MENA: CNN Journalist's Comment Sparks Controversy

The passing of Lebanese religious leader Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah was, for many, a major event, as Amira al Hussaini explains in this post.  And yet, a passing remark on Twitter by an American CNN journalist of Lebanese background is causing a stir in the Twittersphere, blogosphere, and beyond.

The (now-deleted) tweet, made by Octavia Nasr of CNN (@OctaviaNasrCNN) read simply:

“Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot. #Lebanon”

Nevertheless, the 117 character statement has carried weight with pundits and bloggers who take issue with an American journalist praising a member of Hezbollah, deemed a terrorist group by the U.S. government, prompting Nasr to issue a statement explaining her tweet.

Some were satisfied to be provided with more context, a sentiment Canadian BloggerSeif expressed in this tweet:

@octavianasrCNN I think you did well in your apology, very true and straight from the heart.Inspiration for writers across Lebanese bless

While others felt that no apology could fix the tweet, some bloggers across the region expressed frustration with the fact that Nasr had to apologize at all.  Mustapha of Beirut Spring defends Nasr, saying:

The critics are using Ms. Nasr to kick CNN, but CNN would be making a terrible mistake if they fired her. Octavia not only knows Lebanon and the region very well, she is very popular with the Lebanese and Arabs on Twitter and the Blogosphere. She has painstakingly built personal relationships with the region’s online activists and she’s the go-to person whenever someone thinks they have a scoop. In fact, one can argue that her offending tweet is something all savvy networkers do all the time: Mirror her audience.

Whether the pro-Israelis in America like it or not, there is a general consensus in Lebanon of “respecting” Ayatollah Fadlallah, and Octavia Nasr, an excellent journalist, did what any professional would have done.

Lebanese blogger Independence '05 also expressed support for Nasr, emphasizing her excellent relationships with bloggers in the region:

I am quite sure CNN will simply ignore them. But this doesn't mean I should let such a silly incident go by without saying those 4 points:

1- We met Octavia, she is such a down to earth lady, so smart, so charismatic, simply a beautiful soul
2- Octavia connects with us, the ordinary people, it's a give and take relationship, and she helps us like there's no tomorrow
3- She's smart, she understands the region and the politics of it very well, she's objective and she manifests her presence in such a strong and charismatic way
4- She's Lebanese, and not a terrorist or a terrorist supporter. You guys who are trying to get her because of what she said about Fadlallah, require at least a century of knowledge and history before you understand such a tweet. So please, go do something you understand, such as propaganda.. oh wait! This is what you're doing!

One more thing, showing respect is something, supporting is something else. Way to go American Democracy, you preach the world yet you can't digest a different point of view?

Octavia, you got our support… #justsayin

Twitter user Bashar Hamad leaves us with a final, poignant thought:

I wonder if all these people so quick to jump on @octavianasrCNN comment Re: Fadlallah's passing be so quick to jump on real hate speech


  • […] ..about this Octavia Nasr’s whole issue: […]

  • يا سر ~ ɹısɐʎ

    Its a mistake in the part of cnn to do this. respect to octavia. especially since Fadlallah محمد حسين فضل الله was a voice of liberal spirit in religion. Hizbullah or not, he also stands as an enlightened voice against israel’s doubtful conduct in Lebanon.

  • Gerry

    The whole thing reveals the sham of western “freedom of speech”. The two bastions of what they call “balance”, CNN and the BBC, routinely report in a heavily one-sided manner, presenting western actions as always benign at least in intention, avoiding for example news about civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, suppressing discussion about true western motives in both those arenas, and fawning on the politicians who order further destruction. In contrast “they”, the enemy, the people on whose countries war is being waged, through constant repetition of stereotypes and stereotyped choice of news, the daily diet of terrorism and enemies out there, are demonized as extremists, hating western “values” and all that is good, beyond the pale – as colonized peoples have been demonized throughout the ages.

  • @ Gerry: It is a shame that CCN silenced her. But I don’t understand your tirade at the end. Is it Lebanon that is a colonized country? Secondly following the news here in Germany I don’t think the news are that one sided as you describe. On the contrary are the news here very critical on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a big debate going on if the Bundeswehr should stay or not.

  • I’ve wondered what the actual story was with all that @OctaviaNasrCNN . Thanks for summing it up rather nicely here.

    I still think one should separate / create 2 different accounts… A personal one… and a professional one…. People are a little sensitive these days… 117 characters can ruin careers…

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.