Sunday, November 9, 2008

What's the real Mellissa Fung story?

It's good to hear that Mellissa Fung, the CBC reporter, was freed after four week in captivity in Afghanistan. What bothers me however is that she was kidnapped two days prior to the election. The Harper government claims they asked the media not to say anything -- even the fact she was missing -- for her safety (an embargo which was respected), but wasn't this really just a case of the right-wing media colluding to ensure a Harper victory? And for that matter, the CBC cowing to their political masters to make sure they don't lose next year's appropriation?

An "October surprise" of this magnitude would almost certainly have resulted in a different Parliament ... perhaps even a different policy direction for that part of the world.

What do you think? Somthing about this is very suspicious.

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Anonymous said...

Michèle Ouimet*
La Presse
Negotiate with the enemy?
November 9, 2008

Canada, without exception, knew about the kidnapping from the beginning. All, chose to remain silent.
Would they have shown the same solidarity with a humanitarian worker of some obscure NGO? Several news organizations published the name of the Canadian journalist kidnapped in Somalia on August 23. Why? Because she was a freelance journalist and did not have the CBC machine to protect her? She is still being held hostage and no one is upset.
Mellissa Fung was kidnapped on October 12, that is to say two days before the Canadian election. During the election campaign, Stephen Harper was able to avoid the Afghanistan issue.
And if news of Ms. Fung’s kidnapping of had fallen like a bomb in the home stretch of the campaign? How would voters have reacted upon learning that the government negotiates with the Taliban or with criminals?
Would this story have influenced their vote? Perhaps. But that was for Canadians, not the media—who, with CBC in the lead, embargoed the story--to decide.
The journalists are the first to raise the public’s right to know, but they become super-sensitive when one of their own is threatened.
Canada is at war, its soldiers are dying. A war that costs billions of dollars. However, with the silence and complicity of the media the Harper government negotiated with the enemy to save a life. With no public discussion.

*Michèle Ouimet, La Presse, Montreal,
2008 National Newspaper Award winner in the category of Investigations
for stories on Canada's mission in Afghanistan and what has happened to aid sent there.

Anonymous said...

We are told that Mellissa Fung was kidnapped on October 12, 2008.

Meanwhile the Globe article below depicts (in real time) Harper’s “relationship” with the media, circa the point in time of Mellissa’a kidnapping.

Note the words "avoid last-minute mishaps in the final days of the campaign". Obviously that was Harper's mindset at the time that he sought an embargo on the unfortunate news about Mellissa:

Harper’s handlers warn he may no longer take questions from media


Globe and Mail Update
October 11, 2008

LONGUEUIL, QUE. — Stephen Harper appears to be bunkering down to avoid last-minute mishaps in the final days of the campaign: His staff are warning it’s likely that the Conservative Leader won’t take any more questions from journalists accompanying his tour until election day. They handed out a schedule for Sunday that has no time set aside for talking to the approximately 20 reporters who are accompanying Mr. Harper on his campaign.

Anonymous said...

I am already on board and eager to set sail on this one, Blast Furnace.

As soon as the 'happy' story broke -- I was watching Newsworld at the time, my gut reaction was 'huh???'. The glee in the CBC CEO's demeanor struck me as unseemly and unsettlingly so. The dumbstrucked emotionalism of his surprise at the 'company's' ability to keep it all "secret" -- his word not mine - clearly overpowered this man's reason.

In our local rag, The Times Colonist, a story appeared which did not raise a single question about this issue. Furthermore, it reported a Frenchwoman, I believe, was abducted by the same or a similar group November 02 08.

The risk of not challenging or worse not noticing the moral blindnesss here should be obvious to everyone in Canada soon.

I take your point about the morl blindness issue, but would suggest this friendly amendment:

It is not that the press in this case has held itself to a different moral standard than that to which it holds others. Rather, the press did not hold itself to any moral standard at all. Each individual journalist in the know could be easily relied on to act strictly in his or her self interest.

It was brilliant! But morally questionable. I would also strongly recommend an immediate legal challenge to this governmental/media act. The current chief justice is a libertarian ([economically free market] right wing [socially individualistic] liberal). I bet she'd love to get her chief justice teeth into this one.

The risk, of course, is the loss of security along the 'control everything' border. The worst thing is, I can't see a way out for the CBC on this one. It can never be trusted again. Am I overreacting?

If it is not obvious (a regular front page news story -- see the paradox?)to everyone within a month, I believe this will be evidence a deeper level of ignorance is being colonised in our society.

Who can the public realm trust to care for its interests? Do we need a 'public realm'? If so, what for? These are some of the disturbing questions raised (not 'begged' fcs)by this event.

The press is supposed to help secure the laws restraining the political impulse to control everything by making sure government is held to the highest standards of legal compliance. Among other consequences, this impulse helps governments deliver in apparently inconsequential ways on wild promises.

Among a deeply ignorant population, it's all about glitter and wild sex parties (adolescence I suppose).

That is the disturbing question raised by this incident

(Slippery Slope, yes. So just take it as a warning rather than a prediction and assess it on that basis.)

BlastFurnace said...

To all three Anonymous: Your writing styles seem oddly familiar but on something this important maybe try attaching a name -- or perhaps you fear repercussions from the Harper Administration?

This is precisely the point -- the fear factor. And frankly, this is a situation where she had two strikes against her; she was a woman and she worked for the CBC. If their attachment was to the Beeb or the WSJ, for instance, we wouldn't have the end of it until she was safely returned.

But because she works for Little Mother, and is based out of "nowhere" (i.e. Regina) a different standard applies.

People often ask me why I'm so cynical. It's not because of no one in my life; it's because of coverups like this.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm the anonymous who did not finish editing her post about the risks of allowing the Melissa Fung secrecy to go uncriticised/
unanalysed in public. It seems unorganised -- I hope I didn't end up contradicting myself!

I hit 'anonymous' because when I tried the other options, I was errored. I suppose I just didn't feel like trying to sort it out.

Dr Susan Turner
(I teach moral, social and political philosophy in Victoria)

penlan said...

The CBC seems to have taken a hard turn to the Right, as evidenced in the last election campaign. And they continue to do so. I'm finding it more & more difficult to watch CBC Newsworld & I don't watch CTV as they sicken me & haven't watched them in "forever".

We need a new, unbiased media news channel that reports the facts & not how the govt. wants news reported.

I do wonder, though, if keeping the news about Fung's kidnapping quiet due to the election day being 2 days away might just be true - for her safety - only because it could have been reported post-election day without any repercussions to voting.

Who knows, just my thought on this.

BlastFurnace said...

I still think there was a double standard at play here as much as politics. Or it could be that since she's not the only reporter in Afghanistan, some might have seen her as expendible. Remember when Alan Johnson was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip last year, over 200,000 signed a petition demanding his release. Many of them journalists and bloggers. Absolute silence from the press this time. It just doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

I'm watching the Journalists for Freedom of the Press or some such, defending their decision to keep quiet and not doing a good job. The game is afoot.

In response to the 'why the special treatment?' question from Suhanna Marchand, he says well, maybe we shouldn't report on any of these kidnappings. or, well, this kidnapping was different.

Susan Turner
(Formerly blogger No Turner Left Unstoned)