The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Journalists face many hazards in Middle East

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The day after Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Anthony Shadid was buried by family in Beirut, Lebanon, two journalists were killed in fighting in the besieged city of Homs in Syria.

Shadid was leaving Syria where he had entered unofficially on horseback with a guide to avoid the restrictions imposed by the Syrian dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad when he had an asthma attack that turned critical. He died. Shadid knew that his assignment was dangerous and yet he continued to pursue the truth in coverage of the Syrian civil war.

War is hell. But before anyone could even pause to honor Shadid's commitment to the dangerous profession of pursuing truth in the Middle East and among the region's Arab World dictatorships, news came that two more journalists had died, this time as a result of Syrian military shelling of civilian homes in Homs.

American freelance journalist Marie Colvin and freelance French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in the Syrian military bombardment of the homes. They were accompanied by a dozen other journalists who all had sneaked into Syria to cover the growing civil war by civilians to oust their dictator Bashar al-Assad. And it is even believed the killings may have been intentional as everyone knew the home that was hit by the shelling was being used by journalists.

Syria's dictatorship has prohibited journalists from entering Syria and covering the conflict as a part of an official campaign to silence the pro-Democracy protesters. Some were being allowed in but only accompanied by official Syrian government minders. But those journalists who have risked their lives to bring the accurate story out of the oppressive Syrian country would not be silenced.

The National American Arab Journalists Association, which represents more than 250 American Arab journalists throughout the United States, issued condemnations of the killings of Colvin and Ochlik. NAAJA issued a statement of condolences on the news of the death of Shadid. NAAJA has condemned the Syrian assault against civilians and the targeting of journalists which is intended by the Assad dictatorship to prevent accurate news reporting. 

Some American Arab media are working for the Syrian Government. These media having been working overtime to spin the news insisting that it is the protesters themselves who are murdering the many women and children who have been killed. More than 7,000 civilians have been murdered so far in the intentional assault that is targeting civilians to "punish" the public for daring to challenge the tyranny of the minority-run Syrian dictatorship.

Journalists in the Middle East are threatened all the time. It doesn't just happen in the Arab countries. It happens in Israel where many Palestinian journalists are forbidden and denied entry to cover events in Israel. Much of the coverage of Israel is handled by Israelis and journalists with a clear personal bias towards events and the news.

The only real tribute to Colvin and Ochlik and to Shadid who risked his life, too, though he died of a health-driven illness, is to recognize that journalism is a fundamental component of freedom. Without journalists and the ability of professional writers to witness and record events, freedom of human beings is jeopardized and threatened.

We salute the journalists who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend truth. Truth is Democracy and Democracy is freedom. One day soon, no doubt, the people of Syria will experience true freedom with the ouster of the Assad dictatorship.

One day soon Palestinians living under Israel's brutal occupation will also experience freedom.

Journalism has its faults, biases and traitors to the cause of accuracy and truth. But Freedom relies on the clarity of a human being's eye to witness and record events without prejudice and with accuracy regardless of personal feelings or partisan political beliefs.

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, February 17, 2012

NAAJA Mourns the loss of Anthony Shadid, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author

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Anthony Shadid was unlike many others. He loved the American Arab community and he also loved professional journalism. He began his journalism career at the Associated Press and though he was born in Oklahoma, he quickly learned Arabic as an adult. His heritage as an American Lebanese and his love for Arab culture drove him to journalism and to great heights.

Shadid went on to the Washington Post where he won two Pulitzer Prizes for his writing and then was hired by the New York Times where he covered Iraq and later worked as the bureau chief in Beirut.

He died Thursday in the Middle East reportedly of an asthma attack.

NAAJA expresses its deep condolences to his family. Anthony Shadid was a strong supporter of NAAJA and said he was proud to have his name among so many other great journalists who continue to strive to bring the voice of American Arabs to the world.

American Arab journalists suffer greatly in America.

They are ostracized by mainstream American journalism if they express their opinions too strongly. They are targeted by other American Arab media for their demand for true professionalism and honesty in reporting and for seeing the bias that exists against American Arabs in this country.

The Society of Professional Journalists has led this discrimination against American Arabs and many American Arab journalists have avoided association with the bigoted SPJ.

UNITY: Journalists of Color which supposedly advocates for the rights of minorities in journalism have also ostracized and excluded American Arab journalists because they do not want to share their power which is now divided among Black Journalists, Hispanic Journalists, Asian Journalists and Native American Journalists. They don't want more minority groups sharing in what little they have as a group.

And the American Arab community is divided, as we see in how the community is responding to the brutality of the Syrian Government of Bashar al-Assad against the people of Syria and the murder of more than 7,000 Syrian Civilians. American Arabs come from a region of the world where free speech is challenged and suppressed. They are taught to avoid controversy and not "air the dirty laundry" so discussions about the need for change in the community evoke anger, animosity and even threats.

In this difficult environment, no wonder there are so few American Arabs in journalism as noted in the recent Columbia Journalism Review column by Justin Martin. (Click to read.)

Many American Arabs have avoided the profession of journalism to avoid all of these pitfalls, from the bias in the mainstream American media to the anger that often is evoked from the American Arab community when journalists address issues they do not like or they disagree with.

Anthony Shadid managed to navigate all of that. He was only 43 when he died. So young and so talented. He managed to rise above the community and return to the Middle East where he provided professional insight as a role model not only for young American Arabs seeking to enter the difficult field of American journalism, but also to Arab World journalists, many of whom work to represent the politics of their sponsor nation rather than strive for the purity of objectiveness that journalism is dedicated and that many great journalists seek.

Anthony Shadid was a great journalist and the American Arab community is greatly distressed by this loss to the American Arab community and to professional journalism.

-- Ray Hanania
On behalf of NAAJA and its members

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Justin Martin asks the question: Why not more Arab Journalists in American media?

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This important question is ignored by the bigotry and bias of the majority of the news media ... it deserves more attention and I wonder why the mainstream media doesn't address it more often. One reason is the bigotry that exists in the mainstream news media that reflects the discrimination that is "policy, practice and reality" in American society and politics.

Please read and comment. The Columbia Journalism Review should give more space to this topic because it cuts right to the heart of the problem of how this country addresses the Middle East.

Recently, when a leader of NAAJA in Washingtn DC spoke with aides to President Barack Obama, asking if he would address one of our next conventions, the response was "Absolutely not." Why? Because of the bigotry in this country, Because Obama is playing politics with the Middle East, Arabs and Muslims and only cares about how it applies in the Middle East not in a Diverse America. And, because Obama knows that the mainstream American media -- and organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists and UNITY" Journalists of Color, are driven by racist and discriminatory views and leadership. 

(The SPJ is the worst, most discriminatory organization in American journalism today. It's leadership is racist and driven by anti-Arab and anti-Muslim policies as demonstrated by the series of events from the closing of the Arab SPJ Section to the slander against Helen Thomas to the interference run by its leaders to keep American Arabs from running for SPJ leadership positions.)

Read the Martin piece and please comment.

Ray Hanania
NAAJA National