CNN has removed editor Octavia Nasr from her job yesterday because of a controversial statement that she published on Twitter, reports the New York Times. Nasr, a 20-year veteran of CNN, was CNN's senior editor for Midde Eastern affairs. The controversial tweet read: "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah ... One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."
Fadallah, who died last Sunday, had constantly denounced Israel and the United States and also supported suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Moreover, his writings and sermons inspired the Dawa Party of Iraq as well as a generation of militants, reports the New York Times.
Supporters of Israel immediately criticized the tweet, which appeared to throw support behind Fadallah's policies. One website, called Honest Reporting asked: "which of Fadallah's individual views does Nasr admire?" The article added "this is disturbing enough given that the group is designated a terrorist organization by the US and is committed to the destruction of Israel."
Tuesday evening, Nasr followed up with an apology on her blog, insisting that, despite the tone of her tweet, she does not support Fadallah's life's work. She justified her use of the words "sad" and "respect" by pointing out that Fadallah was a proponent for women's rights among Shia clerics. Fadallah, who called for the end of the practive of "honor killing," had warned Muslim men that the abuse of women was against Islam.
Sadly, Nasr's explanation of her tweet was not enough to satisfy CNN, which officially let her go yesterday. Explaining their choice, CNN said it believes "her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward."
Twitter, a relatively new presence on journalism's landscape, has been the subject of many questions involving the future of journalism and ethicality. While the 140-character limit could restrict journalists, the social networking platform is useful to journalists reporting breaking news. The format of the platform, however, permits journalists to bypass an editor and go directly to their audience. Therefore, perhaps Nasr's controversial tweet was simply the result of quick typing and the lack of another set of editorial eyes.
Nasr's story, while unfortunate, could perhaps serve as a cautionary tale to other journalists seeking to use Twitter. While a single tweet may seem rather innocuous, it can have widespread and profound consequences. And, particularly in the case of Nasr, the 140-character format could prevent journalists from fully expressing their ideas, leading to misunderstandings. While journalists should take advantage of the instantaneous communication that Twitter provides, they should also exercise extreme caution when approaching the implications of their words before they publish a seemingly innocent tweet. Or else, they risk becoming the next victim of the social media platform centered on fast-pace, concise, and, most importantly, correct information. (Twictim?)