Thursday, October 26, 2006

How Our Media Can Do Penance For Maher Arar

. . It involves doing something useful for the Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Chaudhury.

Last month, the commission of inquiry into the Arar affair—the analysis and recommendations section alone is 376 pages long—found that there never was a shred of evidence against him after all. No secret al-Qaeda code name, no time spent in Afghan desert training camps, no facilitation of terrorism- logistics work in and around Ottawa, nothing. None of those things you read about Arar in the newspapers was true.

But Justice Dennis O’Connor didn’t just lay the blame for Arar’s destroyed reputation at the feet of rogue Mounties. O’Connor’s report is just as scathing about those same Canadian journalists who now crow about their valiant defiance of the “brute force” of the Canadian state in the Arar case. Their court challenge was all about defending their right to continue hiding the identities of the cops who told all those lies and caused Arar such suffering to begin with.

We all make mistakes. I don’t claim to be braver than Juliet O’Neill, and I make no charge of bad faith against her. The Georgia Straight is no braver than the Ottawa Citizen, either. We don’t need to be. Life is easy here. This is Canada. It’s not, say, Bangladesh, where 12 journalists have been murdered during the past four years, and where the dark shadow of Islamist extremism grows longer by the hour.

There is one small thing we might all do, though, to redeem the tawdriness of our vocation in this country, as an act of contrition for Maher Arar. Given its reach, CanWest Global could be particularly helpful in that one small thing. . . .

That's from my Chronicles column today.

As far as I know, not one of CanWest's newspapers has even mentioned Chaudhury's case. Some close media attention to his circumstances could save his life.

Also, as far as I know, not one CanWest newspaper has explained to its readers the Canadian news' media's foul complicity in Maher Arar's agony. The Toronto Star had Allan Thompson take a shot at it, and so did Tom Walkom.

Otherwise you'd have to go to another country altogether, all the way to the New York Times to get an accounting of what really happened.


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