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The price of ‘free’ speech

Expressing opinions on Israel and Palestine could cost you.

Jerusalem24 – When reporting things like political violence and wars, journalists face a whole different kind of conflict as their ethics and professionalism demand ‘objectivity’. Many people who aren’t in the situation and have never experienced this depend on media outlets to form their own view of the situation, which makes the burden on the journalists even more intense.

Journalists in Canada are frustrated with Canadian media coverage without context and with an obvious absence of Palestinian voices. Some shared frustrating experiences of advocating for nuanced coverage of international issues in their newsrooms. Others asked for advice on how to approach their editors about concerns with coverage, or lack of what was really going on in the region. So, they drafted an open letter. It ended by asking for “fair and balanced coverage” of the conflict.

The letter was signed by more than 2000 people, including journalists and writers in Canada and the US.

Many people paid a high price for supporting and standing in solidarity with Palestine, for example, Dr. Valentina Azarova expressed her solidarity with Palestine. As a result, the University of Toronto withdrew a job offer for Azarova as an International Human Rights Law Program Director. Amnesty International responded by suspending its relationship with the university. And said it was unable to “take at face value the claim that the hire was frozen solely due to immigration issues, rather than external influence from a major university donor critical of Dr. Azarova’s academic work on Israel and Palestine.”

Another example from Canadian newsrooms, two journalists from Canada’s national broadcaster CBC said they’ve been barred from covering news about Palestine and Israel after signing an open letter criticizing coverage of Israeli occupation attacks against Gaza; and calling for more fair coverage.

Editor-in-chief of CBC News, said the letter violates the section of the broadcaster’s journalistic standards and practices that states journalists “won’t take a public position that affects the perception of impartiality and could affect an open and honest exploration of an issue.”

Employees were told that signing the letter gave them the appearance of having a bias and that it violated the broadcaster’s code of conduct because the letter was critical of the CBC.

Many journalists and scholars demand labor unions in Canada to closely follow up all these cases and put pressure on University of Toronto to stop donors’ interference and on Canadian media to give more space for Palestinian voices.

In the meantime, in the US, The Associated Press reportedly fired journalist Emily Wilder after the Stanford College Republicans tweeted about her pro-Palestine activism in university.  Wilder told SFGATE she was told she was fired for violating the AP’s social media policy.

Just 16 days after she joined the news organization, the Associated Press fired  for her posts on social media. Emily Wilder, who is Jewish, is a 2020 graduate of Stanford University; where she was a part of pro-Palestinian groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine. Several conservative groups, including the Stanford College Republicans, resurfaced Wilder’s social media posts from college calling out Israel.

A spokesperson for the AP said, “She was dismissed for violations of AP’s social media policy during her time at AP.” Wilder says no one at the AP pointed to the specific social media posts.

“I love journalism and part of what I think makes me such a capable, powerful journalist is how much I care about the people I write about, particularly the marginalized,” Wilder told the Washington Post. “That’s why I joined the Associated Press, and they saw me as capable.”

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