Hanif on Media

News Media, New Media, Politics, Culture & Spiritual Perspectives from South Florida to Infinity.

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Catching up is good to do

June 23rd · Inlet Grove Community High School, Iraq, South Florida Times

shoes 300x225 Catching up is good to do

Graduation style, June 2014.

Just finished a great year with my Journalism students at Inlet Grove Community High School, plus two before that as managing editor of the South Florida Times. Now summer’s back again, I’m missing my students and the newsroom — so what better to do than pause and give thanks for all the good. It’s also a good time to catch up on missed family and friends, obligations and opportunities, community service and activities. To get in some biking and swimming. And of course, with so much going on — from the regrettable (Iraq. Again.) to the unforgettable (Gooooooooooooooooooooal!) — more writing, editing and reading. Meanwhile I’m back up for air; feel free to be in touch.


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Juan Cole on Libya: Looking back. And forward

August 25th · Iraq, Juan Cole

The illegal American invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation was so epochal a catastrophe that it spawned a negative phrase in Arabic, “to Iraqize” or `arqana…So how can Libyans and the world avoid the Iraqization of Libya?

— Juan Cole, “How to Avoid Bush’s Iraq Mistakes in Libya”

University of Michigan Prof. Juan Cole’s analyses on all things Middle Eastern at his Informed Comment site (juancole.com), are like music to a thinking person’s ears. Take a look back over the past few days’ postings, including his “Top Ten Myths about the Libya War.”

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Now, who will lay bare Rupert Murdock’s shenanigans on this side of the pond?

July 14th · 9/11, Alan Rusbridger, Juan Cole, news media, Newspapers, The Guardian

The News of the World debacle is a huge media story — and in typical fashion, our “Fair & Balanced” major news media organizations generally don’t know how to deal with it. Namely, by stating the facts. Such as:
“It seems increasingly likely that the techniques of bullying, coercion, spying, and the politics of personal destruction common at the News of the World were not limited to this one piece of the Murdoch media empire. Even short of hacking, Murdoch’s properties often behave like cults, not news organizations. We have known for a long time that Fox Cable News instructs reporters on how to spin the news and promotes fascist demagogues in the evening magazine shows.” — Professor Juan Cole at Informed Comment: “Is Murdoch’s Media Empire A Cult?”

This week, Murdock tried to head it all off by backing out of his $12 billion BSkyB satellite broadcast takeover bid. Today, the Guardian reported that “A threat of imprisonment by parliament forced Rupert Murdoch and his son James to perform a volte face and agree to give evidence next week to a Commons committee investigating why News International executives provided false information to MPs.”
It couldn’t happen to more deserving guys. As things continue falling apart, here for those just tuning in are a couple of compelling videos that really lay bare the Murdoch mess. 
The first features Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, who I’ve greatly admired since I first got to know him during our annual international Organization of News Ombudsmen meetings:

The second features Nick Davies, the amazing reporter who refused to take no for a story:


Now, who will lay bare Murdock’s shenanigans on this side of the pond? Just in from the Guardian“FBI launches investigation into allegations that 9/11 victims’ phones were targeted.” Faux News anyone? Fixed News? I’m surprised that anyone’s surprised.
— C.B. Hanif


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‘Our News and their News’

June 7th · Juan Cole

Juan Cole pretty much says it re our depressing media landscape:

Americans live in a late capitalist society where the rich have gotten many times richer and the middle class has gotten poorer, where Wall Street bankers have stolen us blind and blamed us for living above our means, where persistent unemployment is worse than in the Great Depression, where most politicians and some judges have been bought by corporations or special interests, where authorities actively conspire to keep people from voting, where the government spies on citizens assiduously without warrant or probable cause, and where the minds of the sheep are kept off their fleecing by substituting celebrity gossip, sex scandals, and half-disguised bigotry for genuine news…


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I’d run that TV ‘Green Hornet’ marathon, if I had time

January 27th · Florida Weekly

I’ve seen the movie trailer. It seemed to shout, ‘Invest your money, intelligence and dignity elsewhere: Catch the Syfy marathon.’

— From my latest commentary in Florida Weekly.

Read the column here. See the page here. See this week’s entire Digital Edition here. Or just keep reading:

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Ten Days In Baku That Shook (Her) World

January 2nd · Azerbaijan, Baku, ONO, Organization of News Ombudsmen

S6304186 300x225 Ten Days In Baku That Shook (Her) World

“Isn’t Azerbaijan a democratic republic? Constitutionally, it is, of course. But the constitution is one thing and the political culture and practice are something else.”

— Christel Fricke, director of the Center for the Study of Mind in Nature at the University of Oslo, Norway, writing at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

DSCN8339 300x225 Ten Days In Baku That Shook (Her) World

It’s a new year in Baku, Azerbaijan, which I last wrote about here, after visiting, on behalf of the international Organization of News Ombudsmen, here.

DSCN8468 300x225 Ten Days In Baku That Shook (Her) World

Even as bustling Baku booms, it seems the more things change, the more things…don’t? As Ms. Fricke observes, the struggle continues.

More Baku scenes:

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2010: An eclectic best and worst list

January 1st · Florida Weekly

For example,  for 2010’s Worst Christmas Tree, I nominate the $11 million, jewel-encrusted, “most expensive Christmas tree ever.”

— From my latest commentary in Florida Weekly.

Read it here. See the page here. See this week’s entire Digital Edition here. Or just keep reading:

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Best Book of the Season: First, get plugged in?

December 16th · Florida Weekly

When it comes to what to read these days I find myself simultaneously a traditionalist and a technophile, fighting a losing battle against the biggest blockbuster of this holiday season: the electronic book.

— From my latest commentary in Florida Weekly

See it here. See this week’s entire Digital Edition here. See the page here. Or just keep reading:

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WikiLeaks helpful, hurtful or just voyeuristic?

December 13th · Florida Weekly

From my latest Florida Weekly commentary:

Perusing the trove of sensitive documents is like viewing our world neighbors’ — and our own — dirty linen. Foreign leaders are as embarrassed as our own. I was left wondering just who decided what got leaked.

Read the rest here. See this week’s entire Digital Edition here. Or, just keep reading:

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For our freedom, a journalist’s thanks from Baku

November 25th · Barack Obama, Florida Weekly, ONO, Organization of News Ombudsmen

Baku Youth 300x225 For our freedom, a journalists thanks from Baku

Will journalistic and other freedoms boom for this Baku youth the way everything else around him seems to be?

A couple of months after my visit, “Journalism 2.0” author Mark Briggs confirmed from Baku that “There certainly is a lot of interest in journalism for a place that has such struggles with it.”

From my latest offering in Florida Weekly’s Palm Beach Gardens edition, here. Or just keep reading:

And now, to be thankful for something completely different:

Unlike other places in the world we live in a country where, in the words of Stephen Biko of South Africa, “I write what I like.”

We get to cuss out our government officials, even question whether their birth certificates were stamped USA or Kenya, without putting our lives at risk like the anti-apartheid martyr.

In contrast, I met human rights attorney and distinguished former Azerbaijan Parliament member Matlab Mutallimli while in that country in March representing my colleagues of the international Organization of News Ombudsmen.

News ombudsmen field concerns at their news organizations and generally respond publicly.

In Baku, the Caspian sea capital of the oil-rich former Soviet republic that now is the Free Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, the news the other day: “Azerbaijan must immediately release Eynulla Fatullayev.”

It was for his articles critical of the government that Mr. Fatullayev was arrested in 2007 and eventually sentenced to a cumulative eight years in jail on charges ranging from “Incitement of hatred” to tax evasion. So say his defenders, who include the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders.

For years Mr. Fatullayev suffered beatings, threats and the persecution of his family because of his outspoken journalism.

In April the European Court of Human Rights, whose rulings Azerbaijan is obligated to observe, found that Mr. Fatullayev’s rights of free expression had been violated and that he had been unfairly tried. The ECHR ordered his release with 27,822 Euros ($37,854) in compensation.

In July, however, Mr. Fatullayev was sentenced to an additional 2½ years on charges of possession of narcotics, which he says are routinely planted by Baku prison guards to silence critics.

On Nov. 11 the Azerbaijani Supreme Court agreed to implement the ECHR decision — while not addressing the drug charges. And in what the Committee to Protect Journalists called a ruling “blatantly tailored to defy the European Court’s order,” a Baku Appeals Court has said he will remain imprisoned while he appeals those charges.

Other Azeri journalists have been even less fortunate.

Enter my host, Matlab Mutallimli. While I broke from a whirlwind schedule of meetings and interviews with journalists and news organizations, he motioned me to follow him through a crowd to the front of a memorial service at the grave of Elmar Huseynov.

Huseynov Flyer 225x300 For our freedom, a journalists thanks from Baku

Baku Rally1 300x225 For our freedom, a journalists thanks from Baku

It was the anniversary of the brutal 2005 shooting murder of Mr. Huseynov.

Baku Dad 300x225 For our freedom, a journalists thanks from Baku

A father's graveside grief for his son.

The award-winning journalist had suffered threats and incarceration for his criticism of Azerbaijani authorities. He was fined and forced to close his popular Monitor after being convicted in 1998 of “insulting the nation.”

The view of many gathered was that the Azeri government was responsible for the assassination of Mr. Huseynov, who our U.S. ambassador at his first memorial service had described as a national hero.

I confess to having little clue about the challenges of establishing a free, democratic, post-Soviet era government.

As a journalist, I also don’t take allegations as givens, one reason I would have liked the organizers of my visit to have arranged for me to speak to “the other side,” so to speak.

Yet one of our government officials there has told me that as for higher levels, they are not open to such meetings. They’ve heard it many times before. Ahh, progress on media? Not really.

A couple of months after my visit, “Journalism 2.0” author Mark Briggs confirmed from Baku that “There certainly is a lot of interest in journalism for a place that has such struggles with it.” Among the hurdles he cited:

“News outlets must receive a special license from the government, which means there is little investigative reporting. (The government doesn’t tolerate criticism.) Independent news sources, mostly online, apparently operate with a single-minded focus on complaining about the government, so the idea of journalistic objectivity and fairness are a ‘are work in progress,’ to put it mildly.’ Still, many journalists I spoke to are hopeful that the Internet will change the game and bring a diversity of voices and reporting to a nation that sorely needs it.”

And the fact that there is no news on regulating the Internet is one place where there is some hope.

Our own news media are not guiltless, of course.

I’ve mentioned before my ombudsman colleagues chastising us U.S. media types for cheerleading our nation and the world into the Iraq disaster. Just this year, we have endured another round of idiotic media fascination over whether President Barack Obama was born in the USA or is a closet Muslim. We’ve had journalists give carte blanc to “angry” folks who threaten to tote weapons to public rallies, rather than call it out as the thinly veiled thuggery that it is.

And sure, our radio and TV blowhards get to say pretty much what they want. But our government doesn’t make us listen. We all get to tune them out. Because — in popular culture jargon — that’s how we roll.

It’s just more of our freedom that we should not take for granted.

So thanks, Dear Readers — especially those of you who fought and marched and even died — for my freedom to write what I hope you and I like.

BakuMan 300x225 For our freedom, a journalists thanks from Baku

On a street in Baku.

Thanksgiving Day addenda:

Voice of America: Azerbaijanis Blog for Freedom

MSNBC: Azerbaijan frees second critical blogger

— C.B. Hanif

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