TALKING POINT By M. M. Afrah©
Reading some Western newspapers
reminds me all the wrong things I did, including becoming a journalist in the
first place, and voting with my own feet, leaving behind everything I owned,
including my dignity.
international news organizations in Somalia risk their lives to get their
stories out. In countries where there is a relative stability they worry of
being arrested or fired if they offend political bigwigs. But in Somalia and
number of countries ruled by autocratic regimes (or warlords in the case of
Somalia), they dance with death or kidnapping.
Journalists in the advanced
countries find themselves on the cutting edge of unfolding events, playing a key
role in stabilizing democracy. People are constantly looking up to the media to
provide information on critical issues and processes. That role makes it
imperative for them to be above ethnicity, sectarianism, one’s skin colour and
Journalists, by the nature of
their work, are either respected or despised, loved or hated, feared or
threatened. Because they touch lives so often and affect the way other people
are perceived, they are sought after as often as they are avoided.
I guess “Bias” is the most
overworked word in the English language. I am not exactly sure who started using
it first against whom, but it describes the conservative media moguls in North
America. Unfortunately, most of what they had written in their editorials about
immigrants and refugees are unprintable on this website.
One of the ironies of history is
that these same media moguls have completely forgotten that they themselves are
the children and grandchildren of refugees and immigrants who arrived in Ellis
Island in New York with only the clothes on their backs. It is these immigrants
and refugees who made America what it is today, the richest and most powerful
country in the world today.
THE FIFTH ESTATE
Alan Clarke in his book “Why I
Hold Journalists in Low Regard,” published by Penguin Books, said: “What’s
the press? Sometimes it preens itself on a courtesy title …The Fifth Estate.
But once personalized, the press can be seen as no more, surely, than a bunch of
journalists. Fellows with, in the main, squalid and unfulfilling lives, insecure
in their careers, and suffering a considerable degree of dependence on alcohol
Unpopular as these opinions may
sound, it proves the general distrust and contempt with which journalists are
held locally, particularly by the voiceless newcomers who fled their burning
DIVIDING THE WORLD IN UNEQUAL TWO PARTS
The most subtle and pernicious
discourses are those that divide the world into two unequal parts that is,
“we” and “they”.
“We” represent the white
dominant culture or the culture of the organization (the newsroom, TV station,
school, museum, law enforcement agency); “they” represent the “other”, possessing different (undesirable) set of
values, beliefs and norms. “They” are dangerous, a threat to our way of
life; they make unreasonable demands.
Individuals who participated at
a series of discussion groups for Goldfarb Consultants in big cities in Canada
said visible minorities are treated like foreigners by newspapers, and a large
majority is upset at newspapers for linking race and religion with suspects in
One participant, whose great
grandfather had immigrated to Canada, said, “When a story does not say that
the crime suspect is black, you cheer.” Added a second participant: “And if
you don’t mention the race, we assume they are white.”
The focus group included
Chinese, South Asian, Black Muslims, (including a Somali-Canadian), mixed
minority and white participants.
Haroon Siddiqui, The Toronto
Star’s editorial page editor (Emeritus) said, the first step is for newspapers
to start treating minorities as “first class Canadians that they are.”
“They are not foreigners, they
are not outsiders. They are not them. They are us. They’re helping to pay our
salaries, they’re buying our products. They’re first class tax-paying
Canadians, and they should be treated like that,” Mr. Saddiqui said.’
While virtually all the
participants said the newspapers represent good value for money, they had a few
words of advice for publishers.
Newspapers “need to address
the issue of discrimination, stereotyping, crime reporting with racial or
religious linkages and fair portrayal of various visible communities,” the
Terrorism reporting was a sore
point, and the participants recommend that the print and electronic media review
their terrorist coverage policies and open a dialogue with readers about it. For
example, they “should refrain from linking Islam with terrorism, because the
acts of few men does not represent Islam which itself means PEACE.”
We in the media have to learn to
tell the truth, even if it hurts, period. The media need to take hard look at
the use of language and images before rushing to the mike and the printing
By M. M. Afrah©