National Press Club condemns Iran for journalist detention, but is silent on Israel’s killing of journalists
By Ray Hanania
In a lucid example of the moral bankruptcy and bias of the mainstream American news media, the National Press Club issued a press release this week which condemned the Government of Iran for its detention of a journalist there.
Yet the NPC, which consists of some of the highest profile national reporters and Washington DC journalists, has failed to issue one statement on the killings by Israel of several Palestinian journalists. So far, nine Palestinian journalists have been killed and scores have been injured, some seriously.
The silence comes in the wake of a political beating that the National Press Club took from pro-Israel activists and AIPAC which lambasted the NPC’s leadership in November 2012 following the Israeli assault then against Gaza. NPC President Theresa Werner released this statement on Nov. 28, 2012:
Press Club expresses concern over reported attacks on journalists in Gaza
The National Press Club has expressed grave concern about reports of recent attacks on reporters by Israeli military forces and urged militaries everywhere to safeguard the press during armed conflicts.
During the recent fighting in Gaza, Israel Defense Forces reportedly injured numerous reporters and killed in a drone strike three people who some said were reporters but who the Israeli government said were terrorists.
Israeli Defense Forces officials have contended that those killed were combatants masquerading as journalists, presumably so that they wouldn’t be attacked. Other reports have indicated they were working for Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds Educational Radio, outlets affiliated with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and has been branded a terrorist organization by the United States.
In addition to the drone strikes, Israel’s military confirmed attacked two buildings in Gaza known to be housing journalists from several international news organizations in addition to the Hamas-affiliated outlets. The attacks injured at least seven reporters, according to dispatches.
“Even if some of the facts about one attack earlier this month are in dispute, it appears that Israel at least was reckless in targeting a building housing working journalists covering the Gaza conflict,” Club President Theresa Werner said. “One principle applies to every country, including the United States: it’s not acceptable to target or even risk endangering non-combatant journalists.”
Werner has urged that an independent investigation be conducted to determine what happened.
Since Israel has launched its assault into the Gaza Strip purportedly against Hamas, the National Press Club’s current leadership has been extremely and uncomfortably silent. The current NPC President, the organization’s 107th chief executive, is Myron Belkind a longtime member of the NPC leadership.
In the more than three weeks of its assault, Israel has killed a half dozen journalists, the most recent was Rami Rayyan, a photographer who was rushing to the scene of a bombing by Israel when he and two ambulance paramedics were killed on Wednesday July 30th. Click here to view photographs and video of the Rami Rayyan murder by Israeli missile and mortar strikes.
The following day, Israel bombed not only civilians and media centers in the Gaza Strip but they fired missiles and mortars at the Palestinian TV Station in the West Bank injuring several journalists who were covering Palestinian protests against Israel’s military assault against the Gaza Strip.
MADA, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, reported on a series of Israeli assaults against journalists. Click here to view story.
Here is the release the NPC put out on the Iranian journalist who has been detained:
National Press Club Expresses Concern Over Reported Detention of Journalists in Iran
WASHINGTON, July 24, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Press Club expressed concern Thursday over reports that a Washington Post reporter, his wife and two photojournalists have been detained inIran.
“If these reports are accurate, we urge the Iranian authorities to promptly explain this action and to release these journalists, who are merely covering news in Iran,” said NPC President Myron Belkind.
A Washington Post report Thursday indicated the paper had received “credible reports that correspondentJason Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, were detained Tuesday evening in Tehran. The paper said it was unclear who detained them or why.
Rezaian has been accredited by the Iranian government to work as a Post correspondent in Tehran since 2012 and previously was accredited to work for other papers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, since 2008, the Post said.
Rezaian, 38, holds American and Iranian citizenship, the Post reported. Yeganeh, an Iranian citizen who has applied for U.S. permanent residency, works as a correspondent for the National, a newspaper based in theUnited Arab Emirates, the paper said.
Two other Americans were detained with them, both freelance photojournalists, the paper said, indicating it did not know their names.
The National Press Club, founded in 1908, is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the club advocates on behalf of press freedom and open government worldwide.
The National Press Club represents the mainstream media’s elite national correspondents and journalists and is often used as a forum for newsmakers to address important issues.
But it suffers from the same political fears that have restricted the effectiveness of the Society of Professional Journalists and UNITY: Journalists of Color which both acted to marginalize and silence American Arab members.
In 2007, the SPJ created a Journalism Section to encourage American Arab journalists to join the SPJ and participate in professional and ethics programs. The Arab Journalists Group produced an Arabic version of the SPJ’s Code of Ethics, which the SPJ failed to follow. Several years later, a handful of pro-Israel activists on the SPJ board unilaterally closed SPJ’s Arab Section and then engaged in a slander campaign to denounce not only the Arab Journalists but also specifically the National Arab American Journalists Association which had partnered to launch the SPJ sub-group.
It wasn’t a coincidence that the SPJ was getting pummeled by pro-Israel critics, or that the SPJ then elected an Israeli journalist as president.
The media plays a critical role in Israel’s manipulation of the conflict in the Gaza Strip, playing down accusations and evidence of Israeli war crimes while exaggerating and often reading from Israeli government press releases assertions that Hamas and other Palestinian militants are using civilians as “human shields.”
In the most recent conflict in Gaza, Israel has killed more than 1,500 people, the majority are civilians including more than 175 babies, infants, children and teenagers. Most of the civilian victims were in their homes, in schools, mosques or public markets filled with civilians when the American-made Israeli missiles and mortars struck.
The American media minimizes the deaths by presenting Palestinian dead as “statistics,” while offering great detail on the much fewer Israeli civilian deaths. During the same period, only about 8 Israeli civilians, including the 3 teenagers whose kidnapping and murder Israel used as a justification to invade Gaza, have been killed.
Yet the mainstream American media focuses on the 8 Israeli deaths while challenging facts, details and claims surrounding the killing of the more than 1,200 unarmed civilians, including Palestinian journalists, who have been killed. Despite the inbred bias of the mainstream American news media, the American public is becoming more and more aware of the viciousness of the Israel military assault as more and more images of Palestinian babies, infants, children and teenagers are circulating on Social Media such as on Facebook and Twitter.
Both Facebook and Twitter, according to some media accounts, and manipulating the postings on the Gaza conflict to restrict them to “interested” circles possibly in order to prevent mainstream Americans from seeing the truth. If my postings of pictures of murdered Palestinian children are restricted to only those Arabs and Israelis, for example, on my Facebook Page who are already interested in the topic, and denied viewing to the other Facebook friends who are outside of the debate (mainstream Americans), Israel can manage the perception damage.
If the mainstream American news media doesn’t standup to protest the killing of journalists, then Israel’s propagandists know that most Americans will not see it as an issue, and the coverage of the Israeli killing of journalists will be restricted to the nooks and crannies of reporting. Reporters who have spoken out against this bias have paid a steep price, losing their jobs and seeing an end to their careers. That’s a pathetic and sad state for the American Fourth Estate that is struggling to redefine itself in an atmosphere of declining newspaper readership and broadcast audiences, and the takeover by corporate business interests.
Though it is still crawling, the American news media has lost its spine when it comes to principle, ethics and journalistic professionalism.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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