The following editorial clearly reveals that Na'eem Jeenah ( Director of The Freedom of Expression Institute) does not adopt an independent, fair and objective stance with regard to his work at The FXI.
He launches a personal attack on Geoff Sifrin ( editor of The South African Jewish Report), referring to him as "not a very trustworthy editor" and "less than ethical editor".
Clearly ,Jeenah would not have felt "a tad uncomfortable with the whole discussion" if he was not director of The Freedom of Expression Institute. However, riding two horses is not only uncomfortable...it is also extremely dangerous for freedom of expression in South Africa.
4 May 2007 (NA'EEM JEENAH'S BLOG)
Ethical journalist, less than ethical editor.
Na'eem Jeenah writes:
I felt a tad uncomfortable with the whole discussion. I was a speaker at the Al-Nakba Conference in Cape Town, commemorating the 59th anniversary of the Catastrophe visited on the Palestinian people in 1948.
I was to speak on the third and last day of the conference, on the “Founding myths of the State of Israel”. But, just after all the speakers had been introduced and just before we could start speaking, one of the organisers asked for the mike to raise an issue.
Apparently, a reporter of the South African Jewish Report was present in the audience and some conferees had complained to the organisers that they did not feel comfortable about this. The organiser who announced this asked the conference what their feeling was about what should be done.
Now before any accusations of “anti-Semitic” start flying around, let me just mention that there were a number of Jews that had been present at the conference from the first day. In fact, most also participated very strongly in the discussions and one Jewish person facilitated the crucial “Way Forward” session at the end (and did a damn good job of it too). So the complaint from some members of the audience had nothing to do with the fact that Moira Schneider was a Jew. Rather, they were concerned, as it emerged in the discussion, about what she would write and whether the organisers would have the right to reply if they felt that her report contained certain falsities.
I sat there somewhat bemused as I observed the debate. Being the Director of Operations of the Freedom of Expression Institute, I knew what my position was on the issue. But this was not my conference; I was just a speaker. So I watched and listened.
Fortunately, conference made the correct decision: it decided to allow Ms Schneider to stay in the conference and to do her report. This followed her assurance to the conference that she would not submit her report to the SAJR until she received a guarantee from the editor, Geoff Sifrin, that he would allow the conference organisers – the Friends of Al-Aqsa – the right to reply if they felt aggrieved by the report. Conferees accepted her “journalistic ethic”, believed she was sincere in her assurance, everyone seemed to relax and we were finally allowed to speak.
I began my presentation by informing the audience of my position in the FXI and telling them that if they had decided to ask the journalist to leave the conference, I would have issued a media statement the next morning condemning the conference for its stance. Fortunately, the right decision was made and I was spared the tediousness of writing yet another media release.
Everyone seemed happy, so this story should end here. I cannot allow it to, however. Accepting Ms Schneider’s assurance was the right thing to do. However, the conference was also implicitly accepting another assurance – that of the SAJR editor, who wasn’t even there to give it. If recent events are anything to go by, Mr Sifrin does not have the best reputation for giving people the right of reply.
At the end of last year, the SAJR ran an article which was a direct challenge to Minister Ronnie Kasrils, asking him to answer a number of questions. Sifrin had assured Kasrils that the paper would publish Kasrils response. However, when Kasrils submitted his reply, Sifrin refused to publish. Not only did Sifrin deny Kasrils the right of reply, he also went back on his word. Not a very trustworthy editor, in my opinion. I’m sure the Friends of Al-Aqsa are waiting to see what Schneider’s article will say. And then they will probably wait to see whether the editor will make good on his promise. People do change, sometimes.
For some background on the SAJR-Kasrils issue, see "On Jewish Report's censoring of Ronnie Kasrils"
Posted by na'eem jeenah at 04:46 1 comments Links to this post
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"Ethical journalist, less than ethical editor"
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THE DICTATOR / EMBITTERED CORRESPONDENT said...
Dear Na'eem Jeenah,
I quote your latest blog editorial (May 14th 2007) "ETHICAL JOURNALIST, LESS THAN ETHICAL EDITOR" http://naeemjeenah.blogspot.com/
"At the end of last year, the SAJR ran an article which was a direct challenge to Minister Ronnie Kasrils, asking him to answer a number of questions. Sifrin had assured Kasrils that the paper would publish Kasrils response. However, when Kasrils submitted his reply, Sifrin refused to publish. Not only did Sifrin deny Kasrils the right of reply, he also went back on his word. Not a very trustworthy editor, in my opinion. I’m sure the Friends of Al-Aqsa are waiting to see what Schneider’s article will say. And then they will probably wait to see whether the editor will make good on his promise. People do change, sometimes."
As you are well aware, the reason that Mr Sifrin refused Mr Kasril's right to reply was that his article was littered with assertions that The Israelis are Nazis. Some of The SAJR's readers are holocaust survivors and find such comments extremely abhorrent. They did not escape the gas chambers to have "their dignity violated" when reading their community newspaper.
Would a Muslim newspaper in South Africa be compelled to feature The Danish cartoons if an article had appeared denigrating them? I don't think so!
On April 26th 2007, in an email to me, you wrote the following:
I'm unsure whether I can agree that "most members of the Jewish
community" would feel their dignity violated by Minister Kasrils
comments, since I don't have any proper poll results available to
me. However, I have no doubt that a substantial section of the
Jewish community would feel that way. Similarly, a substantial
section of the Muslim community felt that way about the Danish
In the circumstances please, as a representative of The FXI, withdraw your comment that Mr Sifrin is "not a very trustworthy editor."
21 May, 2007 18:22