Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Science Knows No Boundaries

The World Conference of Science Journalists(WCSJ) held in Doha, Qatar last month was by all account a successful one. 724 renown science journalists across the globe attended the conference, which also included some 120 Arab science journalists.
In spite of the success, the conference was unable to break free from the never-ending Palestine-Israel political struggle.

1) The inclusion of U.S.-Israeli journalist Anna Wexler on a panel caused divisions within the Arab Science Journalists Association (ASJA), a co-sponsor of the conference.
Anna Wexler. Image:
After Egyptian reporter Bothaina Osama objected to appearing on a panel with her, meeting organizers removed Wexler from that panel and gave her a spot on a different session with no Arab speakers.

2) Under pressure from their journalists' union that objected to Wexler's presence, two Jordanian journalists decided to boycott the meeting altogether; they may be removed from an international science journalism training program as a result.

3) Israel barred a Palestinian journalism professor from attending the event.
 Prof. Farid Abu Dheir was accused of having ties with Hamas outside of Palestine, and despite his willingness to sign an obligation not to be part of any political outlawed activity, the Israel government refused to let him leave the occupied West Bank. Image:
As far as science is concerned, nationality has never been, and should never be a problem. But more often than not, carrying the title of our country striped us off the privilege of choosing what we want to believe in, because the charge of espionage is never far away from any Arab/Jewish nationals.
Maziar Bahari was a reporter for Newsweek from 1998 to 2011. The Iranian government accused him of spying in 2009. He was detained and tortured in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran for 118 days before released.
The action of the Arabs was disgraceful, so was the Israel government's. But no one can tell whether they sincerely believed that sharing a panel with an opposition reporter could tarnish their image, or were they threatened by their respective governments(by all means, including abduction and jail-term) to avoid such confrontation?

I'll stick to the latter.
Because I believe that not even science can escape from the ugly shadow of politics.


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