donderdag, september 02, 2004

The war in the gym

I was on the treadmill at the gym yesterday, watching the war (Well, I had a choice of either the war or the French version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? It turns out it was La Paz that was the South American capital that was more than 1,000 metres above sea level, not Rio de Janeiro. I should have known that), watching, you know, tanks and soldiers and buildings off in the distance getting bombed and setting of those brown-beige puffs of dust and smoke just like the puffball mushrooms my friends and I used to stomp on in the woods as kids, the usual stuff, and I thought to myself, "I'm in the gym watching the war. I'm in the fucking gym watching the fucking war….This music they're playing here is really shit."


From the Christian Science Monitor

From al-Jazeera

…so then on came footage of veiled French Muslim women in Paris demonstrating against the abduction of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, the journalists from Radio France Internationale and Le Figaro. Throughout the Middle East and around the world, Muslims have spoken out and demonstrated against these kidnappings.The French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), France's official Muslim body accompanied the French foreign minister today on his mission to Jordan to try to win the freedom of the two journalists. The Union of Muslim Organizations in France (UOIF), the main organisation in France organising against the French ban on wearing the veil in public buildings, issued a statement saying it "vigorously condemned the taking of hostages." The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) on Monday urged the group that abducted them to release them without delay. The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizbollah, Yasser Arafat, Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Kuftaro, and Muqtada al-Sadr all denounces the kidnappings and called for the hostages to be freed.

And al-Jazeera and the Tehran Times have issued editorials condemning the abductions too.

As a journalist, I am particularly concerned about these two men (not because I care any less about anybody else who has been abducted or worse, but because I cannot help it due to what I do for a living. I cannot help but imagine myself in their situation. They instantly appear in my thoughts) and I feel the same when I read of journalists anywhere being killed or shot or kidnapped. Or bombed or fired upon. And so I am so especially happy to see Muslim media outlets condemn such acts.

I just wish American and British news outlets had condemned with equal force the US government when US forces shelled the Palestine hotel in Baghdad in April 2003, killing three journalists, or when US forces bombed the offices of al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV the same month, or when the month before, an Arab television crew in Basra came under gunfire from British tanks, or when US forces bombed the offices of al-Jazeera in Kabul during the bombardment of Afghanistan, or when three journalists were killed when US forces bombed the Chinese embassy during attacks of Yugoslavia in 1999, or when US forces bombed a Serbian television station during the same conflict, killing 25 journalists* .

[So, forgive the repetition, but let me get this straight: the US bombed al-Jazeera in Afghanistan, bombed al-Jazeera again in Baghdad, as well as Abu Dhabi TV, and bombed Serbian television, and shelled the hotel in Baghdad that was widely known to house journalists. Hmmm. If I didn't know better, I'd think there was a pattern there…]

There were some publications that did denounce those attacks, mostly the usual suspects - the Guardian, the Independent and, of course, journalists' organisations like Reporters Without Borders, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and unions like the NUJ and the International Federation of Journalists, but that is to be expected, and there were few others.

Attacks on journalists must stop. Period. Whether they come from Islamic militants or from a great height by the US Air Force and RAF.

*Which reminds me, now that we're supposed to feel all palsy-walsy with Clare Short, following the attack on Serbian TV, the then secretary of state for international development said at the time that the building was 'a legitimate target'. I wonder if she considers the French journalists today to be legitimate targets too. [What I wouldn't give to see some UK TV or radio journo invite Ms. Short to come in and speak about the abductions and then spring that question on her, after she had dutifully condemned the attacks and, possibly, the war. 'So, Ms. Short, in 1999, following the UK/US bombing of a Serbian television station, which killed 25 journalists, you described the building as a legitimate target. I presume then that you feel that these two kidnapped journalists are legitimate targets now as well? No? Can you explain what's different then?' Oooh, that'd be great. Squirmy, squirmy, squirmy.]