December 16, 2008

Journalists and controlling one's emotions

We now know about the famous shoe-throwing incident in Iraq. This opens up an opportunity to talk to our students about ethics, objectivity, fairness, etc.

I have already heard the argument that different cultures have different ethics when it comes to journalism. Not sure I buy that anymore than I believe the SPJ Code of Ethics are the end all and be all for all journalists in the world.

This morning I got a note from a colleague in Iraq. Seems at least one media group in Iraq is embarrassed by the action. Perhaps this could be used to spark more discussion among our students and fellow journalists.

Reject Barefoot Journalism!
16 December 2008 (KurdishMedia)

On December 14, 2008 President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki had a press conference in Baghdad. An Iraqi journalist threw his shoes one at a time at the American president. Interestingly Mr. Bush moved very quickly and dodged the shoes so none of them hit him. Apparently he is physically very fit and might have an extensive experience in dodge ball. Most likely dodge shoes becomes the favorite game of children who watch Al-Jazirah. I am wondering if the angry man had thrown the shoes at his own current leaders who welcomed Mr. Bush, would Prime Minister Maliki or President Talibani have been fit enough to protect themselves from being hit; probably not.

Nobody claims that President Bush is flawless or that he should not be criticized. In fact almost every American journalist including the one from his own party rightfully criticize him on a regular basis for his mistakes. However, compare to Saddam whom he removed from power, President Bush is actually a saint. President Bush did not feel insulted and even made a joke about the size of the thrown shoes, which might indicate his mental fitness. I am wondering if the angry man had thrown his shoes at Saddam, would he or any of his family members had been allowed to live any longer; probably not.

Although I am not an Iraqi but a Kurd, I felt embarrassed for the behavior of the angry reporter. For decades Kurds and Iraqis have fought for freedom of speech and press. If a journalist can not respect his own profession and violates the rules of free press, how could the world trust the region to become free? As Middle Eastern we are already labeled as barefoot people for taking off our shoes at our homes, mosques, beaches, and deserts. We do not need our reporters to be labeled as barefoot journalists and denied access to conferences where keeping shoes on is part of an appropriate attire and manner! In fact we need to reject barefoot journalism.

Considering his behavior, probably the angry reporter does not qualify to be a journalist at this stage of his life. The best thing he could do is to apologize to the American people for insulting their president and seek anger management classes. Once he has recovered, he might return to his profession and politely ask the American president when will we be free or as we ask in Kurdish kay azadabeen?

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