Friday, April 08, 2011
Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Embrace censorship and subtle bigotry
Over the past two years, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) went from an organization that champions free speech to one that has become a bitter, narrowly focused and promoters of bigotry against people of Arab and Muslim heritage.
Although the SPJ continues to claim that it supports American Arabs and American Muslims -- because they cannot say otherwise publicly -- the actions of the past president Kevin Smith (and maybe the current president Hagit Limor) and Kevin's supporters on the SPJ board who I believe are driven by bigotry suggest otherwise. The SPJ has targeted American Arabs and dissension from SPJ members who are Arab.
Out of an act of pure dislike, Smith closed the Arab Journalism Section of the SPJ, recognizing that the anti-Arab sentiment in the United States in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001 would give him cover. His biggest complaint -- was that the SPJ Arab blog (one part of the larger Arab SPJ website section) had included views that were personal opinions. Smith demonstrated that he lacked leadership when he failed to express any views about the Arab Blog and only expressed his alleged "concerns" after he ordered the blog shut down.
Smith also recognized that allowing Arab members of the SPJ to organize as a Section would give American Arab journalists a foundation of power to pursue other changes at the SPJ, which has crumbled from an organization concerned with ethics and professional journalism conduct to one manipulated by a handful of small minded leaders like Smith.
Limor, who succeeded Smith, has played it coy since most of the actions against American Arabs came while Smith was president; although in the SPJ world, the president-elect works with the president and the past president to help insure a solid lock on controls. (But while Smith singled out the Arab heritage of the people he attacked at the Arab Section, no one ever raised the issue of the inherent bias that might exist if someone noted that Limor is Israeli. Maybe you haven't noticed by Arabs and Israelis have been locked in a conflict for more than six decades over Middle East policies, and that Middle East policies and the failure of the mainstream media to cover these issues was the focus of the Arab Section blog.)
Instead of addressing these issues, Limor has attempted repeatedly to cast herself as the victim of anti-Israeli politics while Smith reinforced that accusing anyone who was Arab who expressed any views as being "propagandists." No one in our group has ever attacked Limor because of her Israeli heritage. It is not an issue. We hope that Hagit Limor, as SPJ president, can be fair but we have not seen that so far.
Yet, we see that Smith is the true political activists and biased propogandists. Read Limor's SPJ Blog and notice how she advocates for issues also. In otherwords, it is okay for her and Smith to express views on issues outside of the realm of journalism or that skirt journalism issues but it is not okay, according to Smith, for someone who is Arab or Muslim to do the same.
The real challenge is most Arabs and Muslims in America have no place to go to fight this kind of bias. The same problem exists at UNITY: Journalists of Color which for the past four years has refused to give Arab Journalists equal standing among the four groups of "Journalists of Color"-- Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.
UNITY recognizes and the SPJ campaign of anti-Arab bigotry by Smith and Limor demonstrates that Arabs are targets of discrimination in America and rather than stand up for the principles to champion the rights of these victims, the SPJ would rather ignore it and cast it aside. SPJ does this because it's easier than fighting the ethical war with the growing anti-Arab hate movement in America and the West. They just don't want to bother with it. First because it is a difficult fight and secondly and more importantly, some of the SPJ leaders just simply don't like the Arab point of view and do not want to give American Arabs an equal voice in this country nor certainly in the ranks of the SPJ nationally.
-- Ray Hanania