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The Major TV Networks Crack Down — On Themselves — to Restrict Their News Coverage of Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan

StoryOctober 11, 2001
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The five major television news organizations reached a joint agreement yesterday to follow the suggestion of theWhite House and abridge any future videotaped statements from Osama bin Laden or his followers to remove language thegovernment considers inflammatory. The decision is the first time in memory that the networks had agreed to a jointarrangement to limit their prospective news coverage. It was described by one network executive as a “patriotic”decision that grew out of a conference call between the nation’s top television news executives and the White Housenational security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, yesterday morning.

The five news organizations, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, along with its subsidiary, MSNBC, the Cable News Networkand the Fox News Channel all had broadcast, an unedited taped message from Osama bin Laden on Sunday. On Tuesday, theall-news cable channels, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, also carried the complete speech of a spokesmen for Al Qaeda.

White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer indicated in his news briefing yesterday that Rice was primarily concernedthat terrorists could be using the broadcasts to send coded messages to other terrorists. Last month, Fleischergenerated concerns about the administration’s tolerance of dissent when he warned, “There are reminders to allAmericans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do.”

This decision comes against the backdrop of government unhappiness that the Voice of America, the U.S.-sponsoredbroadcaster, aired an excerpt of an interview with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, in direct defiance of theState Department. In sharp contrast to the Clinton administration, the Bush White House has aggressively sought tokeep firm control on information, even on the most mundane of items. In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, they havefurther tightened the reins. Censoring news is a common practice during wartime, but this call to news executivesraises the specter of restricting the flow of information from the source that Americans most frequently turnto—television.


  • Danny Schechter, founder and Executive Editor of Mediachannel.Org.
  • George Monbiot, columnist for the British paper The Guardian.

Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes On The Rise Across The Nation
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington there are over 700 of reports of hate crimesagainst Muslims and Arab Americans, and those perceived to be of Middle Eastern descent. At least four homicides arebeing investigated as possible hate crimes. Arab American community groups tracking the attacks say they have notseen such high numbers since the Gulf War ten years ago. The Arab American Discrimination Committee in Washingtonsays they have collected more reports of possible hate crimes than they have recorded in any of their previous books.

On Monday we reported on the latest death being investigated as a hate crime, the killing of Abdo Ali Ahmed, who wasshot in his convenience store near Fresno California. One week ago, Abdullah Nimer, a 53-year-old PalestinianAmerican salesman and a father of six, was shot while doing his door-to-door clothing sales in South Central LosAngeles, a neighborhood he had worked in for several years.

Though the circumstances surrounding Nimer’s killing remain unclear, the Council on American Islamic Relations saysthat given the current climate of hostility against members of Muslim and Arab American communities, they urge theLAPD and the FBI to investigate Nimer’s death as a hate crime. Ra’id Faraj works with the LA office of the Council onAmerican Islamic Relations. Yesterday he attended Abdullah Nimer’s funeral.

Also widespread are the smaller scale attacks across the country. Last night I spoke to a local Egyptian taxi driverwho said he had been attacked.


  • Ehab Lashafi, New York taxi cab driver who was attacked.
  • Ra’id Faraj, Council on American-Islamic relations in Southern California.

Related Story

StoryOct 05, 2001As Washington Tries to Build a Coalition to Support An Attack On Afghanistan, It Tries To Censor the Largest Cable Network in the Arab World: A Roundtable On Media Coverage
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