Storm over Al Jazeera anchor’s post mocking Hurricane Irma victims

Screengrab showing Ahmed Mansour's controversial post on Facebook on Sunday.
Updated 11 September 2017

Storm over Al Jazeera anchor’s post mocking Hurricane Irma victims

JEDDAH: Social media erupted with criticism over the weekend after a well-known Al Jazeera Arabic presenter mocked US citizens fleeing Hurricane Irma, justifying the destruction as a “display of God’s greatness which many dare to deny.”

Ahmed Mansour, an Egyptian journalist for the Qatar-based TV network, on Saturday posted a photo showing a jammed highway as hundreds of thousands fled the deadly hurricane.

A similar post on Facebook contained the Qur’anic verse, “And He will show you His signs, and what signs of Allah will you deny?”

This brought an onslaught of criticism by social media users angry at Mansour’s suggestion that the hurricane was some kind of "divine punishment."

Some viewed Mansour’s comments as hate speech, while others accused him of twisting the Qur’anic verse to suit his own agenda.

A Facebook user residing in Miami, Florida, responded to Mansour, reminding the journalist that if his post “contained some kind of hatred or gloating against non-Muslims, do not forget that many Muslims actually live in Florida.”

Another commentator pointed out the double standard in Mansour’s discourse: “Back in 2015 when a crane fell on pilgrims in Makkah causing (more than a hundred) deaths, or when (many more) died in the stampede the same year, you called that a ‘test’ from God and a ‘technical’ issue.”

Ahmed Mansour faced fierce criticism for his insensitive tweets. He deleted them without offering an apology. 

“How is this any different?” demands the man, adding that Mansour’s comments show grave “hypocrisy and unprofessionalism.”

Mansour posted another update to Facebook, with a video showing airplanes leaving an airport in Florida, captioned with the same Qur’anic verse.

In the wake of the uproar over social media, the news anchor deleted the posts.

Abdellatif El-Menawy, the well-known Egyptian media analyst, denounced Mansour for mocking Americans during a time of natural calamity.

“To suggest that Americans fleeing Hurricane Irma is divine punishment is atrocious, inhuman, insensitive and unprofessional,” El-Menawy told Arab News from Cairo. “This is simply unacceptable.”

El-Menawy questioned the convoluted point Mansour was making, and the logical extension of it.

“Does he think what is happening in Myanmar is divine punishment? Do the Muslims in Myanmar deserve what is happening to them? This is despicable on Mansour’s part. He shouldn’t have said what he said,” said El-Menawy.

Mansour made matters worse by simply deleting the tweet without explanation, El-Menawy added.

“If he has an iota of respect for himself and for his profession, he should apologize for his remarks,” said El-Menawy.

“By deleting the tweet, he has only tried to hide his feelings because of the negative reaction.

“He failed in his duty as a professional (journalist).”

Facebook and Twitter representatives did not immediately respond when asked by Arab News whether Mansour’s comments marked a violation of the services' terms of use. Al Jazeera spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment.

Thailand suspends TV station over protests coverage

Updated 20 October 2020

Thailand suspends TV station over protests coverage

  • Thailand said on Monday that three other media organizations are under investigation
  • Protests have only gained momentum since the government announced a ban last Thursday and arrested dozens of protesters

BANGKOK: A Thai court on Tuesday ordered the suspension of an online TV station critical of the government, which has accused it of violating emergency measures aimed at ending three months of protests.
Voice TV had also been found to have breached the Computer Crime Act by uploading “false information,” digital ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong told reporters.
Thailand has drawn criticism from rights groups for banning demonstrations and the publication of news seen as damaging by the government as it tries to end the protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the powerful monarchy.
Rittikorn Mahakhachabhorn, Editor-in-Chief of Voice TV, said it would continue broadcasting until the court order arrived.
“We insist that we have been operating based on journalistic principles and we will continue our work presently,” he said.
Thailand said on Monday that three other media organizations are under investigation.
Voice TV is owned in part by the Shinawatra family of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, who was overthrown by Prayuth in a 2014 coup. Both fled Thailand to escape corruption cases they branded political.
Street protests since mid-July are the biggest challenge in decades to the monarchy under King Maha Vajiralongkorn and to Prayuth, who rejects accusations of engineering an election last year to keep power.
The demonstrations have been largely led by youths and students in contrast with a decade of street violence between supporters of Thaksin and conservative royalists before Prayuth seized power.
Protests have only gained momentum since the government announced a ban last Thursday and arrested dozens of protesters, including many of the main leaders.
A lawyer for two of them, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, said they would be arrested again on Tuesday as soon as they had been freed on bail granted by a court over earlier charges related to the protests.
Prime Minister Prayuth has said he will not quit in the face of the protests.
His cabinet agreed on Tuesday to hold an emergency session of parliament next week about the crisis. Prayuth’s supporters hold a majority in the parliament, whose upper house was named entirely by his former junta.