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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 9th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Brian Stelter knows something about TWITTER – he is running his own, but he also had a Thursday article in the New York Times in which he analyzed the transgressions of another Journalist – a CNN senior editor – that went beyond what is allowed in journalism and ended up being fired by CNN. Her obvious transgression was on Twitter.

Brian Stelter (brianstelter) on Twitter

– 2:04pm Get short, timely messages from Brian Stelter. Twitter is a rich source of instantly updated information. It’s easy to stay updated on an incredibly wide
twitter.com/brianstelter

His article on-line was

CNN Fires Middle East Affairs Editor.

By BRIAN STELTER, Published: July 7, 2010

The title as in NYT print July 8, 2010 was: “A TWITTER POST THAT ENDED A 2-YEAR CAREER AT CNN.”

CNN on Wednesday removed its senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, Octavia Nasr, after she published a Twitter message saying that she respected the Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.

Octavia Nasr

Parisa Khosravi, the senior vice president of international newsgathering for CNN Worldwide, said in an internal memorandum that she “had a conversation” with Ms. Nasr on Wednesday morning and that “we have decided that she will be leaving the company.”

For her coverage of events like last year’s protests in Iran, CNN had previously called Ms. Nasr a “leader” in integrating social media Web sites like Twitter within its newsgathering process.

Ms. Nasr, a 20-year veteran of the network, wrote on Twitter after the cleric died on Sunday, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”
The ayatollah routinely denounced the United States and supported suicide bombings against Israel.

Some supporters of Israel seized on the Twitter message as an indication of bias. A CNN spokesman said Tuesday that Ms. Nasr had made an “error of judgment” that “did not meet CNN’s editorial standards.”

In an explanatory blog post on CNN.com Tuesday evening, Ms. Nasr said she was sorry about the message “because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah’s life’s work. That’s not the case at all.”

She said she used the words “respect” and “sad” because “to me as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman’s rights. She continued, “This does not mean I respected him for what else he did or said. Far from it.”

Despite her senior editor title, Ms. Nasr did not run CNN’s Middle East coverage, a spokesman said. She reported and provided analysis about the region for CNN’s networks.

Her explanation of the Twitter message was apparently not enough for her CNN bosses. Ms. Khosravi wrote in the memo, “at this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.”

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The problem with this is not Ms. Nasr – she would be clearly entitled to say what she wants to her tweeter – that is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but CNN has more at stake here. It is the credibility of CNN that she undermined and provided clear proof to the Israelis that when CNN covered the Lebanon war it might not have been impartial. With people like Octavia Nasr, partisans to a cause, the credibility of the media is being destroyed.

We post this because we think CNN is the best there is on US TV. We watch religiously the Fareed Zakaria weekly program – the only consistently intelligent program we know on US TV – so we do not want to see CNN downgraded to the level of a FOX. Granted, Ms. Nasr was not a columnist anchor of the network, but she was in charge of media gathering – and if the news are faked by partisanship – the whole system is “kaput.”

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FRIDAY, JULY 09, 2010
CNN’s Objectivity Questioned in Sacking of Mideast Reporter.
Eli Clifton

WASHINGTON, Jul 8 (IPS) – CNN’s firing of Octavia Nasr, the editor responsible for the network’s Middle East coverage, over a Twitter post in which she expressed her sadness over the death of a Lebanese cleric has set off a firestorm of debate about what the decision says about CNN’s fairness in reporting on the region. On Sunday, Nasr wrote, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot,” on her Twitter account, which is followed by over 7,000 readers.

Fadlallah was an inspirational figure for Lebanese Shiites and an early supporter of Hezbollah. Fadlallah, who initially supported the use of suicide bombings as a means of resistance against the occupation of Lebanon and Palestine, later criticised Hezbollah for its close ties to Iran, as well as Ayatollah Khomeini’s velayet- e faqih “rule of the clerics”, which Khomeini imposed in Iran in 1979.

Critics of Fadlallah have charged that he was staunchly anti-U.S., and had been linked to bombings that killed more than 260 U.S. citizens, but others have pointed to the cleric’s support for women’s rights and fatwas against female circumcision and honour killings as evidence of his comparatively progressive position. After the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and a number of right-wing news outlets and blogs took issue with her expression of regret over Fadlallah’s death, on Tuesday, Nasr wrote another Twitter post in which she attempted to clarify her earlier comment and emphasised her admiration of Fadlallah’s defence of women’s rights.


“Fadlallah, designated by the U.S. Department of Treasury as a specially designated terrorist, disseminated numerous fatawa’ supporting terrorist operations and was a vocal supporter of terrorism against Israeli targets,” read a statement from the ADL on Tuesday.

“It is clearly an impropriety for a CNN journalist/editor to express such a partisan viewpoint as Ms. Nasr did in her tweet,” the statement continued.

“How did CNN senior editor of Middle East affairs Octavia Nasr celebrate July 4? By mourning the passing of Hezbollah’s Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah,” blogged Daniel Halper at the neoconservative Weekly Standard.

But other journalists and watchdog groups expressed concern over the speed with which CNN fired Nasr and the emergence of a double-standard when reporting on Middle Eastern affairs.

“The network – which has employed a former AIPAC official, Wolf Blitzer, as its primary news anchor for the last 15 years – justified its actions by claiming that Nasr’s ‘credibility’ had been ‘compromised,'” wrote Salon’s Glenn Greenwald in an article in which he went on to argue that Nasr was fired for offending the “neocon Right” by expressing regret over the death of a “profoundly complex figure, with some legitimate grievances, some entrenched hatreds and ugly viewpoints, and a substantial capacity for good.”

Peter Hart, activism director at Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media watchdog group, told IPS that, “If there was some suggestion that she had been producing questionable journalism over all these years you’d think this would have been an issue before this, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. So it’s a decision which is disconnected from any sensible policy. The real problem is that she said something which offended very powerful people and that was her mistake.”

Nasr had worked for the Atlanta-based CNN for 20 years and rarely appeared on-air except for occasional appearances as an analyst in discussions on Middle East news. She had no history of an anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian bias and, according to Greenwald, “blended perfectly into the American corporate media woodwork”.

“Octavia Nasr got fired for the one smart thing she ever said,” quipped journalist Nir Rosen, a fellow at the New York University Center on Law and Security, in a Twitter post.

“[P]lenty of American journalists and politicians have shown ‘respect’ (and in some cases, fawning admiration) for various world figures with hands far bloodier than Ayatollah Fadlallah – including Mao Zedong, Ariel Sharon, the Shah of Iran, or even Kim il Sung – but it didn’t cost them their jobs,” wrote Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University.

Questions have been raised over why Nasr, known as an uncontroversial reporter of Middle East affairs, was fired so quickly for an off-the-cuff Twitter post.

According to some observers, her unwillingness to conform to the narrative depicted by a number of right-wing news outlets and U.S. Jewish groups that Fadlallah was a terrorist, anti-US and anti-Semitic resulted in CNN receiving pressure to fire her.

“Nasr’s comment was enough to spark fierce outrage from the various precincts of the neocon blog/twittersphere, who went after Nasr for her egregious failure to reduce Fadlallah to an anti-Israel, anti-American terrorist bogeyman,” blogged Matt Duss, a National Security Researcher at the liberal Center For American Progress.

While right-wing news outlets, such as the Weekly Standard and the conservative WorldNetDaily gleefully reported on Nasr’s departure from CNN, others expressed concern for the double standard which has emerged when discussing Middle East affairs in the US mainstream media.

“The standard here is based on nothing that Nasr reported for CNN. [Her Twitter post] was barely a one sentence expression of sympathy. Firing her was a decision that was completely disconnected from her work so it’s a decision that’s very troubling. Lou Dobbs’s thoughts about immigrants were on CNN every night and CNN stood by him as the criticism mounted and the factual inaccuracies piled up,” said Hart.

“In this case, a stray comment is enough to terminate someone’s role at CNN almost overnight,” he said. “The discrepancy is rather revealing and CNN would have a very hard time revealing precisely what their policy is on this. It’s hard to find precedent for this. She has a history of covering the region and that is not easily replaced.”

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We do not approve of the Lou Dobbs diatribe on CNN on US immigration, and we think he should have been chastised by the network, but this is the only point the above article makes that we can agree with.

Otherwise, the article is in itself proof of how split and detrimental to the surfacing of the truth on matters of the Middle East the whole public policy arena is for years. There are plenty of Jewish groups that think Wolf Blitzer is biased against the Israeli government. We have met the man at the time he worked at the UN and are convinced he is a true journalist. Most others mentioned belong either to the left or to the right and as we know well both sides have other goals then a two State solution for the Middle East morass. Our website neither accepts the demise of Israel, nor the lack of a Palestinian State, so we clearly can say that someone who believes that Allah calls for suicide bombers to achieve his goal of eradicating Israel, is no better then Ahmedi-Nejad – the true follower of Hitler.

Yes, Ms. Nasr had to go not because ADL wanted her to go. It is because CNN needed her to go- and yes, CNN might look also at who else has to go in order to build back its own credibility.

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The continuing problem Ayatollah with Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah’s followers is in today’s news – so a credible press coverage is imperative – niceties and partisanship aside – just see in

UN DAILY NEWS DIGEST – 9 July, 2010:

LEBANON: SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT OF UN PEACEKEEPERS .

Strongly deploring recent incidents directed at United Nations blue helmets in Lebanon, the Security Council today called for ensuring the safety and freedom of movement of the peacekeepers serving there.

Members of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have recently been the target of protests and attacks by villagers in the south of the country in response to routine military exercises carried out by the mission.

“The members of the Security Council strongly deplore the recent incidents involving UNIFIL peacekeepers which took place in southern Lebanon on June 29th, July 3rd and July 4th in the UNIFIL area of operation,” Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for July, said in a statement read out to the press following closed-door talks.

They also emphasized the importance of not impairing UNIFIL’s ability to fulfil its mandate under Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah.

The resolution also calls for respect of the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, the disarming of all militias operating in Lebanon and an end to arms smuggling in the area.

“They call on all parties to ensure that the freedom of movement of UNIFIL remains respected in conformity with its mandate and its rules of engagement,” the statement added.

In addition to monitoring the 2006 ceasefire between Israel and Hizbollah, UNIFIL is also tasked with accompanying and supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as they deploy throughout the south, and extending its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.

Also today, Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, discussed the recent incidents involving UNIFIL with Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami.

“We all hope that the situation has now calmed down and that there will be no recurrence of such incidents,” he in a statement following the meeting in Beirut.

Mr. Williams asserted that UNIFIL’s freedom of movement is a critical element for it to discharge its mandate and it must be fully respected.

“I think that we all agree that the excellent cooperation between UNIFIL and LAF has been the backbone of the stability that has prevailed in the south, and we must do all we can to maintain and to enhance it,” he added.

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