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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why the AP Story on Mohammed Omer is LACKING in Journalistic Integrity

Following below are my own personal efforts to try to get the MSM in the US to cover what occurred to prize-winning Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Omer at the hands of the Shin Bet when returning home from a multi-capital tour of Europe where he received the prestigious Martha Gellhorn prize and addressed the parliaments of Great Britain, Sweden and Greece. I am writing this out of sheer frustration, because after working at this since this happened to Mohammed, the MSM here finally covered it in a very POORLY written article which shows the clear bias and lack of journalistic integrity on the part of the Associated Press.

Eight days ago, Wednesday July 2, I began pestering the AP to cover what had occurred to prize-winning Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Omer at the hands of the Shin Bet at the Allenby crossing. This was four days after I had contacted Rory Suchet by phone at the international desk of CNN Los Angeles. At the time I first contacted Rory on Saturday June 28, there was not that much information concerning this horrendous story. He asked me for Mohammed's phone number which I gave him after he said that it sounded AWFUL what had occurred. So by Wednesday, when I contacted Barbara Whitaker by phone at the Associated Press in New York (and CNN was still not covering it), there was much more information to give, links to statements, articles, and phone numbers of who to call to verify this incident.

On July 2, last Wednesday, when I reached Barbara Whitaker by phone, I gave her a synopsis of this event. Then she stated, "I don't know if we have received this story before and taken a pass on it".

I stated to her clearly, Mohammed Omer is not only a prize-winning journalist, he is your collegue Barbara, and the European tour of various capitals where he spoke to three different parliaments (Britain, Sweden and Greece) was coordinated by an American publication for which he is the Gaza correspondent (WRMEA). This is the story of the abuse of your fellow journalist, it REALLY needs to be covered."

She asked me to forward her everything I had, so I did. I also forwarded this information to Rory at CNN and to Amrita at the Real News (who also have not covered this story yet) who I also spoke to on the phone.

Yesterday the Israeli Government Press Office released a statement denying any abuse of Mohmmed Omer. The first place this press release appeared in English was HERE, a blog belonging to the Jewish Federation of Des Moines, Iowa. More than twenty four hours after this press release was supposedly released, it still does not appear on their English website. Since I cannot read Hebrew, I have no idea if it is on the Hebrew website for the Israeli GPO. But doesn't it seem odd that this "press release" is not on their English website? They responded to another reporter covering this story that yes, it is their press release. Why is it, that while it is the English press who in the GPO's own words has regretably given credence to Mohammed's allegations and reported them, why have English readers not been given the respect of even posting their press release in English on their website? Also, why is it that they refer to the West Bank as "Judea and Samaria"? There's a simple answer to that one: "Judea and Samaria" is the term used by the right wing zionists because they see these lands as part of Eretz Israel, Arab occupied land rather than the obvious, Israeli occupied lands which supposedly are to belong to the Palestinians as their own state in a two state solution.

Today, the Associated Press published their article which first showed up on their own site, then Fox, many others following, and just a little while ago MSNBC. It is written by Karin Laub who did interview Mohammed.

Karin Laub wrote, "Palestinians have long complained about rough treatment at Allenby. However, Omer's allegation of being forced to strip naked appeared unusual."

UNUSUAL? Strip searches at Israeli checkpoints and Ben Gurion are COMMON. Read what occurred to
Jaleh Tahiri, an American senior citizen (not Arab or Jewish) and watch a 10 minute video on this COMMON occurance HERE. (five women brave enough to bare themselves again by revealing what happened to them while undergoing this humiliating experience-listen hard to what occurred to Hedy Epstein and the other women )

What really concerns me about this article, is that NO WHERE were people written about as being interviewed who could corroberate the fact of Mohammed's condition after crossing Allenby except for a statement from a Dr. Husseini who claims there were no signs of physical trauma. Where are her interviews of the Dutch who were accompanying Mohammed to Allenby, who waited the 4 1/2 hours while this was occurring to him and who then picked him up from the hospital in Jericho to take him to the Eretz crossing, home to Gaza? I told Barbara Whitaker these people were essential witnesses and needed to be interviewed, to get that info from the gentleman at the Hague. Where are her interviews of the doctors in Gaza who could give her his physical condition after going through this, when he had to spend almost a week in the hospital and be fed by iv, who could state clearly why he was in the hospital for this long?

I am going to post here, the email which was sent to Barbara Whitaker. When a phone number is given, I need to **** it out for the sake of privacy. Any red print, is my explanation added to the email originally sent.

NOTE: Mohammed was manhandled, psychologically tortured, strip searched and body cavity searched and physically abused at the Allenby crossing while the Dutch envoy who had coordinated his travel and were traveling with him were waiting outside. The Shin Bet refused to allow Mohammed to call them. The Dutch followed the ambulance which took him from Allenby to the hospital in Jericho and then took him to Eretz. It was the DUTCH who immediately issued a demand to the Israelis to investigate the incident. They are still waiting for the official investigation, not a press release.

At the top is Barbara's answer that she received my information. When Mohammed's ten page statement was posted on Jim Loeb's blog, I sent that to her also after the below email. I also forwarded to her Mohammed's letter written to Secretary Rice in 2006 who then intervened on his behalf to get him out of Gaza to the US to come and receive his first major award, the Young America's Voices award.

At that time Israel was refusing to allow him to leave Gaza. He was eventually allowed to leave, but not in time to arrive for the awards ceremony. He embarked on a multi-city speaking tour of the US and also appeared on C-SPAN then. (HERE are the first ten minutes of that appearance)

Ms. Laub, your article is SORELY lacking in details, you either omitted or did not conduct the interviews needed to cover Mohammed's ordeal properly. How would YOU feel if this had happened to you and the article done on it by your collegue finished with the party doing this to you saying you were insincere? I suggest strongly you have shown your bias in your report and lack of journalistic integrity.

Email exchange between Barbara Whitaker of the Associated Press and myself, July 2, 2008

> Hi,
> Wanted to let you know that I received the information. I have passed it
> along to assignment editors on the International Desk for review. Thanks
> for thinking of us. Barb
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ********
> Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2008 1:41 PM
> To: Whitaker, Barbara
> Subject: Mohammed Omer/Palestinian journalist
> Hi Barbara,
> Thank you so much for taking my call. Following is information
> concerning what occurred to Mohammed Omer at the Allenby Bridge. He was
> returning to his home in Gaza after a multi European city tour, where he
> had stopped in London to receive the Martha Gellhorn Prize in Journalism
> which he shared this year with Dahr Jamail.
> I became aware of this situation by alert from Washington Report on
> Middle East Affairs for whom Mohammed is their Gaza correspondent .
> This report came to me Friday evening. The incident had occurred that
> morning Palestine time.
> The Dutch, who were coordinating his travel coordinates issued a quick
> condemnation-they knew immediately what had occurred, because Dutch
> officials were traveling with him, but he was taken in for "questioning"
> by the IDF for 4 1/2 hours
> otests-treatment-of-journalist
> The first press release involving this incident was from IPS for whom
> Mohammed is their Gaza correspondent
> Mohammed has prepared a twelve page written report for the Dutch who
> have filed
> the complaint to Israel. (sent later) The person to speak with at the Hague is
> Robert
> Decker. His phone number is *********** (time difference of
> course is an
> issue.) (This interview is CRUCIAL to Mohammed's claims, and is NOWHERE in Karin Laub's AP article)
> WRMEA who sponsored his trip are preparing a press release which will be
> up very
> soon.
> The person to speak to in DC at WRMEA is Delinda Henley, phone Phone:
> **************
> Ashraf Khalil of the LA Times is interviewing him probably today. (was contacted last week, twice on Sunday by myself, given Mohammed's phone number, still no story in the LA Times. Ashraf said he could not promise he could get it in to the LA Times proper, but could promise to put it on the LA Times blog, Babylon and Beyond, which has not occurred)
> If he is up to it, Don Bustany of KPFK will be interviewing him live on
> air this
> evening on his program Middle East in Focus at 8:00 pm (Did not occur)
> Democracy Now WOULD be interviewing him today, but he is still in the
> hospital
> in not so great condition with a very busy schedule. (Amy Goodman interviewed him HERE on Monday, July 8th) When Mohammed was
> here in
> Dec 2006, Amy Goodman interviewed him about the award he was given at
> that
> time,the New America Media's Best Youth Voice
> Reporters Without Borders issued a condemnation:
> The Committee to Protect Journalists in DC was contacted yesterday, but
> as of
> this moment have not released a statement, but are expected to soon. (Done of July 9th, found HERE)
> The BBC ran a short story from Reuters
> (mind you, I heard
> that the
> Dutch when they spoke to Israeli officials said the Israeli official
> they spoke
> with is most embarrassed by this incident)
> The Independent ran an article:
> nian-rep
> orter-abused-by-israeli-security-officers-858342.html
> The Guardian ran John Pilger's (who presented him with the Martha
> Gellhorn
> prize) article.
> ians.civ
> illiberties
> I spoke to Mohammed VERY briefly on the phone Sunday. He had just been
> given
> pain medication and had problems talking. He is still on an iv in the
> hospital
> Sarah ****** who is the editor for a small paper here, ****************,
> and very close friend to Mohammed spoke to him yesterday for more than
> an hour,
> taking his statements clearly, discussing some of the details of what
> occurred
> to him being reported innacurately. She is in ******, CA Her phone is
******** (Sarah has since spoken to Mohammed several times and has done a thorough job of interviewing all parties who can witness to what occurred to Mohammed, unlike the story written by Karin Loeb which either did NOT contact these parties, or omitted their statements from her story)
> I will send you further information as I become aware and am awaiting
> coverage of this incident which was an attack on a very well known and
> respected
> Palestinian journalist.
> On the phone you stated that you don't know if the AP has been made
> aware and taken a pass on the story. I hope this is not the case
> Barbara. This should be of earnest concern to the Associated Press
> since it is an incident affecting a prize winning fellow journalist
> against whom a crime has been committed.
> Thank you for your attention Barbara. Looking forward to the AP
> coverage of this incident.
> Robin


Drew said...

Has this story been covered yet?

Robin said...

Yes Drew, it has been covered. Mohammed has been residing in the Netherlands since I believe it was September 2008 and has been here to the United States a few months ago to speak.