Journalism in the Public Interest


Rep Calls for Investigation of Alhurra

The ranking member of the House foreign relations committee thinks it’s time Congress takes a hard look at Alhurra. In a letter today (pdf), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) requests that Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) “hold immediate oversight hearings and initiate an investigation” of the troubled U.S.-backed channel.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)In particular, Ros-Lehtinen focuses on the lack of oversight of the channel’s broadcasts, which have at times aired anti-American and anti-Israeli viewpoints. As ProPublica’s Dafna Linzer reported, Alhurra’s president Brian Conniff does not speak Arabic. During a visit to the channel in June, Linzer and 60 Minutes observed Conniff sit in on a morning editorial meeting that he could not understand. Danny Nassif, the news director, does speak Arabic, but a recent report by the State Department’s Inspector General cast doubt on his claims that he alone is able to oversee the content of Alhurra’s three 24-hour broadcasts, and Radio Sawa’s two radio services. A senior diplomat said that a small team inside the State Department set up to monitor foreign broadcasts stopped watching Alhurra long ago and never listened to Radio Sawa.

“The management at Al Hurra has repeatedly guaranteed that it would make reforms and ensure that hateful rhetoric never be broadcast on its station,” Ros-Lehtinen writes. “These have been, it appears, empty promises, and raises the specter that on-sight American managers - with little training in the Arabic language - are simply incapable of exercising editorial control.”

ORGANIZED INTIMIDATION may explain why investigative reporting is virtually non-existent in broadcast as well as print. Reporters and their bosses encounter extreme pressure from business and government when their reporting threatens to expose illegal or questionable practices and policies. As a result, excellent, conscientious reporters are being driven from mainstream media. The quest for media profits is a convenient excuse, making media companies a convenient scapegoat; the malady goes much deeper. An under-the-radar phenomenon known as “GANG STALKING” or “COMMUNITY STALKING”—a 21st century version of the KKK—is applying extra-legal “vigilante justice” in many parts of the nation (PLEASE: Google “gang stalking” and read the links). Journalists are among those being unjustly targeted; careers have been destroyed. The justice system is being bypassed and the Constitution is being subverted—and the very journalists who might otherwise have exposed the facts are being silenced. Whoever doctored those CBS/Dan Rather documents may be part of this campaign to discredit investigative reporting, and neutralize its practitioners. Dan, and Mary Maples, may have been just two of many victims—not “sloppy” journalists, as one of their fair-weather colleagues opined. “National security” is being used as a pretext for warantless spying; some of that activity may be directed at journalists. It is possible that news organizations have been infiltrated by agents who inform on colleague’s projects and sabotage their efforts. This is worse than McCarthyism because it is covert. Journalists are no longer publicly blacklisted; their careers are neutralized, and in some cases, their personal lives are ruined. If a former journalist tries to tell you his/her story, please listen, and report—fairly, objectively, and fearlessly. And do everything you can to prevent your stories from being “spiked.” The future of democracy, the rule of law in America, is at stake. The politicians are clueless or spineless, maybe both; our tenuously free but threatened society is depending on YOU.

Michael Rudnick

June 24, 2008, 9:25 p.m.

I’m grateful to learn of this debacle. However, the 60 Min. piece left me a bit hesitant. I agree that that holocaust denial piece was bad journalism. But, a long segment of nasrallah speechifying? Is that exactly the same? Having responses to it from other Lebanese politicians (if they’d have the courage to come on) would have been a nice balance. Don’t know if that happened. From what I’ve seen of the quality of those “journalists” working on the network they probably wouldn’t have thought of it.  Bottom line is the government of the U.S. may not be able to do this. It was one thing during the cold war, we were aiming at people with a somewhat shared sense of culture and history.  The folks in the middle east just see these issues through a lifetime of conditioned distrust and anger. Until their public school drops the anti-semitism , alhurra does will crack the shell.