Why Weren’t the Murderous Biker Gangs in Texas Dubbed ‘Thugs’ by Mainstream Media?

Law-enforcement officials sit at the scene of a motorcyle-gang shootout at the Twin Peaks restaurant May 18, 2015, in Waco, Texas.
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Social Media Quick to Comment on Media Coverage

"The scene in Waco on Sunday was like something off a TV show," Dan Solomon wrote Monday for Texas Monthly. "Broad daylight shoot-outs between rival gangs that leave nine dead and eighteen others hospitalized rarely happen in Texas strip malls, but the biker-themed event at the Twin Peaks restaurant turned out to be every bit as horrifying as an episode of Sons of Anarchy.

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"There's plenty of blame being cast, and plenty to go around . . . ."

Solomon also wrote, "But when it comes to discussing the events that occurred outside Twin Peaks, there's another entity that isn't getting off the hook: namely, the media and police culture, which, it's being argued, treat incidents of violent crime committed by white people very differently than they do incidents of violence involving black people.

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"On Twitter, much of this was explored using the hashtag #WacoThugs, where cultural commentators and critics including some of the sharpest working today, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, saw an opportunity to consider how the playbook for a violent incident involving white bikers diverges from the one that the media and police use when the violence involves people whose skin tones are darker.

"The frustration of people who see unfair treatment in how police and media are reacting to Waco is palpable. It's also probably not an apples-to-apples situation: a small Texas city whose metro area is roughly [one-tenth] the size of St. Louis's or Baltimore's is probably likely to have different reactions from law enforcement, while gang fights are a generally unusual circumstance. But the very fact that we're inclined to talk in terms of nuance, when discussing violent crime that involves white people, is part of the point that Coates and others on Twitter were making.

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"The idea that it’s 'special treatment' to 'not be shot by police for looking violent' is something one could argue with — the police are supposed to use great restraint in those situations — but making that argument misses the point.

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"In a country where, among black citizens, having potentially stolen cigars from a corner store can leave a person dead on the sidewalk, or where playing with a toy gun can result in the immediate shooting of a twelve-year-old boy, or where a person who was able to walk when taken into police custody can be dead of a severed spinal cord by the time the ride in the van is finished, the mere fact that a massive shoot-out in a strip mall could end with police and bikers on peaceful terms does look like special treatment.

"The tweets on the #WacoThugs hashtag may flatten the details of the situation that occurred, but the larger point is that the details in many violent encounters that involve police get flattened and twisted to serve an agenda.

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"Whether the details are flattened to justify a week-long curfew, mass arrests, and the presence of riot police or to make a point about how a calm police presence is notable when the perpetrators of violence are white, the result is that we’re not really talking about the specific situation at all — we're using it to make a point about how the facts get distorted. . . ."

Julia Craven, Huffington Post: White-On-White Crime Strikes Again In Waco

Nicole Hensley, Daily News, New York: Outrage as social media users compare Waco, Texas to Baltimore and Ferguson uprisings

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Shaun King, Daily Kos: Why race is the main reason the murderous bloodbath in Waco was handled with velvet gloves

Jenny Kutner, Salon: Reporting on Waco biker gang killings reveals disparities in news coverage

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Darnell L. Moore, mic.com: What the Response to Waco Says About How We Treat White vs. Black Criminals

Jim Romenesko blog: How the Waco newspaper covered Sunday's biker gang shootout at Twin Peaks restaurant

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Maanvi Singh, NPR "Code Switch": Here's What People Are Saying About The Waco Shootout And Race

Nick Wing, HuffPost BlackVoices: Why Are White Gang Members Destroying Their Own Community?

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Matthew Yglesias, vox.com: White-on-white murder in America is out of control (Feb. 20)

The Reporter Who Exposed Police Torture in Chicago

"Former investigative journalist John Conroy — that's how he describes himself these days — spent the better part of two decades writing about police brutality in Chicago," Jackie Spinner wrote May 11 for Columbia Journalism Review.

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"He never expected to see what happened last week: a unanimous vote by the city council authorizing $5.5 million in reparations to scores of victims of police torture, mostly African American men from the south side of the city.

" 'I think it's a miracle, really,' Conroy told me when we talked a few days ago.

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"Conroy has a unique perspective on the news: He is the reporter who, as Don Terry wrote for CJR five years ago, 'did more than anyone else in all of journalism to expose police torture in Chicago.'

"Twenty-five years ago, Conroy's 'House of Screams' story for the alt-weekly Chicago Reader shone a light on allegations of abuse by police commander Jon Burge and his detectives. Six years later, another long article for the Reader challenged the city to confront police torture: 'The courts know about it, the media know about it, and chances are you know about it. So why aren’t we doing anything about it?'

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"Eventually, something was done: Other journalists contributed key reporting that advanced and broadened the story; Burge was put on trial and convicted; and the city paid millions in settlements and legal fees for victims, before Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the reparations package this spring 'to bring this dark chapter of Chicago's history to a close.'

"It's hard to say how Conroy's stories might have landed now, when stories of police abuse seem so much a part of the national conversation. On the heels of abuse and misconduct allegations in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, and elsewhere, the reparations could be important, Conroy said, if other municipalities follow the city's lead.

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"But for Chicago itself, he isn't sure they are a signal that the city has healed. . . ."

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Does just being black give the police "probable cause" to stop you?

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Niraj Chokshi, Washington Post: Dozens of Ferguson-related reforms were proposed in Missouri. Just one passed

Trace William Cowen, complex.com: Dream Hampton Says Jay Z Wired "Tens of Thousands" of Dollars to Cover Protestors' Bail

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Doug Donovan and Jean Marbella, Baltimore Sun: Baltimore police rarely charged in deaths [accessible via search engine]

Terry Gross with Richard Rothstein, "Fresh Air," NPR: Historian Says Don't 'Sanitize' How Our Government Created Ghettos

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M. Alex Johnson, NBC News: Obama: U.S. Cracking Down on 'Militarization' of Local Police

Errol Louis, Daily News, New York: Redlining and predatory lending persist in New York's communities of color (May 12)

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Mitch Mitchell and Monica Nagy, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: Grapevine officer not charged in fatal shooting of Mexican immigrant

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Cleveland won't riot again if people study the lessons of the past

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E.R. Shipp, The Root: Everyone's Watching Baltimore: So, Now What?

With B.B. King Death, Blacks Urged to Reclaim Blues Legacy

The story of blues legend B.B. King might have been told largely by white writers in the mainstream media, but two prominent black journalists, syndicated Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page and television host Roland S. Martin, related the late bluesman's story to the lives of African Americans over the weekend and on Monday.

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King, 89, died Thursday in Las Vegas after a series of strokes. "The King of the Blues will be buried at the museum preserving his legacy" in Indianola, Miss., Jerry Mitchell and Sherry Lucas reported Monday for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. A public memorial service is scheduled for Friday in Las Vegas, followed by a private memorial service on Saturday, they added.

At the Billboard Music Awards Sunday in Las Vegas, rapper and actor Ludacris, who hosted the show, paid tribute to King (video), and other African American artists from the hip-hop generation followed suit in interviews.

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TV One's "News One Now With Roland Martin" devoted most of Monday's show to King (video; use password TVOneN1N), interviewing such entertainers as Otis Clay, Aretha Franklin, Lionel Richie, Gladys Knight, Charlie Wilson and Quincy Jones, along with blues historian and educator Jimmy Tillman.

Franklin explained that her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, married King and his first wife. Another said King's most famous song, "The Thrill Is Gone," was actually about the 1968 death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Blues singer Candi Staton told young people that "you need to get serious about the legacy of this music" and that the blues "came from a deep place in ourselves" as African Americans.

One caller said that if African Americans did not reclaim the blues, someday people would think that whites invented it.

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In his Chicago Tribune column, headlined, "How white fans saved B.B. King's blues" [accessible via search engine] but differently in the syndicated version, Page said of King, "As an ambitious young journo, I was looking for controversy. I asked him if he shared the objections that some black social critics, in particular, had expressed over the alleged hijacking of the blues by rising white blues musicians like Chicago's Paul Butterfield and England's Eric Clapton.

"But instead of fuming with resentment, the widely celebrated King of the Blues quaked with laughter. He loved those young white musicians and the fans. 'If it wasn't for them,' I recall him saying, 'I would have starved to death.'

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"No, it was black audiences who had caused him more heartbreak in the early 1960s, amid the rise of Motown and soul music and widespread mockery of the blues in black communities as 'gold tooth' or 'handkerchief-head music.' . . . "

Page also wrote, "King showed me how the blues, like jazz and country music, emerge from this country's simmering stew pot of cultural diversity and continue to bear new fruit. We only cheat ourselves, I realized, when our quest for what's new causes us to lose our appreciation for what's worth keeping around — or even turn it off without giving it a listen. . . ."

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Michael Brown, charismanews.com: Was B.B. King a Christian?

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: B.B. King and his blues helped us sing through heartache

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Evelyn Diaz, BET.com: Ludacris Talks B.B. King's Hip Hop Impact

Mark Anthony Neal, NPR: B.B. King And The Majesty Of The Blues

Photo gallery, Daily News, New York: B.B. King dead at 89: Remembering the legendary blues king's life and career

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N.Y. Times Editorial Draws Out Duke Prof's Racial Views

A May 9 New York Times editorial, "How Racism Doomed Baltimore," inspired a white, 80-year-old Duke University professor to write an online comment expressing his disappointment with African Americans and praise for Asian Americans.

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"Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration," Jerry Hough said in his online comment, Jane Stancill reported Friday for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

"Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration. The amount of Asian-white dating is enormous and so surely will be the intermarriage. Black-white dating is almost non-existent because of the ostracism by blacks of anyone who dates a white."

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"The comment concluded: 'It was appropriate that a Chinese design won the competition for the Martin Luther King state (sic). King helped them overcome. The blacks followed Malcolm X.', ” Stancill wrote.

She added, "Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld distanced the university from the professor's New York Times comments but also pointed out academic freedom provisions in Duke’s Faculty Handbook.

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" 'The comments were noxious, offensive and have no place in civil discourse,' Schoenfeld wrote in an email. 'Duke University has a deeply-held commitment to inclusiveness grounded in respect for all, and we encourage our community to speak out when they feel that those ideals are challenged or undermined, as they were in this case.' . . ."

"How Racism Doomed Baltimore" was one of three strong Sunday editorials on race authored recently by Times editorial writer Brent Staples, a black journalist. On April 25, the Times posted "Forcing Black Men Out of Society," and this past Saturday, "Housing Apartheid, American Style."

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Emil Guillermo blog, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: The new Asian American civil war over affirmative action?

Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: Yes, Duke professor has right to express his opinions — even if they're wrong

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Stephanopoulos Not Alone in Giving to Foundation

Retired ABC News anchor Carole Simpson said Sunday that while George Stephanopoulos "did try to separate himself from his political background to become a journalist, he really is not a journalist. Yet, ABC has made him the face of ABC News, the chief anchor. And I think they're really caught in a quandary here."

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Appearing on CNN's "Reliable Sources," Simpson said that with Stephanopoulos, who gave $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation, "there's a coziness that George cannot escape the association. He was press secretary for President Clinton." When she heard the news, Simpson said, "I was dumbfounded, too. I like George. I worked with him and have great respect for him.

"But I wanted to just take him by the neck and say, George, what were you thinking?"

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The author of "Clinton Cash," a new book about the finances of Bill and Hillary Clinton, was also on "Reliable Sources." Peter Schweizer said ABC News and Stephanopoulos "seem to be in cover-up mode."

The author said, "I think it is because there's no discussion about the larger extensive relationships that he has. I mean, he's been on panels with Chelsea Clinton at Clinton Foundation events. He's moderated debates and discussions at Clinton Foundation events. How can you do that and cover that same political family in the political season?

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"I mean, to me, it's mindboggling. I can't imagine that CNN or other news organizations would tolerate that. And I think there's embarrassment and a desire to just hope that this is going to go away, but I don't think it is. . . ."

Meanwhile, Josh Gerstein, Tarini Parti, Hadas Gold and Dylan Byers of Politico reported Friday, "NBC Universal, News Corporation, Turner Broadcasting and Thomson Reuters are among more than a dozen media organizations that have made charitable contributions to the Clinton Foundation in recent years, the foundation's records show. . . ."

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They also wrote, "The list also includes mass media groups like Comcast, Time Warner and Viacom, as well a few notable individuals, including Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecom magnate and largest shareholder of The New York Times Company, and James Murdoch, the chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox. Both Slim and Murdoch have given between $1 million to $5 million, respectively.

"Judy Woodruff, the co-anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour, gave $250 to the foundation's 'Clinton Haiti Relief Fund ' in 2010. . . ."

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Michael Calderone, Huffington Post: ABC News Disputes RNC Chair's Implication The Party Can Pick Its Own Debate Moderators

Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune: George Stephanopoulos should go

Lisa de Moraes, Deadline Hollywood: Stephanopoulos Apologizes Again For Clinton Foundation Donations

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Olivia Kittel, Media Matters for America: The Fox News Connection To Clinton Foundation Donations That Chris Wallace Forgot

Peter Schweizer, USA Today: Stephanopoulos, ABC have not fully disclosed Clinton ties

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Alessandra Stanley, New York Times: George Stephanopoulos and the Line Between News and Entertainment

Paul Cheung, the president of the Asian American Journalists Association who was one of at least five journalists aboard the Washington-to-New York Amtrak train that derailed last week, causing eight deaths, expanded on his experience Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources.""The Plain Idea of, Hey, I Might Die Was Really Frightening"

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Following is part of the exchange between Cheung, who is director of interactive and digital news production for the Associated Press, and host Brian Stelter (video):

STELTER: How are you doing personally? Were you injured at all?

CHEUNG: Minor scrapes and bruises.

You know, I think now, coming off my adrenaline, so I'm processing everything that has happened.

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STELTER: Yes. But you were able to pretty quickly help other people off the train. And then at what point did you transition into taking photos, into reporting?

CHEUNG: Well, the minute I jump off the train, you know, I fell pretty hard.

STELTER: Yes.

CHEUNG: And then people were just screaming at me. And I was completely disoriented.

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And once I kind of get my bearings and saw the wreckage, that's when I knew, wow, this is major. And, immediately, I sent an e-mail to my newsroom, saying, hey, my train just crashed and derailed. Give me a call.

And then, after that, I just kind of lent my phone to a couple other passengers who needed to call their loved one. And once I, again, processed a little bit more, that's when I kick into my journalist mode.

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STELTER: In retrospect, do you feel you turned toward journalism at the right moment? That must be a hard decision to process.

CHEUNG: I think the instinct was to turn immediately.

STELTER: Right.

CHEUNG: But since I'm not a front-line journalist, there's — just the plain idea of, hey, I might die was really frightening.

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STELTER: Right.

CHEUNG: I want to take pictures inside the train, but I smell smoke. So I jumped out.

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You know, once I got up and saw passengers were crawling out the window, my instinct was, let me go take some photos. And I saw sparks coming out. And, at that moment, I thought something might explode, and I have to run the other way for safety, just in case.

So I think those were the decisions that I was struggling with.

STELTER: I wonder what it's like to be bombarded by media requests after something traumatic like this. Did you hear from dozens of media outlets trying to interview you, the way you're being interviewed now?

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CHEUNG: Yes. And, you know, you grow a new appreciation for our craft to see how hard. . . .

Isaiah Poole, commondreams.org: The Price We Pay For Conservative Scorn Of Amtrak

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Affirmative Action Curbs Seen Leading to Fewer Black M.D.s

"Clearly, we need more black doctors," psychiatrist Damon Tweedy wrote in an article that dominated the cover of the New York Times' SundayReview section and was published online Friday.

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"In the 2011-12 school year, the most recent for which figures are available, there were 5,580 black students enrolled in medical school, making up about 7 percent of the medical student population, which is roughly half of the proportion of the black population in America.

"Nonetheless, when viewed through the lens of history, this recent figure reflects progress: In the 1968-69 school year, 783 black students were enrolled in American medical schools, just 2.2 percent of the overall total. Race-based affirmative action programs, which began to be implemented around this time, undoubtedly played a major role in expanding the number of black students in medical school. By the late 1970s, the number of black students had increased nearly fivefold, with the proportion peaking at 8 percent in the mid-1990s.

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"Since that time, however, opposition toward affirmative action has grown stronger. Many states have banned race-based admission efforts at public universities, and last year, the Supreme Court ruled that this was permissible. Purely race-based affirmative action is not yet dead, but it appears to be approaching its twilight years.

"Even those who are uncomfortable with affirmative action or oppose it outright should consider the potential impact of this trend when it comes to medical school. A recent study in The Journal of Higher Education found that affirmative action bans in six states led to a 17 percent reduction in the enrollment of underrepresented students of color in medical school. Policies resulting in fewer black doctors could lead to even worse health outcomes for a population that is already the least healthy. . . ."

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BBC Team Arrested in Qatar While Reporting on Migrants

Fifa, the governing body of world soccer, "has launched an investigation after a BBC news team was arrested in Qatar while reporting on the plight of migrant workers building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup," Matthew Weaver reported Monday for Britain's Guardian newspaper.

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"The four-strong crew had been invited by the Qatari’s prime minister's office on an official tour of new accommodation for construction workers. It was part of a public relations drive in the wake of an international outcry over the slave-like conditions for workers exposed by a Guardian investigation.

"But despite official permission to report in Qatar, the crew were arrested by the security services, interrogated and jailed for two days before being released without charge.

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"The Qatari government defended the arrests and accused the BBC crew of trespassing.

"Fifa, which has been repeatedly criticised for the way Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, was helping to run the tour. It said it was investigating the arrests. 'Any instance relating to an apparent restriction of press freedom is of concern to Fifa and will be looked into with the seriousness it deserves,' it said in a statement.

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"The BBC's Middle East correspondent, Mark Lobel, was one of those detained, along with his cameraman, a driver and translator. . . ."

Committee to Protect Journalists: Qatar detains international journalists for the second time this year

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Friday Is Deadline to Nominate a J-Educator

The Association of Opinion Journalists, formerly the National Conference of Editorial Writers, annually grants a Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship — actually an award — "in recognition of an educator's outstanding efforts to encourage minority students in the field of journalism." The educator should be at the college level.

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Nominations, now being accepted for the 2015 award, should consist of a statement about why you believe your nominee is deserving.

The final selection will be made by the AOJ Foundation board and announced in time for the annual symposium Nov.14-15 at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., when the presentation will be made.

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Since 2000, the recipient has been awarded an honorarium of $1,000 to be used to "further work in progress or begin a new project."

Past winners include James Hawkins, Florida A&M University (1990); Larry Kaggwa, Howard University (1992); Ben Holman, University of Maryland (1996); Linda Jones, Roosevelt University, Chicago (1998); Ramon Chavez, University of Colorado, Boulder (1999); Erna Smith, San Francisco State (2000); Joseph Selden, Penn State University (2001); Cheryl Smith, Paul Quinn College (2002); Rose Richard, Marquette University (2003); Leara D. Rhodes, University of Georgia (2004); Denny McAuliffe, University of Montana (2005); Pearl Stewart, Black College Wire (2006); Valerie White, Florida A&M University (2007); Phillip Dixon, Howard University (2008); Bruce DePyssler, North Carolina Central University (2009); Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia University (2010); Yvonne Latty, New York University (2011); Michelle Johnson, Boston University (2012); Vanessa Shelton, University of Iowa (2013); and William Drummond, University of California at Berkeley (2014).

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Nominations may be emailed to Richard Prince, AOJ Diversity Committee chair, richardprince (at) hotmail.com. The deadline is May 22. Please use that address only for AOJ matters.

Short Takes

About 100 former students, colleagues and friends of Lawrence Kaggwa celebrated his retirement from Howard University on Saturday. Kaggwa has taught journalism at the school for 34 years, including a year as interim chairman of the journalism department. Kaggwa said he would devote full time to District Chronicles, the weekly newspaper he founded on campus. "My daughter says 'We are going to build it into the best community newspaper in the DMV!' " Kaggwa told Journal-isms by email, referring to the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. "That is the plan. Dean Gracie Lawson-Borders has promised to provide office space for the District Chronicles as long as I am publisher."

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Michael Eaves, who joined Al Jazeera America in 2013 as sports anchor and shifted to news anchor a year ago, is leaving for ESPN to be an anchor on "SportsCenter," ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz confirmed on Monday. Eaves told his Facebook followers, "When I left FOX Sports in 2013 for Al Jazeera America, I never thought I would end up anchoring SportsCenter less than two years later. But I also know that if I hadn't left LA for NYC, I probably wouldn't be at ESPN now. So despite my time at AJAM being mostly a disappointment, it led me to this point today. I have always believed that if you work hard and treat others with respect, that life will work out in your favor. . . ."

"We waited a few hours to write this post just to give the U.S. mainstream media a chance to actually cover a day of some very intense protests in Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon," the Latino Rebels website told readers on Thursday. "As of tonight (around 12:05amET on May 14), we can safely conclude that very little coverage (if any, to be quite honest) ever even appeared in U.S. English-language media. The only English language piece we found was a story by Prensa Latina . . . ." Adriana Usero and Roque Planas added Saturday for HuffPost LatinoVoices, "Students in Puerto Rico launched mass protests this week against the governor's attempt to slash some $166 million from the University of Puerto Rico’s budget. That's about one-fifth of the funding for the island's main public university system. . . ."

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"This morning attorneys for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal filed a lawsuit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania federal court seeking immediate access to their client, who has been held virtually incommunicado at the Geisinger Medical Center since Tuesday, May 12," Abu-Jamal supporter Bret Grote wrote Monday. "Abu-Jamal has been denied all communication with his attorneys since that time. . . ." Abu-Jamal, an activist and former president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, was convicted in the 1981 killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner.

"Journalists who documented MOVE from their early years up until the 1985 bombing that killed 11 people, gave insight on the incident at a panel discussion hosted by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists on Thursday," Samaria Bailey reported Saturday for the Philadelphia Tribune. "The event marked the 30th anniversary of the Osage Avenue police bombing that led to the deaths of MOVE members and burned 61 homes in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of West Philadelphia. . . ."

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In the Tanzania Daily News Sunday, writer Deo Mushi bemoaned the failure of Tanzania's news media to cover a coup attempt in neighboring Burundi, forcing news consumers to rely on conflicting international news sources. "Newspapers, radio, and television are frequently the only link to events happening outside of one's neighborhood, but if you do not have your journalists working where the event is taking place as it was the case in Burundi, can you fully rely on the information you get from sources, other than yours? . . ." Tens of thousands of Burundi refugees are fleeing to Tanzania, Reuters reported on Monday.

"I spent a morning last week interviewing applicants for the Journalism Diversity Fund, an industry-funded initiative that helps those who want to train and enter the profession but can't afford to," Hugh Muir wrote Monday for Britain's Guardian newspaper. Muir wrote that he concluded, "We lack not just people who fit the diversity critieria of race and sex and gender, but also those whose difference is rooted in circumstance, deprivation and class. . . ."

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Reporters Without Borders said Monday it was "appalled by the way the Moroccan authorities continue to persecute Ali Lmrabet, a satirical newspaper editor who wants to resume publishing newspapers in Morocco now that his ten-year ban on working as journalist has expired. Ali Lmrabet, who has dual French and Moroccan nationality, is being denied the residence certificate he needs to get a new national ID card and to renew his passport, which expires on 24 June. Without these documents, he cannot move ahead with his declared intention to relaunch his newspapers. . . ."

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