ego stands in the way of correcting this, of course, as it always does in the Palestinian leadership in government or among the activists like Diane. Palestinians often do get some sympathetic coverage, such as the massacre of Palestinian civilians on a Gaza Beach this past week (June 8, 2006). But the reports were driven by circumstances not strategic PR. It was a massacre that rose above the normal bar of coverage and led the news. Israel masterfully issued an apology that was included in the first reports to reach Americans. Although the massacre is tantamount to a war crime, Americans (the audience here) saw it as one of those unavoidable tragedies of a conflict. Israel's apology only served to temper any outrage that they might have felt. Additionally, the Palestinian response has been one of emotional screaming and yelling and cries for vengeance, feeding the American perception that the Israelis are "trying to do the best with a bad situation. If it bleeds it leads is a phrase that should apply to Palestinian daily life, but doesn't mainly because Palestinians fail constantly in managing the media (complaining about the media is not the same as managing the media) and they lack a clear PR strategy that is not driven by emotion or controlled by untrained but highly educated activists like Diane.]

As a resident of Gaza, I live with the daily shelling and bombing
emanating from Israeli tanks and F-16s. The sound is constant and
unnerving. Its targets are random, as seen by the latest victims. In
one week alone in April more than 2,000 tank shells were fired.
Approximately 16 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israel’s
military action. The reporting of these killings was often hidden in a
line of an article referring to the new Hamas government. When I called
up the bureau chief of one of the major Western outlets to complain, he
stated, “There is a low-grade military conflict here now and we cannot
report every Palestinian death and certainly not the death of
‘militants.’” When I asked whether he would report the death of 16
Israeli soldiers killed within two weeks, he responded, “Yes….I see
your point.”

[Diane would be better off if instead of writing lofty analysis of issues that go beyond her legal experience to instead write about the personal events that she sees and confronts as a resident of Gaza Strip. She is not using the power that she really has here. In the United States, we don't hear about the daily life of the Palestinians, only the political arguments (like this essay column). We need to hear the contribution that is most missing and that is the firstperson eyewitness accounts that must be accurate and without excessive adjectives. We don't need to add adjectives to make the Gaza Massacre look worse than it is. A simple description is powerful. And, we don't need the political rhetoric that usually accompanies Palestinian tragedy. Strip away the rhetoric and present the human face of the Palestinians. What a unique suggestion to being implementing that hasn't been implemented yet.]

The failure to report Palestinian deaths is often the result of the
failure on the part of journalists to travel to the Gaza Strip or
throughout the West Bank. “Nablus is a trek,” I am told, whereas Tel
Aviv can be visited in an afternoon. The presence of an increasing
number of Israeli military checkpoints makes it difficult for
journalists to visit areas outside of the Jerusalem/Ramallah/Bethlehem
envelope and makes it even more difficult for journalists to meet their
deadlines. As a result, Nablus is a planned visit, whereas Tel Aviv is
not. Hence, Palestinian deaths are a line in a story; Israeli deaths
are covered in depth.
That said, the ongoing slow conflict, devoid of bloodshed, is something
that all journalists should be covering. Over the past 39 years, Israel
has constructed more than 150 Jewish-only colonies (with approximately
430,000 Israeli settlers) on 60 percent of occupied Palestinian
territory. These colonies are connected by a network of by-pass roads,
open only to Israelis bearing Israeli license plates. By contrast, the
3.5 million Palestinians on whose territory these colonies are built
are relegated to small reservations (akin to Bantustans) and are
required to obtain Israeli permission to travel from one reservation to
the next (akin to the “pass laws” of apartheid South Africa). Despite
the presence of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians are controlled
by Israel. These, coupled with Israel’s perfection of the closure
regime and its strangulation of Gaza, are all issues that should not
continue to be ignored.

The Palestinian Government
Without knowing more about the region, it is easy to believe that the
two sides, Palestinian and Israeli, are equal, for the structure of the
Palestinian government fails to reflect the reality of the occupation.
The Palestinians, like the Israelis, have a President and Prime
Minister. They even have a Minister of Tourism and a Minister of
Telecommunications. However, unlike their Israeli counterparts,
Palestinian leaders require Israeli permission to be able to function.
All Palestinian leaders must seek Israeli permission to move within
their own land and all are subject to Israeli checkpoints. And, in the
case of the Ministries of Tourism and Telecommunications, have
absolutely no control over the areas they are to develop (namely
borders and the electromagnet spectrum).

[This is a good point that is often made but never articulated effectively. This is an issue in and of itself that should be explored further and conveyed to American and Western audiences. It isn't not conveyed that effectively at all. Just writing it doesn't work, however.]

Western journalists are largely unaware of the power imbalance between
these two governments. The Israeli regime, for its part, can plan and
develop. It can impose curfews when it desires, build settlements when
it chooses and erect checkpoints when it wants. In short, Israel has
control over virtually all aspects of Palestinian life. The Palestinian
government, for its part, is simply unable to do the same – not because
it is “weak” as has been claimed, but because it is a government that
is under military rule, controlled by a different regime. The
Palestinian Authority has never had unfettered control over significant
territory. Even in the Gaza Strip, where the Israelis have evacuated
their settlements, Israel continues to control the area where even the
importation of flour and medicine is subject to Israeli whims. What
also do not help are the statements by Palestinian officials that lead
people to believe that the Palestinians are equal to the Israelis.
Statements such as, “We will not allow Israel to isolate us,” or “We
reject Israel’s Wall,” only serve to fuel the impression that the
Palestinians and Israelis are equal. Perhaps, instead, Palestinian
leaders should state the reality, “We are a government representing a
people under Israeli military rule. Our powers are limited by that
military rule. We seek only our freedom and expect that the
international community will not hold Israel above international law or
view us as beneath it.”

Some of the issues mentioned in this article can be addressed through
two means: (1) systematic information campaigns aimed at educating
journalists and (2) holding journalists accountable for their failure
to report this issue correctly. In short, until we do so, journalists
will fail to ask Israel when it will end its military occupation, and
instead ask the Palestinians when they will learn to accept it!

[Diane hits the nail on the head here. But a systematic information campaign should not be defined as an effort by activists who lack PR and media training. It should be done by PR professionals, not writers, not activists and not by those under siege. One of the most fundamental aspects of effective PR is that you cannot conduct ytour own PR campaign. A candidate cannot do his or her own PR. They must hire an outside PR professional, someone from outside the theater of the conflict, to offer strategic options BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY a critique of practices to help clients focus on what will work and what will not work. Vanity and ego have to be the first victims before a client can move on to success.]

Diana Buttu is a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer. She previously served as
a legal advisor to the Palestinian Negotiations Affairs Department and
an advisor to President Abbas.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

CPJ report: Syria jails internet reporter

Syria: Online journalist to serve six months in prison
Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465­1004 Fax: (212) 465­9568 Web: E-Mail: Contact: Abi Wright
e-mail : Telephone: (212) 465-1004 x-105

New York, June 7, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by the prison sentence handed down to a Syrian online journalist by a military court for articles advocating rights for Syria’s Kurdish minority, and criticizing the ruling Baath Party.

Muhammad Ghanem, editor of the news Web site Surion, was found guilty Tuesday of insulting the president, undermining the state's dignity, and inciting sectarian divisions, according to an e-mail sent by Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, to The Associated Press. Ghanem was sentenced to one year in jail but the judge commuted his sentence to six months, Surion said, without offering further explanation.

Ghanem has been detained since March 31, Surion and human rights organizations reported. Ghanem has written many articles advocating political and cultural rights for Syria’s Kurdish minority and has been critical of the Baath Party’s handling of domestic issues.

Ghanem was arrested at his home in the northern town of al-Raqqah by military intelligence, transferred to Damascus, and detained in the “Palestine Branch” of the Military Intelligence Security (Branch 235), one of many branches in Syria’s vast security apparatus. He was taken in May to al-Raqqah al-Markazi prison.

Ghanem was previously arrested and detained for 15 days by military intelligence in March 2004.

“We are outraged at this miscarriage of justice, and call for the immediate release of our colleague Muhammad Ghanem,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “This latest effort to crush freedom of expression reinforces Syria’s image as one of the most repressive countries in the world.”

On World Press Freedom Day last month, CPJ named Syria among the 10 most censored nations worldwide. See CPJ’s report:

Syrian authorities have cracked down on political and human rights activists this year. Over the last three months, Human Rights Watch documented the arrest of 26 activists.

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

CPJ Challenges attacks against Palestinian journalists

Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465­1004 Fax: (212) 465­9568 Web: E-Mail: Contact: Abi Wright
e-mail : Telephone: (212) 465-1004 x-105

Palestinian journalists attacked, threatened by leading factions

New York, June 6, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalist is deeply concerned by attacks and threats against the press in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by suspected members of the two major Palestinian parties, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Fatah movement.

On Monday, nearly 50 armed militants stormed a studio of Fatah-affiliated Palestine Television in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. The attackers, who wore Hamas headbands according to the head of Palestine Television, Mohammed al-Dahoudi, ordered staff to leave, and beat several cameramen and technicians. They fired at the equipment and in the direction of employees, al-Dahoudi told CPJ. They destroyed broadcasting equipment, archives, computers and furniture worth more than US$1 million, making the studio unusable.

Palestine Television, along with the Palestinian News Agency, Wafa Radio, and Voice of Palestine radio form the Palestinian Broadcast Cooperation, are under the control of President Mahmoud Abbas. The Hamas-led Palestinian government accuses the broadcasters of bias toward Fatah.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, masked arsonists burned three cars belonging to the Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera on May 20. The cars, including Al-Jazeera Bureau Chief Walid al Omary’s personal car, were in the parking lot of the City Center building, where the station has its main Ramallah office. According to The Associated Press, both Hamas and Fatah have accused Al-Jazeera of bias. According to news reports, Fatah supporters were angry that the station did not cover an anti-Hamas demonstration by Fatah in Ramallah earlier that day.

In April, several Palestinian journalists received death threats for their critical coverage of Hamas, Reuters reported. Among them, Muwafaq Matar, a reporter for the pro-Fatah al-Hurriya radio station in Gaza, received several threats via cell phone and e-mail for criticizing the Hamas government. He was threatened with having his legs cut off and his head blown off if he talked on the radio station again. Several other employees at the station have also been threatened. Reuters reported that the Palestinian Journalists' Union received complaints from seven journalists in the Gaza Strip who have been threatened by e-mail, phone or fax for their coverage.

“We are gravely concerned by these recent threats against press freedom by the various Palestinian factions,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on the Palestinian government to take responsibility for illegal actions carried out by militant groups and prosecute those behind these attacks.”

Growing tensions between the Hamas-led government and the Fatah movement have resulted in factionalism in the Palestinian media, making them prone to attacks because of their editorial line. Journalists, whether foreign or local, have endured consistent harassment, threats, and beatings by Palestinian security forces and the various factions in retaliation for their coverage of Palestinian politics.

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit

CPJ protests Tunisian media repression

TUNISIA: CPJ protests media repression
Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465­1004 Fax: (212) 465­9568 Web: E-Mail: Contact: Abi Wright
e-mail : Telephone: (212) 465-1004 x-105

The Committee to Protect Journalists notes with alarm in a letter to Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali incidents that suggest hostility towards the media, and a failure to defend freedom of expression. CPJ calls on the government, in light of the president’s message to Tunisian journalists on World Press Freedom Day that freedom of expression and of the press are “fundamental rights of the individual,” to implement the standards it publicly espouses by releasing jailed journalists and ending the harassment of reporters, writers, and their families.

June 6, 2006

His Excellency Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

President of the Republic of Tunisia

Presidential Palace

Carthage, Tunis

Via facsimile: +216 71 744-721

Your Excellency:

We are writing to you as president of a country that is an elected member of the newly established United Nations Human Rights Council, to urge you to uphold the right to press freedom in Tunisia. The Council, which will meet later this month for the first time, is the main U.N. body tasked with promoting human rights. As an elected member Tunisia is required to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,” according to the U.N. General Assembly resolution that established the Council.

The Committee to Protect Journalists notes with alarm a series of incidents that suggest hostility towards the media, and a failure to defend freedom of expression guaranteed by international law.

In particular, we are deeply troubled by the continuing, unjustified imprisonment of Mohamed Abbou, and the harassment of Hammadi Jebali and his family. Abbou and Jebali have been targeted solely for expressing their views.

Abbou, a human rights lawyer and contributor to Tunisnews, a Web site blocked in Tunisia like several other news and human rights Web sites, was arrested in Tunis by secret police on March 1, 2005. On April 28, he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison because of an Internet article that allegedly “defamed the judicial process” and was “likely to disturb public order.”

Abbou compared torture in Tunisia’s prisons to conditions in Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib jail. We consider the charges against him to be groundless, and in violation of the most basic press freedom standards.

His sentence is particularly troubling given the documented interference of the executive branch in the judiciary. Not only human rights groups but also governments with friendly ties with Tunisia maintain that the judiciary lacks independence. “The executive branch and the president strongly influenced judicial procedures, particularly in political cases,” according to the latest Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Tunisia by the United States Department of State.

Abbou went on hunger strike more than once to protest dire conditions and harassment in prison as well as the intimidation of his wife, whose weekly visits were often arbitrarily ended after two or three minutes.

Hammadi Jebali, formerly editor of Al-Fajr, the now-defunct weekly newspaper of the banned Islamist party Al-Nahda, was released in February after more than 15 years in prison for publishing an article calling for the abolition of military tribunals, as well as belonging to Al-Nahda. CPJ welcomed his release, but was shocked to find out that he and his family were soon subjected to a cycle of police harassment reminiscent of the harassment imposed on him before his 1991 arrest.

Jebali told CPJ that plainclothes police are posted in front of his house in Sousse. They follow him everywhere, and harass even friends and relatives. Furthermore, an examining magistrate has recently charged Jebali and his wife with “attempting to bribe a civil servant” while Jebali was still behind bars. The couple is due to appear before the magistrate tomorrow in Tunis to answer what human rights lawyers call a groundless charge.

There appears to be a widening cycle of repression of journalists in Tunisia as evidenced by the arbitrary imprisonment of Abbou; the harassment of his wife, and of Jebali and his family; and the brief detention on May 11, and again on June 3, of Lotfi Hajji, president of the independent Tunisian Journalists Syndicate, which was prevented in September from holding its general assembly, in violation of Tunisian and international law.

On June 3, a large group of plainclothes policemen forced Hajji, who is also a correspondent for the Al-Jazeera satellite television channel, into a police car at Barcelona Square in Tunis. They drove him to a police station in Bizerte, 37 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Tunis, and held him there for nearly four hours. The incident occurred after Hajji attended a news conference at the Tunisian section of Amnesty International. Police accused Hajji of “spreading false information likely to disturb public order,” Hajji told CPJ. In a story that ran a day earlier on Al-Jazeera’s Web site, Hajji quoted a statement by a local human rights group about the alleged torture of a Tunisian prisoner, and the alleged desecration of the Quran by a prison official. Hajji was detained in early May for several hours by police who accused him of holding "a secret meeting at his home."

These incidents of legal harassment contradict the government’s publicly stated commitment to international standards of freedom of expression and the press, in particular, on the occasion of its hosting in November 2005 of the second phase of the World Summit of the Information Society, an international conference on the future of the Internet, and its assumption in April of a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In light of your Excellency’s message to Tunisian journalists on World Press Freedom Day that freedom of expression and of the press are “fundamental rights of the individual,” we call upon the government of Tunisia to immediately start implementing the standards it publicly espouses by releasing Abbou, dropping charges against Jebali and his wife, and ending the harassment of Tunisian journalists, writers, and their families.

Thank you for your attention to these important issues. We look forward to your reply.


Ann Cooper

Executive Director


His Excellency Mohamed Nejib Hachana, Tunisian Ambassador to the United States

The Honorable C. David Welch, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs

The Honorable William J. Hudson, U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia

American Society of Newspaper Editors

Amnesty International

Article 19 (United Kingdom)

Artikel 19 (The Netherlands)

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Freedom Forum

Freedom House

Human Rights Watch

Index on Censorship

International Center for Journalists

International Federation of Journalists

International PEN

International Press Institute

Michael G. Kozak, United States Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Newspaper Guild

The North American Broadcasters Association

Overseas Press Club

Reporters Sans Frontières

The Society of Professional Journalists

World Association of Newspapers

World Press Freedom Committee

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit

Monday, June 05, 2006

Arab American Journalists to conduct informational workshops at SPJ Convention

The Chicago Chapter of the National Arab American Journalists Association will host a day-long informational workshop to coincide with the Convention fo the Society of Professional Journalists Aug. 24 - 27 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

The purpose is to protest the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias that exists in the mainstream American news media, mainly on the Op-Ed pages of America's newspapers, a bias that exists because of the apparent exclusion of Arab and Muslim authors of commentaries addressing major Middle East and other related issues.

Chapter members will announce a series of events to coincide with the SPJ Convention.

"This is not a protest of the SPJ, but we are going to use the convention to help force the mainstream American media address serious grievances that Arab and Muslim American journalists have. And, we intend to force mainstream journalists to practice what they preach when it comes to objectivity and diversity in newsrooms. Right now, studies have shown, that the Arab and Muslim voice is absent from the debates and discussions taking place on the Op-Ed pages of most American newspapers, causing the debates and discussions to be one-sided. The mainstream news media has a responsibility to be fair in presenting all sides of the Middle East conflict, and issues involving the War on Terrorism, the war in Iraq and other related issues," said Ray Hanania, a veteran Chicago political reporter and a co-founder of NAAJA.

"The fact is objectivity and balance and fairness are AWOL in the mainstream media, especially in American newspapers."


CounterPoint Online Arab American TV Show launched

Columnists Launching Online Show on Mideast Issues By E&P Staff Published: June 05, 2006 2:25 PM ET

NEW YORK Columnists Ray Hanania and Ali Alarabi are co-hosting an online TV program called "CounterPoint" that officially launches tomorrow. The 30 Minute Show discusses and debates Middle East-related issues. Among the topics will be Israeli-Palestinian relations, Hamas, the Haditha massacre, the influence of America's Israel lobby, and U.S. media coverage of the Middle East.

"CounterPoint" will "help Americans hear another side of the Middle East story," said Hanania, who noted that the mainstream media doesn't have enough Arab-American voices -- especially on Op-Ed pages.

Hanania, whose self-syndicated column was formerly distributed by Creators Syndicate, already does a cable TV show on Arab-American issues that's also available online.