“Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah... One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."
The reprisal was quick. She expressed deep regret in her CNN blog:
"It was an error of judgement for me to write such a simplistic comment and I'm sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah's life's work. That's not the case at all."
She said she was referring to Fadlallah's "contrarian and pioneering stand among Shiite clerics on woman's rights."
Why is it simplistic for a person to feel sad about someone she respects? Only because he is alleged to be the spiritual guide of the Hezbollah and is on the US terrorist list?
An internal memo at the CNN headquarters stated:
"However, at this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward."
It only means that the channel is one big establishment mouthpiece and has no place for a minor personal contrarian comment; in this respect Fadlallah seems way superior. While he may have been conservative in many respects – he was a cleric and not a politician, and see how many of them are conservative in their sharp suits – I did some looking around and Wikipedia mentions that he did talk about gender equality and was against female circumcision and honour killings.
He also issued a fatwa on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women that supports the right of a woman to defend herself against any act of violence whether social or physical.
The point is that he was using his platform to say things that might have at least resulted in some enlightenment among a few. How many political leaders do so? Most of them are not interested and some who are will be concerned about the repercussions of hurting religious sentiments.
I perfectly understand what Nasr means when she says she does not support all his work but specifies something that mattered to her. I constantly mention the areas of concern that may or may not belong to one particular stripe; as human beings we are prone to not respond in a standard manner. From what I got to know, she has taken an American stand in her reportage of most issues.
There have been obituaries in international newspapers, and while they did not express sadness they were reporting. She was not. Besides, CNN is a media group and not the government, so what exactly does compromise of position mean? Is the media supposed to have one stand? Are reporters told to follow that standard ideology? Can editors not have personal opinions that are voiced outside of the sainted CNN airtime?
Octavia Nasr’s apology is one more in the line of not toeing the official line even in the personal arena. I think what is dying is the sturdiness of media houses. They now have such flimsy positions that anything can shake them up and they can get compromised. And we, the audience, are supposed to believe what they say. Precious.
These same media houses will praise world leaders with dubious records and who have far greater reach and power.