At some point the Canadian media must be held accountable for the role they have played in legitimizing the government’s brutalization of Omar rather than challenging the blatant and ongoing violation of his rights.
We are grateful for all those who have written to hold the media accountable and would like to share “Tarred With Terrorism Brush” recently written by Matthew Behrens in response to the article by Star reporter Michelle Shephard. He presents a critical view of Shephard’s “Omar Khadr’s sister detained in Turkey” and reminds us of “…the dangers of improperly labeling individuals with the terrorism brush.”
Please see Matthew Behrens’ letter 01/02/16 and our thank you message 05/02/16 below:
Tarred With Terrorism Brush
Countless human rights reports and two Canadian judicial inquiries have warned against the dangers of improperly labeling individuals with the terrorism brush. In her coverage of the Turkish arrest of Zaynab Khadr, Michelle Shephard falls into that trap twice.
She writes that Zaynab’s father, Ahmed Said Khadr, “was arrested in connection with the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad.” While it’s true that Khadr was detained, those charges against Zaynab’s father were dropped.
The story also suggests Zaynab was somehow connected to terrorism because she was “under investigation” for alleged offences by the RCMP in 2005, even though she was never charged. How is that relevant to the story now, 11 years later, unless the object of the story is to cast a whiff of suspicion over Zaynab as well?
If that’s really crucial to the story, why not mention that this “investigation” was carried out by an agency that was found shortly thereafter by two separate inquiries to have created false threat profiles against a series of Canadian Arab Muslims that led to severe consequences for those wrongly labeled?
Your thoughtful response to Michelle Shephard’s recent article “Omar Khadr’s Sister Detained in Turkey” is much appreciated. The long history of media misinformation and demonization of Omar and his family has had profound implications for this appalling case of injustice. Thank you for your efforts to hold journalists accountable.
Our group has been advocating for fair and balanced media reporting on all aspects of Omar’s case and Michelle Shephard has frequently been a target of criticism, especially since Omar’s release on bail.
While most reporters now include the term “widely-maligned” when referring to the Guantanamo process which “convicted” Omar, Shephard does not. Despite a long history with the case, she continues to mislead readers to believe that Omar’s ”guilty plea” before a U.S. military commission was the result of a legitimate judicial process-which it certainly was not.
We encourage the media to be aware of the following relevant information:
Omar Khadr did not “plead guilty”, was not charged with crimes or “war crimes” and was not sentenced. The terms, plead guilty, crimes and sentenced are all words understood to refer to known concepts within our criminal law system. Crimes are violations of statutory penal law; war crimes are serious violations of international humanitarian law; a guilty plea is the accused’s freely and voluntarily given confession in open court to the crime(s) with which he has been charged; statements not made voluntarily are inadmissible; sentencing is the judgement made by a court after an accused is convicted according to law. Imposition of sentence, as done by the Guantanamo Bay military tribunal, “without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people” is a gave breach (i.e. a crime) of the Geneva Conventions and a crime in Canada. In the Omar Khadr case there were no war crimes and no guilty plea and the imposition of sentence was itself a crime.
The use of these terms, invite readers to accept falsehoods which in turn legitimize atrocious violations of Omar Khadr’s rights, prevent the remediation recommended by the United Nations Committee against Torture and shield state authorities from accountability.
We very much appreciate your support.
In solidarity for truth and justice,
The Free Omar Khadr Now-campaign