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Attacks on Journalists Spread in Arab World

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sudan, Yemen Join Egypt and Tunisia, Group Says

African American Voices Diminished in Egyptian Crisis

Don't Expect Cuba to Be Next, Miami Columnist Says

2 Armed Men Threaten Reporter, Rob and Beat Cameraman

Obama's State of the Union Had Not One Mention of Poor

NABJ Member Tweets From the Board Meeting

NAHJ VP Takes P.R. Job, to Remain on Board for 6 Months

Short Takes 

Protesters gather in Tahrir Square, in the heart of Cairo, to chant against President Hosni Mubarak and raise other issues. More than 10,000 people beat drums, played music and chanted slogans Monday, the Associated Press reported. (Video)

Sudan, Yemen Join Egypt and Tunisia, Group Says

"Journalists in the Middle East are experiencing increased harassment amid rapidly spreading street protests throughout the region, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ is gravely concerned about reports of attacks against journalists not only in Egypt, as CPJ has previously reported, but also in Yemen and Sudan," the press freedom organization said on Monday.

" 'We are disturbed by the targeting of journalists that is spreading across multiple countries in the Arab world,' said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. 'The governments of Sudan and Yemen are physically attacking journalists in an effort to disrupt the free delivery of news to local and international audiences. Those governments seem to not have learned anything from the mistakes made by the governments in Tunis and Cairo.' "

Al Jazeera reported Monday, "Six Al Jazeera English journalists, who were briefly detained in Egypt, have been released, however; their camera equipment remains confiscated by the military."

"The move comes a day after Al Jazeera was told to shut down its operations in the country and saw its signal to some parts of the Middle East cut.

"Following the arrest of the journalists a spokesman of the channel said Al Jazeera will not be deterred; 'If anything, our resolve to get the story has increased.' "

Michael Calderone summarized Monday for Yahoo News:

"For those of you who managed to pry yourselves away from the non-stop Egypt coverage on your computer and TV screens this past weekend, here's a quick roundup of media-related headlines that have emerged over the past few days.

"Egyptian authorities shut down Al Jazeera's Cairo bureau and revoked its license to broadcast from the country. But the network's reporters are finding alternate ways to cover the story on the ground — they're doing anonymous phone interviews, filing audio reports, tweeting as often as they can — and enlisting bloggers/citizen journalists to contribute as well.

"Since many U.S. cable providers don't air Al Jazeera English, its website has reportedly seen a two and a half thousand percent surge in traffic, and media critics are calling for cable companies to start carrying the network. And there's still plenty being written about how Al Jazeera is having its moment. (Even President Obama is watching.)"

African American Voices Diminished in Egyptian Crisis

"For much of U.S. history, African Americans have been a strong dissenting voice on foreign policy, whether it was the settlement of free blacks in Liberia, the U.S. occupation of Haiti, British rule in India, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or African liberation movements such as the struggle against apartheid," Joel Dreyfuss wrote Monday on

Kenneth J. Cooper

The hesitancy of the Congressional Black Caucus to speak up about the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt "reflects a recent shift in the role of African Americans in foreign policy from outsiders to insiders. After all, both of President George W. Bush's secretaries of state — Gen. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice — were black. But the result has been the diminution of an American voice that gave people abroad hope that at least some of us were sympathetic to their struggles. . . .

"Some U.S. experts and Arab governments have tried to blame Arab network Al Jazeera for fanning the flames of revolt. But U.S. media can also convince citizens abroad that grinding poverty and oppressive rule are not inevitable. I remember sitting with friends in Haiti some years ago, watching the Democratic National Convention on television. Several had tears in their eyes as the delegates voted state by state for their candidates. 'Why can't we do that?' one friend asked.

"In Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, they're taking the first step toward doing that — with or without help from America's political establishment."

Meanwhile, on, Kenneth J. Cooper recalled the five months he spent in Cairo on a Fulbright Scholarship.

"As a light-skinned African American, I was often mistaken for Egyptian. Most Egyptians, despite living on the African continent, are Arabs. You would think being able to blend in would be a good thing — it definitely wasn't when dealing with the Egyptian police, who were everywhere, often in plain clothes. That’s how I know the police aren’t around to 'serve and protect' the people, but to protect Mubarak and his government from the people."

Don't Expect Cuba to Be Next, Miami Columnist Says

Myriam Marquez". . . As these images reach our televisions, computer screens or smart phones in South Florida, many people have told me they can't help but think about Cuba," Myriam Marquez, editorial page editor of the Miami Herald, wrote on Sunday.

"As one reader put it in an e-mail: 'What's wrong with Cubans? They've had a dictatorship for 52 years! Cowards!'

"Easy for you to say from the comfort of your American home. Try living there. There have been reams written about how many Cubans experience the 'Stockholm syndrome,' the paradox of hostages loving their captors for not killing them."

However, Marquez wrote, access to technology marks the difference between the Mideast and Cuba:

"The Internet remains blocked to most Cubans, who have the lowest ratio of computers in Latin America. Smart phones are a pipe dream. Land lines are like cars in Cuba — few people have them and getting a line is prohibitively expensive for people who earn on average $20 a month.

"Satellite TV is accessible for tourists in hotels, but it's a crime for the average citizen to own satellite antennaes, though a black market has sprouted.

"Bloggers like Yoani Sánchez of Generation Y don't post directly to the Internet. They need foreigners to go to Internet cafés and spend big bucks to connect and send their messages to friends abroad who then post for the world to see."

2 Armed Men Threaten Reporter, Rob and Beat Cameraman

"A reporter and a cameraman for ABC7 TV were assaulted and robbed Thursday evening in East Oakland while reporting about efforts to find new homes for a pack of severely abused pit-bull dogs," Angela Woodall reported Friday for the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune.

"The two men had finished interviewing neighbors in the 600 block of Capistrano Drive, near where officers found the abused and neglected animals in December, about 7:10 p.m. when two men approached them. One forced the reporter, Tomas Roman, to the ground at gunpoint and threatened his life. The other armed man confronted the cameraman, Stan Wong, and beat him with a gun. The robbers ran away with Wong's Panasonic P2 video camera. The victims were taken to a hospital. Police have made no arrests and the camera has not been recovered.

"ABC7 News Director Kevin Keeshan said the attack was traumatic for the victims, but he could not discuss their condition because of ABC policies. 'They had no reason to think they were in danger,' he said."

President Obama answers questions on a wide range of issues submitted by and voted on by YouTube users in an interview moderated by YouTube’s Steve Grove. (Video)

Obama's State of the Union Had Not One Mention of Poor

"It was only the second time since Harry S. Truman’s State of the Union address in 1948 that such a speech by a Democratic president did not include a single mention of poverty or the plight of the poor," Charles M. Blow wrote Saturday in the New York Times.

"The closest Obama got to a mention was his confirmation for 'Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear' that, indeed, 'the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real.' I’m sure they appreciated that.

"The only other Democrat not to mention poverty in the speech was Jimmy Carter in 1980, but even he was able to squeeze in one reference to at least a portion of the poor and disenfranchised, stressing the continuation of jobs programs to 'provide training and work for our young people, especially minority youth.' (Carter did mention the poor in a written version that he submitted to Congress.)

"John F. Kennedy didn’t say the specific words 'poor' or 'poverty' in his first State of the Union, but he talked at length about providing 'more food for the families of the unemployed, and to aid their needy children,' securing 'more purchasing power for our lowest-paid workers by raising and expanding the minimum wage' and of a new housing program to address the problem of 'cities being engulfed in squalor.'

"So how is it that this Democratic president has the temerity to deliver a State of the Union address that completely neglects any explicit mention of the calamitous conditions now afflicting his staunchest supporters: the poor?"

NABJ Member Tweets From the Board Meeting

Benet J. WilsonIt's become common when online journalists and bloggers meet, but when the boards of the journalists of color do? Not so much.

The phenomenon? Tweeting the proceedings.

Over the weekend, the board of the National Association of Black Journalists met in Washington, and on Friday, Benet J. Wilson, co-chair of the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force and online managing editor-business aviation for the Aviation Week Group, started tweeting under the hashtag #NABJBD.

The previous night, Wilson and others had tweeted from the NABJ Hall of Fame gala at the Newseum, using the hashtag #NABJHOF.

Friday's wasn't Wilson's first tweetable board meeting. She said she did so in April and plans to do it again at upcoming sessions in Philadelphia that will be held in conjunction with the summer's NABJ convention in that city.

There had been "a big problem in the delivery of board minutes," Wilson explained to Journal-isms, so she exercised her right to attend the meetings in person and report on them. Of course, not everything is available for tweeting. The board can and does exercise its right to go into executive session and exclude onlookers.

Wilson's point about faulty board communications with members has  been echoed in other journalist-of-color associations.

Late last year, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists took important votes via conference call about the association's finances. Someone leaked them in the apparent belief that members weren't being told about them quickly enough, leading to accusatory hunts for the "leaker."

During last year's campaign for the presidency of the Asian American Journalists Association, unsuccessful candidate Neal Justin wrote:

"You should know that I'm proposing that an independent reporter will be present at every board meeting and write a story for members that will be unedited by [the] executive director or anyone on the board. I hope that will help members feel like we're being more open."

The National Association of Black Journalists for years had such a practice but eventually abandoned it.

But that was before the Twitter revolution. Although members have complained periodically that they have been slow to learn about actions of the NABJ board, Twitter hadn't been raised much as an answer.

"Outside of stating that they are at the AAJA board meeting our board of directors generally do not tweet during the meetings," Kathy Chow, executive director of AAJA, told Journal-isms.

Ivan Roman, executive director of NAHJ, said, "As far as I know, board members don't tweet about what's going on in the meeting. Depending on what they're discussing, I'm not sure if that's appropriate for board members to do given that tweets are often limited, lack context, and they would have no link on the web to offer more information or provide that context."

"No tweets that I am aware of," said Jeff Harjo, executive director of the Native American Journalists Association.

That leaves open the question of whether visiting rank-and-file members, or reporters, can tweet for the occasion, in 140 characters or less.

NAHJ VP Takes P.R. Job, to Remain on Board for 6 Months

Gustavo RevelesGustavo Reveles, vice president for print of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, left his reporting job at the El Paso Times in December to become public information officer of the local school district, but will remain in his NAHJ post until June,  he told Journal-isms on Monday.

According to the NAHJ bylaws, "The Vice President for Broadcast shall be a member of broadcast media, and the Vice President for Print shall be a member of print media."

"The goal of the Public Information Office is to foster a positive climate within the school district, and between the district and the community, through a two-way process of communication, and to assist in building support for the Canutillo Independent School District through open, honest and planned communication methods," the Canutillo Independent School District says.

Michele Salcedo, the NAHJ president, would not discuss the issue on the record.

Reveles told Journal-isms, "I have talked to Michele and we have drafted a plan for my departure from the board of directors. I will vacate my position in the summer during our convention in Orlando," which takes place June 15-18. Reveles' term ends in 2012.

An NAHJ member raised the issue with Journal-isms in light of the board's 9-0 vote in September to immediately remove Jacqueline Guzmán-García, its student board representative, although she had defeated two other candidates for the position.

Salcedo acknowledged then that "as a result of today’s action, for the first time since 2002, students will not have a voice on the national board." She also said, "I want to thank the board for upholding NAHJ’s bylaws, the foundation of our governance."

Guzman was attending California State University, Northridge part time, not full time as the bylaws require. She called her removal unfair; the board acknowledged that it was responsible for allowing Guzman-Garcia on the ballot in the first place.

In another case, Financial Officer Sam Diaz resigned from NAHJ's board in 2007 when he left the Washington Post for a job with a Bay Area public relations company, believing he no longer qualified to be on the board.

"Upon re-reading the bylaws, I see that — by definition in the bylaws — an associate member [is] those 'persons engaged in such media-related jobs as public relations, public or corporate information, directors of media organizations.' Clearly a public information officer falls under this definition," Diaz told Journal-isms on Monday.

But, he said, "For what it's worth, as a dues-paying member, I have less concern about Gustavo finishing his term and more concern about the bylaws needing a major update. . . . When I went to work for that PR firm, my role was to create original content and consult private companies on how to create their own original content in the form of blogs and other non-traditional channels. Depending on how you defined it, I was their editor. I'd say that makes me eligible to hold office."

Reveles told Journal-isms by e-mail, "I'm very comfortable in my new position. It was extremely hard to leave journalism after nearly 15 years in the business. But the opportunity to work for a school district is one I could not pass up. I've always believed in public education and I'm glad I'm part of a strong administrative team.

"NAHJ is my family, and it will always be. . . . I'm proud of my work as a journalist and my time as an NAHJ board member. I look forward to continuing to help the organization grow, this time as an associate and lifetime member."

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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