Associated Press In Print: Saturday, February 5, 2011 WASHINGTON — After nearly a decade of wrangling, the Transportation Security Administration on Friday gave more than 40,000 airport screeners the right to vote on limited collective bargaining rights, strengthening their voice in work conditions but barring them from striking or negotiating over pay or security procedures. The decision — though limited — won praise from government worker unions and many TSA workers, who fought to win the same protections as other federal employees despite claims from Republican lawmakers that union demands could jeopardize national security or slow response times in a crisis
In Print: Saturday, February 5, 2011
WASHINGTON — After nearly a decade of wrangling, the Transportation Security Administration on Friday gave more than 40,000 airport screeners the right to vote on limited collective bargaining rights, strengthening their voice in work conditions but barring them from striking or negotiating over pay or security procedures.
The decision — though limited — won praise from government worker unions and many TSA workers, who fought to win the same protections as other federal employees despite claims from Republican lawmakers that union demands could jeopardize national security or slow response times in a crisis.
The agency’s administrator, John Pistole, said the decision will allow bargaining on a national level over certain employment issues such as setting work shifts, transfers, vacation time and awards. The deal prohibits negotiating on issues that might affect security.
U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, called the decision “an Obama union payoff” and said it would hamstring the fight against terrorism.
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Journalists, citizens attacked in Egypt STORY HIGHLIGHTS “This a dark day for Egypt and a dark day for journalism,” organization says “Attacks on reporters are unacceptable,” President Obama says Al-Jazeera says a “gang of thugs” stormed its office Journalists have been beaten, detained and harassed (CNN) — President Obama condemned the attacks on journalists in Egypt Friday amid mounting criticism that the assaults were being orchestrated by President Hosni Mubarark to suppress international coverage of bloodshed by pro-government operatives against peaceful protesters. “We continue to be crystal clear that we oppose violence as a response to this crisis,” Obama said
Journalists, citizens attacked in Egypt
- “This a dark day for Egypt and a dark day for journalism,” organization says
- “Attacks on reporters are unacceptable,” President Obama says
- Al-Jazeera says a “gang of thugs” stormed its office
- Journalists have been beaten, detained and harassed
(CNN) — President Obama condemned the attacks on journalists in Egypt Friday amid mounting criticism that the assaults were being orchestrated by President Hosni Mubarark to suppress international coverage of bloodshed by pro-government operatives against peaceful protesters.
“We continue to be crystal clear that we oppose violence as a response to this crisis,” Obama said. “We are sending a strong, unequivocal message: Attacks on reporters are unacceptable. Attacks on human rights activists are unacceptable. Attacks on peaceful protesters are unacceptable.”
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday that the administration continues “to receive very disturbing reports” of “systematic targeting” of journalists in Egypt.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has excoriated Mubarak for “an unprecedented and systematic attack” on international reporters.
“This is a dark day for Egypt and a dark day for journalism,” CPJ executive director Joel Simon said. “With this turn of events, Egypt is seeking to create an information vacuum that puts it in the company of the world’s worst oppressors, countries such as Burma, Iran and Cuba.”
“We hold President Mubarak personally responsible for this unprecedented action,” said Simon, “and call on the Egyptian government to reverse course immediately.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit committee promoting press freedoms worldwide, said Friday it has recorded at least 101 direct attacks on journalists and news facilities this week. The anti-press activities include assaults, detentions and threats, the committee said.
Friday’s attacks weren’t as severe as Thursday’s peak offenses, but the hostilities against a free press remain at “an alarming level that must be halted,” the committee said.
Plainclothes and uniformed agents reportedly went so far as to even enter journalists’ hotels and confiscate equipment, the committee said.
A journalist shot a week ago while covering a demonstration died Friday, a state newspaper reported, according to the committee.
It was the first reported journalistic death during the weeklong uprising, it said.
Ahmad Mohamed Mahmoud of the newspaper Al-Ta’awun, published by the state-owned Al-Ahram Foundation, died from a sniper’s bullets fired while he was filming confrontations between demonstrators and security forces January 28 in central Cairo’s Qasr al-Aini area, adjacent to Tahrir Square, Al-Jazeera and the semi-official Al-Ahram reported Friday, according to the committee.
The Mubarak regime hasn’t discriminated in which sorts of journalists are being attacked: Egyptians and other Arabs, Russians, Americans, Europeans and South Americans all have been targeted, the committee said.
Speaking on state-run Nile TV Thursday, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman mentioned the role of the media and, at least in part, blamed journalists for the country’s current unrest.
“I actually blame certain friendly nations who have television channels, they are not friendly at all, who have intensified the youth against the nation and the state,” he said. “They have filled in the minds of the youth with wrongdoings, with allegations, and this is unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attacks Thursday, “in the strongest possible terms.”
Pro-government journalists and officials have been engaging in a campaign the past two days accusing foreign journalists of being spies or, in particular, “Israeli spies,” the committee said. In one instance, a woman whose face was obscured “confessed” to having been trained by “Americans and Israelis” in Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based, the committee said.
NPR journalist Lourdes Garcia-Navarro and her Egyptian-American colleague Ashraf Khalil, provided a typical account Thursday of how routine street reporting quickly turned in a thuggish assault on them.
While interviewing a taxi driver about food, money and security in a middle-class neighborhood across the river and a good distance from the often-violent Tahrir Square, at least a dozen men suddenly surrounded them, Garcia-Navarro said on the NPR website.
They asked for IDs and whether they were Israeli spies or worked for Al-Jazeera, an Arabic-language media outlet whose extensive coverage has angered the Mubarak regime.
The men surrounded Garcia-Navarro in her car and repeatedly punched Khalil in the face. After 10 minutes, the army showed up, calmed the mob and protected the journalists.
“What happened today — I’ve lived here on and off since 1997 — I did not think they had it in them, this kind of violent paranoia and xenophobia,” journalist Khalil said. “I’ve never seen Egypt like this.”
The attacks against reporters targeted some of the most prominent news organizations in the Western and Arab worlds alike.
The Al-Jazeera network said Friday that a “gang of thugs” stormed its Cairo office and burned the facility and the equipment there.
Al-Jazeera said that over the past week “its bureau was forcibly closed, all its journalists had press credentials revoked, and nine journalists were detained at various stages.” The network said it “faced unprecedented levels of interference in its broadcast signal as well as persistent and repeated attempts to bring down its websites.”
Like other networks, Al-Jazeera said it won’t let such obstacles stop it from gathering news.
“We are grateful for the support we have received from across the world for our coverage in Egypt and can assure everyone that we will continue our work undeterred,” a network spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the French Foreign Ministry said it has had no word on the whereabouts of three French journalists and a French researcher in Egypt. The journalists work for Le Figaro newspaper and Magneto Presse, and the researcher is employed by Amnesty International, it said.
A prominent blogger, Wael Abbas, said a group of people who said they thought he was a foreigner detained him Friday afternoon. They turned him over to the military, which released him, he said.
And the Egyptian military secured 18 journalists who were captured by thugs and took them to a “safe place,” Egyptian state media reported Friday.
It was unclear which news organizations the journalists worked for or where they had been taken. CNN could not independently confirm the report.
Journalists attempting to cover unrest in Egypt have reported being beaten, arrested and harassed by security forces and police Thursday, leading to sharply limited television coverage of the protests.
Along with Al-Jazeera, other news outlets — including the BBC, Al-Arabiya, ABC News, the Washington Post, Fox News, and CNN — said members of their staffs had been attacked or otherwise targeted. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also reported that staffers were detained.
U.S. State Department officials told CNN earlier that they had information that Egypt’s Interior Ministry was behind the journalist detentions, citing reports from the U.S. Embassy in Egypt.
“The threats to journalists on the street were explicit, and increasing. We pulled back accordingly to protect our people,” said CNN Executive Vice President Tony Maddox.
The Islamist group Muslim Brotherhood reported that its website office was stormed Friday by security forces, who arrested “the journalists, the technicians and the administrators” in the office. A “gang of thugs” accompanied the forces, the Muslim Brotherhood said.
Some of those individuals were later seen being taken near the Interior Ministry headquarters, the website said.
CNN’s Christine Theodorou, Jill Dougherty, Elise Labott, Ben Smith, Mary Rogers and Caroline Faraj contributed to this report.
Continue reading here: Journalist organization, Obama condemn attacks on reporters in Egypt – CNN International
As events in Egypt have riveted world attention on the Middle East, the region’s dominant messenger again is taking fire. Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based pan-Arabic broadcasting network, is proving a vital source of breaking news as a popular rising threatens to topple the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. From the start in Egypt, Al-Jazeera has been ahead of the competition, not only in broadcasting images of the unrest but in interviewing key players, from former international nuclear watchdog Mohamad ElBaradei to pro-democracy dissident Ayman Nour to Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Kamal Helbaw
As events in Egypt have riveted world attention on the Middle East, the region’s dominant messenger again is taking fire. Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based pan-Arabic broadcasting network, is proving a vital source of breaking news as a popular rising threatens to topple the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
From the start in Egypt, Al-Jazeera has been ahead of the competition, not only in broadcasting images of the unrest but in interviewing key players, from former international nuclear watchdog Mohamad ElBaradei to pro-democracy dissident Ayman Nour to Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Kamal Helbaw.
Inevitably the network also has become part of the story as it has been banned by Mubarak’s government but relied on by viewers around the world for images unavailable elsewhere.
Al-Jazeera often is attacked as “anti-American” and anti-Semitic for its willingness to, for instance, interview al-Qaida officials, air statements from Osama bin Laden and provide air time to declared enemies of Israel. But its approach to news coverage is more complicated than that.
Video: Al Jazeera nets peoples’ trust, governments’ wrath (on this page)
While critics fulminate about the use of terms like “martyrs” to describe Hamas suicide bombers, it is also true that Al-Jazeera is virtually alone among Arabic broadcasters in maintaining a bureau inside Israel and that its sharp-eyed reports fiercely target the region’s corrupt regimes.
Al-Jazeera has faced bans and expulsion from virtually every country in the region at one time or another since its founding in the late 1990s by journalists left jobless when the BBC’s Arabic television network imploded in a fight with its Saudi-backers over editorial independence.
In the midst of protests on Jan. 30, Egypt banned its broadcasts and rescinded its media credentials. Al-Jazeera’s offices in Cairo were attacked and burned by angry pro-Mubarak mobs on Friday, according to the network.
“Regimes kicking journalists or entire news organizations out of the country is a desperate calculation,” says Andrew Nagorski, director of public policy at the East-West Center, who himself was kicked out of the Soviet Union in 1982 during his stint there as a Moscow correspondent. “I think you look back at it as a kind of badge of honor, and after all it’s a good indication that you were doing your job.”
Egypt’s ban on Al-Jazeera, in the age of the Internet and satellite television, has had little effect. The network’s round-the-clock reporting from Tahrir Square in Cairo continues to find satellite dishes that dot Egypt’s landscape, and its video is widely accessible on the Internet. Al-Jazeera also has images beaming out from other Egyptian cities like Alexandria, Port Said and Luxor, places Western media outlets have had difficulty reaching.
Such is its influence that the White House felt compelled to arrange a special feed of Al-Jazeera’s English language television service, which is not available on any U.S. cable channel, apparently because no other media outlet has been able to report on the tumult in Egypt with the same depth and context. The Egyptian unrest has sparked a new campaign on Twitter and elsewhere to make the network more widely available in the United States.
The question of whether Al-Jazeera plays fair and reports objectively by U.S. standards has frequently been a source of criticism. Al-Jazeera’s defenders respond by comparing the network’s marketing strategy to that of Fox News: Know who your audience is, tell them the news they want to hear and how they want to hear it, and they will come back regularly.
This strategy, applied to the Arab world, invariably has clashed with American interests, particularly early in the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” President George W. Bush and his senior aides regularly denounced al-Jazeera, even though Bush granted an interview to the network later in his tenure.
U.S. friction went beyond words, however. An ongoing court case in Britain has established that there was at least talk among senior U.S. officials of bombing al-Jazeera’s offices in Kabul and even its headquarters in Qatar.
Al-Jazeera’s Afghan office was destroyed by an American airstrike in 2001, and an attack on the Basra Hotel in Baghdad killed several journalists working in its offices there in 2003. Bush officials have described these incidents, and others, as accidents of war.
Among the chorus of American critics denouncing al-Jazeera more recently is a former U.S. ambassador to Morocco, Marc Ginsberg. He alleges the network’s coverage of unrest in Tunisia last month stoked the rebellion that overthrew that country’s dictator and then inflamed anger against repressive regimes across the Arab world.
Ginsberg, writing last month in the Huffington Post, argued that Al-Jazeera is stoking hostility against Arab rulers with its “anti-authoritarian editorial bias.”
“Through Internet and Twitter feeds, Al-Jazeera sees itself less and less as exclusively a news gathering organization and more and more like a ‘Wizard of Oz’ type instrument for social upheaval in the region,” he wrote.
Bias or perspective?
Whether Al-Jazeera’s approach is a matter of bias or perspective becomes a difficult question: Bias, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. And that means the consumer of news, regardless of the source, must beware.
“You have to have a critical eye about any media outlet you rely on for news,” says Nagorski. “I don’t think that disqualifies them in any way, but you have to figure out what their agenda might be.”
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No one who watches Al-Jazeera can argue that it isn’t driven by a missionary zeal to upend the status quo in the Middle East. Its targets include pro-American despots (Mubarak, the Saudi monarchy or Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika) and anti-American despots (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). That has given it unrivaled credibility in the eyes of an Arab public that long ago concluded its own state-run media outlets were often little more than propaganda outlets for the regime in power.
Al-Jazeera’s news agenda has caused discomfort for its ultimate patron, the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who bankrolled the network’s startup with a $137 million investment in 1996 and gave it facilities in his capital city, Doha. Ad revenues reportedly have long since made the station financially self-sufficient.
Since its inception but especially since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, those attempting to follow events in the Middle East have had to rely at least in part on reporting by the network, which has more than 400 reporters in over 60 countries, according to its Web site.
Most Americans have little sense of how much of what they have viewed on U.S. television networks was video purchased from Al-Jazeera. This includes now-famous images like the initial air strikes on Baghdad, footage of Iranian security forces beating pro-democracy demonstrators and virtually every videotaped message from Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, since 9/11.
Michael Moran, a former msnbc.com columnist and editor, is executive editor and chief geostrategist for Roubini Global Economics in New York, as well as a foreign affairs columnist for Globalpost.com and an adjunct professor at Bard College.
© 2011 msnbc.com.
Continue reading here: In Cairo, Al-Jazeera finds itself in line of fire – msnbc.com