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Iran Frees Missing Journalist Dorothy Parvaz

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reporter Describes Being Held in "Mini-Guantanamo"

Libya Frees 4 Foreign Journalists, S. African Missing

Sex Scandals Each Involve Black or Hispanic "Help"

On Malcolm X's 86th Birthday, Media Likely to Be Muted

What "Barbara Walters" Said After Don Lemon "Came Out"

Magazine Pulls Piece Calling Black Women Less Attractive

Mexican Freed After 3 Years, Held on "Baseless Charges"

Effort to Aid Haitian Media Mostly Finished

Drudge Said to Cater to Whites Afraid of Social Change

Short Takes

Don't Be Ignorant About "House Slaves"

Dorothy Parvaz tells Al Jazeera that while she compared her stay in Syria to being at Guantanamo Bay, "I was treated with respect, courtesy and care thoughout my detention" in Iran. (Video)

Reporter Describes Being Held in "Mini-Guantanamo"

Dorothy Parvaz, the journalist who disappeared on assignment in Syria 19 days ago and was the object of concern from journalists and human rights groups, has been freed by Iranian authorities, her family and her employer, Al Jazeera, said on Wednesday.

In an appearance on Al Jazeera later Wednesday, Parvaz described her time imprisoned in Syria and Iran.

Of her time in three Syrian detention centers, she wrote:

"Welcome to mini-Guantanamo; perhaps one of many in Syria where protesters and bystanders alike have been swept up in the wide net cast by an increasingly paranoid government since the start of anti-government protests several weeks ago.

"I'd ended up there because a scan of my luggage had revealed that I had a satellite phone and an internet hub with me — the commercially available type, nothing special, and just the sort of thing one might need while travelling in a country with spotty communications.

"Still, if that was deemed suspicious, then my American passport, complete with its Al Jazeera-sponsored visa, sealed the deal. The agents couldn't seem to agree what I was, or which was worse: an American spy for Israel, or an Al Jazeera reporter — both were pretty much on a par.

". . . A man came to the door a couple of times before he took me from the cell, handcuffed and blindfolded me, and led me to what seemed like a courtyard.

"He pushed me up against a wall and told me to stand there. As I did so, I heard two sets of interrogations and beatings taking place, about 10 meters away from me in either direction.

"The beatings were savage, the words uttered by those beaten only hoarse cries — 'Wallahi! Wahalli!' ('I swear to God! I swear to God!') or simply, 'La! La!' ('No! No!').

"I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, before someone approached me.

" 'Who do you work for?' he hissed.

" 'Al Jazeera. Online.'

" 'Are you alone?'

"'So alone.'

. . an interrogator "focused on Al Jazeera, putting the network on the same level as Human Rights Watch. The network had been making a 'big problem' for Syria with the UN Security Council, he said."

Todd Barker, Parvaz’s fiance, told the Seattle Times he received a call from Parvaz around 9:30 p.m. PST. The first words she said to him were: "I'm so sorry." He said Parvaz should arrive in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday or Thursday, the Times' Queenie Wong reported.

"Barker said that Parvaz told him that she had been held in solitary confinement in Evin prison in Tehran. She was questioned by Iranian authorities and kept from contacting her family during the time, but she told him that she was treated well and respectfully," Wong wrote.

" 'I didn't probe,' he said. 'I was so excited and happy, and I just wanted to know that she was safe and this call was real.' "

Melanie McFarland, former television critic for the defunct print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, described Parvaz as "my best friend and former colleague." As she told colleagues, Parvaz "flew to Damascus on April 29 to report on the uprisings there for Al Jazeera English. She went missing the moment she stepped off the plane."

On May 10, the Syrian embassy in Washington said Parvaz had attempted to enter Syria illegally on an expired Iranian visa and subsequently been extradited to Iran.

"During that time she was not allowed any contact with the outside world," Al Jazeera said. "She landed in Doha, Qatar on May 18 on a flight from Iran."

"The Ottawa Citizen reported that Parvaz's father, Fred Parvaz, a physics professor at Capilano University in North Vancouver, B.C., wrote on Facebook:

She is safe in Doha and will be coming to Vancouver B.C. soon. We can't wait to see her. She said that she was treated well in Iran. She sounded positive and grateful for the support — but a little embarrassed. We are very thankful to Iranian authorities for her release and good treatment."

The Citizen added, "Her brother Dan stated on Facebook, 'Finally, my sister is free. And while I'm grateful to the Iranian government for her treatment and release[,] I'm more grateful to all of you. particularly to the close friends and colleagues who maintained this page. You kept the faith, made phone calls, wrote letters, rallied, watched the media and never lost hope. You have done a good thing, and at least in my mind, have been part of a great thing.'

Parvaz, 39, holds Iranian, American and Canadian citizenship. She was an editorial writer and columnist for the Post-Intelligencer and a 2009 Nieman Fellow.

Among the organizations expressing support for Parvaz were the Asian American Journalists Association, Unity: Journalists of Color, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and human rights groups such as Amnesty International.

Libya Frees 4 Foreign Journalists, S. African Missing

"Four journalists captured by [Moammar] Gaddafi's military have been freed after six weeks in custody and then told they could remain in the country if they wished," Martin Chulov reported Wednesday for Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"The reporters, identified as Briton Nigel Chandler, Americans Clare Gillis and James Foley, and a Spanish photographer, Manu Brabo, were brought to the Rixos hotel in Tripoli where a government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said their rooms for the evening would be paid for by the authorities.

"The journalists had been charged with entering the country illegally and were given one-year suspended sentences by a court in Tripoli.

"There was no sign of a South African photojournalist, identified as Anton Hammerl and believed to be still missing."

["Foley and Gillis told GlobalPost in an interview Thursday night at their hotel in Tunisia that Hammerl had been shot by Gaddafi forces while the group reported on the outskirts of Brega," GlobalPost reported on Thursday.]

New York's WABC-TV reports that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, is accused of attacking a 32-year-old West African immigrant. (Video)

Sex Scandals Each Involve Black or Hispanic "Help"

The two sex scandals making news — one involving former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the other Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned Wednesday as the managing director of the International Monetary Fund — both have women of color as central figures.

Most in the mainstream media are not identifying either woman by name to protect their privacy, but the mother of Schwarzenegger's out-of-wedlock child has been shown on several websites to be Hispanic and the alleged rape victim in the Strauss-Kahn case has been identified as a 32-year-old black woman from Guinea in West Africa.

Pedro Rojas, editor of La Opinión, the Spanish-language Los Angeles newspaper, told Journal-isms that he did not believe the California woman's ethnicity is the issue, but rather Schwarzenegger's conduct. The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday, "Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, separated after she learned he had fathered a child more than a decade ago — before his first run for office — with a longtime member of their household staff."

Race and nationality are being introduced, however, in the case of the New York hotel maid.

The website Sahara Reporters is produced in New York by "an online community of international reporters and social advocates dedicated to bringing you commentaries, features, news reports from a Nigerian-African perspective." It wrote:

"The alleged sexual attack at the Times Square Sofitel by a man with a formidable opportunity to be the next French president on the platform of the Socialist Party, is shifting focus to the sexual abuse of African women dating back to the colonial days.

"But it is also ironically underscores years of failed economic policies championed by the IMF on the African continent, the very reason that increasing numbers of Africans have become vulnerable second class citizens in Western capitals, often exploited as sex slaves, maids and nannies by powerful capitalist oligarchs."

The French public service radio station RFI reported, "An opinion poll has shown 57 per cent of French people believe that Strauss-Kahn was set up. That opinion is shared by many Guinean men, according to RFI’s Moktar Bah in Conakry, who adds that Guinean women are reluctant to express an opinion."

Domestically, race covertly entered the picture when Jennifer Bain and Bob Fredericks reported Wednesday for the New York Post:

"Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have more to worry about than a possible prison sentence.

"The IMF chief's alleged sex-assault victim lives in a Bronx apartment rented exclusively for adults with HIV or AIDS, The Post has learned."

That drew a rebuke from C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc.

"The attorney representing the young West African hotel maid denied that she resides in such housing and is a person living with HIV/AIDS," Fields, long active in New York politics, said in a statement.

"Whether or not the woman is a resident of the building or is a person living with HIV/AIDS is irrelevant to her charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn and must be addressed in that manner. Sexual assault against any individual, regardless of their HIV status, is a crime. We are witnessing an attempt to stigmatize the victim based on unconfirmed rumors of her HIV status."

On Malcolm X's 86th Birthday, Media Likely to Be Muted

May 19 would have been Malcolm X's 86th birthday, but if recent history is any guide, media recognition will be muted, although there will be non-media observances in several cities.

In New York, where the iconic black nationalist was based for the most prominent part of his career, and where he was assassinated in 1965, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture plans "A Critical Discussion of the New Biography — 'Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable'."

In Omaha, where Malcolm was born, the Malcolm X Center plans to stage “The Meeting,” a play that offers a fictional dialogue between Malcolm and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorations are also planned in Washington, Baltimore and other cities. Washington's WPFW radio, part of the Pacifica chain and streamed online, plans to devote most of Thursday to discussions of Malcolm.

In previous years, reporters covered such events as the annual pilgrimage to Malcolm's grave in Mount Vernon, N.Y., or a weeklong celebration in Lansing, Mich., where Malcolm spent his youth and where the Shabazz Public School Academy is named in his honor. Or the journalists produced enterprise stories. But these efforts seem isolated.

The Newseum in Washington, for example, plans nothing special. Its Malcolm X collection consists of two newspapers documenting his assassination, the Afro World in New York and the Detroit Free Press, a spokeswoman said.

"I don't think the media will be covering very much," A. Peter Bailey, a onetime president of the New York Association of Black Journalists, an aide to Malcolm and a pallbearer at his funeral, told Journal-isms.

"I haven't even seen the controversy about the book" by Marable in the mainstream media, he said. Instead, it has been debated on blogs, radio, public forums and social media. "They don't really realize . . . ," Bailey said. He added that he had just returned from Nova Scotia, Canada, where he had been invited to discuss Malcolm's legacy.

[On Twitter Thursday, someone tweeted this Malcolm X quote: "If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing."]

Kevin Powell, the activist and writer who is a panelist Thursday at the Schomburg, had this answer when asked whether the media would cover the anniversary sufficiently: "We are the media, my friend."

What "Barbara Walters" Said After Don Lemon "Came Out"

A day after he publicly declared he was gay, CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon Tuesday unveiled a Twitter message he said he had received from Barbara Walters.

After an appropriate buildup, Lemon revealed it to be, "hey queen let's go shopping soon!"

It was met with "Tweet of the Week," "Hilarious!" and "LMAO!" from Lemon's Twitter followers.

Alas, Lemon confessed, "not the real barbara walters but it's really funny."

Magazine Pulls Piece Calling Black Women Less Attractive

Mental health bimonthly Psychology Today came under fire Monday after it published a blog post by Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa titled 'Why Are African-American Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?'" Gabriel Beltrone wrote Monday for Adweek.

"In response to the perhaps predictable backlash, the magazine softened the provocative headline by changing it to 'Why Are African-American Women Rated Less Attractive Than Other Women, but Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?'

"But by Monday afternoon, the publication had entirely removed the post from its website, as outcry spread.

"According to a cached version of the article, Kanazawa extrapolates from an unrelated third-party study, before speculating the answer that higher testosterone levels make black women more manly — and therefore less pretty.

"Slate's The Root registered disbelief. 'It struck us as so outrageous that we almost thought it was a hoax of some sort, double-checking the URL to make sure it didn't include "The Onion," ' wrote Jenee Desmond-Harris. Feministing declared it 'obvious racist pseudo-science bullshit,' and Feministe's Jill Filipovic noted that 'assholery, like attractiveness, is usually subjective . . . But sometimes someone is objectively a total asshole.' "

Mexican Freed After 3 Years, Held on "Baseless Charges"

Jesús Lemus Barajas plans to seek exile. (Credit: El Diario de Coahuila) "Reporters Without Borders hails provincial journalist Jesús Lemus Barajas’s release on 11 May and hopes that the authorities will one day explain how he came to be held for three years in the absence of any evidence against him, and compensate him for everything he has suffered. Lemus and his family now plan to go into exile," Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday.

"The founder and publisher of El Tiempo, a local newspaper in Piedad, in the southwestern state of Michoacán, and a former correspondent of the national daily La Jornada, Lemus was arrested on absolutely baseless drug trafficking charges on 7 May 2008 while investigating drug cartel activity in Cuerámaro, in the neighbouring state of Guanajuato, and was transferred to a high-security prison in Puente Grande (in Jalisco state), five weeks later.

"Shortly after his arrest, Reporters Without Borders drew attention to the lack of any hard evidence against him and to the appalling treatment he initially received, which reportedly including beating, torture and death threats."

In August, Anders Gyllenhaal, then executive editor of the Miami Herald, explained to readers the goals of the Haitian News Project and the obstacles it faced. (Video)

Effort to Aid Haitian Media Mostly Finished

The Haitian News Project, an effort by the American newspaper industry to help Haitian journalists recover from the devastation of the January 2010 earthquake, has completed most of its work and ended most of the project, its director, Joe Oglesby, retired Miami Herald editorial page editor, told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

"We ended most of the project Jan. 31. We still have two trainers in Haiti, one of whom will be there till November and possibly beyond. I continue to facilitate their work. However, our primary work of helping stabilize the papers and getting journalists back on their feet is done," Oglesby said in an email.

Two months after the quake, the American Society of News Editors developed a plan to "raise money, help Haitian newspapers and journalists replace computers, cameras and other equipment, develop training programs to improve the skills of journalists and set up an investigative reporting effort to track money spent on Haiti's recovery, Oglesby said in a report to ASNE.

"Nineteen media groups now participate in HNP and the project is working with ICFJ/Knight Foundation Fellow Kathie Klarreich and multimedia journalist Jane Regan on two training programs in Port-au-Prince." ICFJ refers to the International Center for Journalists. "Klarreich is working with print and broadcast journalists on reporting and investigative projects. Regan is teaching investigative journalism to journalists and seniors at State University. . . .

"The project donated 37 computers, 52 laptop bags, four cameras and two printers. Recipients were four Haitian newspapers, two journalist organizations, and independent print, radio and television journalists. With each delivery, Customs officials at the airport found reason to delay entry of the donated equipment. One shipment of seven computers and 52 laptop bags was delayed two months. Other groups have faced similar, or worse, treatment. For example, shipments of medicine, tents and other desperately needed supplies have been held as long as six months.

"One year after the earthquake, prospects for Haiti’s media have brightened, mostly due to their own efforts but also thanks to timely assistance from U.S. and international media groups, including the Haiti News Project. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, experts worried that Haiti’s media had suffered a lethal blow. Now it is clear that Haiti’s media have righted themselves. In the absence of a strong, central government and amid the social and political chaos throughout the country, Haitian journalists are continuing their work. Nearly all of the newspapers have resumed publishing. Radio and television stations are back on the air delivering vital information about conditions in the camps, elections, recovery efforts, the outbreak of cholera, etc.

"The industry still faces challenges, in particular, the slow return of newspapers’ advertising dollars. But the threat to the media’s existence or irrelevance is gone. HNP will continue to work with media in Haiti, although with a reduced presence. The need for emergency assistance has passed. For 2011, HNP will focus its efforts on completing its work of training Haitian journalists."

Drudge Said to Cater to Whites Afraid of Social Change

"It's been a noteworthy springtime for news here in my hometown of Philadelphia — a mayoral election, a fast start for the Phillies while the Flyers imploded in the NHL playoffs, the gruesome murder of a 9-year-old girl," longtime Philadelphia newsman Will Bunch wrote Tuesday for Media Matters.

"Yet through all of this, there has been one story that has remained the long-term No. 1 most read story on, the website of the Inquirer and Daily News. The headline: 'City's black residents now top all groups.'

"There's no doubt that Philadelphia readers have long taken an interest in racial matters, but that's not the main reason the article drew so much traffic online. It was largely because the story got a coveted and prominent link from the Drudge Report, the once-pioneering news website that remains a major driver of Internet news traffic despite rapidly evolving ways that people consume news on the Web.

"Actually, the story about Philadelphia's black population was just one of a number of outstanding stories in both the Inquirer and the Daily News using the new Census data showing how key neighborhoods have changed over time — but none of those other stories seemed to intrigue online news impresario Matt Drudge. Conversely, it might not be clear to some why Drudge's global audience would care all that much about what feels like a local story for readers in one large U.S. city. Not clear unless you understand the Drudge formula of recent years — appealing heavily to one political class, a segment that is terrified about social change and race and the idea that in a generation or two whites will be an American minority, as they have already become within the city of Philadelphia. . . ."

Short Takes

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Don't Be Ignorant About "House Slaves"

Republished by request, in connection with Malcolm X's speech on "house Negroes," replayed on his birthday:

From Jan. 28, 2008:

Feedback: Don't Be Ignorant About "House Slaves"

A friend circulated a column on Bill and Hillary Clinton by author Stephen Pizzo that said:

"A couple of hundred years ago, back in the old South, white folk made a distinction between 'good' negroes and the not-so-good negroes. 'Good' negroes stayed in line, were deferential to whites and didn't make trouble. Those were the negroes whites assigned jobs in and around their houses, rather than in the fields. They even had a term for them —  though I have to clean it up a bit: 'house negroes.'"

I was stopped in my tracks by Pizzo's assumptions of slave life.

Somebody please tell Mr. Pizzo, and others like him, that the folks up at the "Big House" were more often than not the ones who planned and executed plantation resistance movements. Many of their acts of defiance led to outright rebellions. Who else knew the comings and goings of "Massa" and "Mistress," and most important, who better knew where the "herbs" were stored or grew?

I took the cliche about "house niggers" to heart and grew up agreeing with the unresearched, glib remarks from comedians and college-trained hipsters. When I researched my own family's history and found that seventh-generation grandmother was a personal maid to Martha Washington, I was shocked. I had to know the truth -- so I began researching what really happened back in the 1700s. Wow! What I discovered showed that comedians and backroom intellectuals never have had a handle on the enslaved house people -- not at all!

My ancestor, Caroline Brannum, was constantly threatened with being sent to the fields because of her continuing acts of resistance. It was customary, so the records at Mount Vernon read, for her to take large amounts of cloth, so that she could make clothes for others on the plantation. Mount Vernon's enslaved field workers were given only two pairs of socks, one pair of shoes, one outfit for winter and one for summer. Caroline delayed work and was one of the first of our people to understand the power (and joys) of "calling in sick."

With all of the ways in which she stared the "devil," known as slavery, in the eye, she was still the first one Mrs. Washington called when General Washington fell ill. My lesson learned: Never sell out, no matter where you find yourself, because once those in power know you've sold your soul, especially if you've given it away for free, you are of no more use to them.

There were others in the "house" whose descendants I wish I could meet. There was Charlotte, who cursed members of the "right" class for suggesting that she was wearing a dress that didn't belong to her, and for that she paid the price. There were those who traveled with the general to Philadelphia, yet failed to show up on the day of departure. Valued enslaved people did not wait until "freedom" before leaving their enslavement. I hope that we can move away from the philosophy that proposes that black folks can be conquered by creating friction among them. Only cartoon figures are one-dimensional.

ZSun-nee Matema

President, AFRIASIA: The Intercultural Education Exchange


Jan. 28, 2008

Christopher Hitchens

In discussing the sad news that atheist (and brilliant journalist) Christopher Hitchens has lost his voice, you say: “An NPR piece Wednesday dared not broach any Old Testament-style connection…” Well, why would it? To place Hitchens’ unfortunate circumstances in the “God’s wrath” context would take you into Jerry Fallwell/Pat Robertson blame-the-victim territory and that is about as low as you can go. 


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