The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) says it’s deeply concerned about the alleged dismissal of Palestinian journalist Zahraa Al-Akhrass by Global News.
Al-Akhrass posted to her Instagram account Sunday that she was no longer an employee of the network.
“I was fired on October 17 for posting about Palestine on my social media,” wrote Al-Ahkrass. “This is not about me, but about us 🇵🇸. I feel disappointed that this organization has failed me as a Palestinian, racialized journalist, and I ask you, dear friends, to please email their head of communications and ask Global to not fail the 2.2 million Palestinians living under Israeli bombardment right now in Gaza. Please be respectful.”
In an accompanying video, Al-Akhrass said as the only Palestinian journalist in the newsroom, she thought her voice would matter more.
“On the day of Oct. 17 exactly, as we Palestinians were counting the deaths from the hospital massacre that took the lives of over 500 people in Gaza, I was on a phone call with a senior leader at Global to be told I’m fired for everything I’ve been posting,” recounted Al-Akhrass. “I was told to take down every post and comment with #FreePalestine, #GazaGenocide and #GazaUnderAttack, saying that my posts make me look unbalanced. I was told the problem is with me expressing my beliefs, my opposition, for Israel’s genocide of my people. Global was literally asking me to look at these horrific images, this genocide and detach myself from my identity, my own people and say nothing. Is this ethical or moral, humane or diverse or inclusive?”
During a Corus Entertainment investigation into her violation of Global’s social media policies, Al-Akhrass said she sent the investigator a screen shot of a social media post from American writer and activist Shaun King depicting a Gazan family gathered around a dead baby.
“These are not just images. These are real people I belong to, some of them I personally know have already died, and most of them lost their houses or loved ones, and the rest I have just lost contact with,” Al-Akhrass wrote to the Corus official.
“I was trying to hopefully get anybody to understand or sympathize or respect my pain, my people’s suffering,” expressed the reporter, who was asked by the investigator to refrain from sending images of that nature without her request. “Everybody at this company was outraged at me for sending such a disturbing image and they literally fired me for it. I was even told by my own union representative that even if that image was my reality, I had no right to make it the reality of that employee.”
Based in Ontario, Al-Akhrass had been a videojournalist with Global News since 2020. Prior to that, she was a freelance producer and intern at Al Jazeera.
We are deeply concerned about the alleged firing of a Palestinian journalist by Global News.
Our legal team will be reaching out to provide support as needed. We will also be reaching out to Global News to better understand the reasoning behind the decision.
— NCCM (@nccm) October 29, 2023
A spokesperson for Global News said while it can’t comment on specific employee matters due to confidentiality, the organization “does not condone violence or discrimination of any kind toward individuals or groups.”
“Commentary by our employees expressing or amplifying violence or discrimination against any group is not condoned and is a violation of our company policies,” the Corus spokesperson stated. “While we respect and welcome a diversity of views by individuals, Global News must remain fair and unbiased. Our employees are expected to uphold our ethical codes including our Journalistic Principles and Practices which limit how personal opinions are shared publicly by journalists.”
Advocating for Palestine ‘outside the norm’: NCCM
Uthman Quick, Director of Communications at the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), told Broadcast Dialogue that Al-Akhrass is not the only journalist they have been in contact with encountering similar newsroom conflict.
“There’s definitely a chilling environment throughout newsrooms across the country regarding this issue and we’ve heard from multiple people that feel erased, silenced or afraid to talk about the issue,” said Quick. “It’s really, really concerning.”
Quick said the issue is reflective of a long, difficult history advocating for Palestine in Canadian newsrooms.
“I think what we’re hearing from people in newsrooms today is that it’s a continuation of what’s been happening over the years…the issue of Palestine and advocating or trying to create balance in nuanced stories is something that’s seen as outside of the norm. So, it feels like there’s a status quo of a certain perspective on the conflict and to try to create stories or to look at other narratives, you have to be stepping outside of that which then exposes people to discrimination, intimidation, self censorship, all of those types of things,” he added. “What we’re hearing right now is that notion, that feeling is just ramped up and so people are really, really concerned.”
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