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Under questionable circumstances

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By Bliss Waithe / Asst. Opinions editor

By Bliss Waithe / Asst. Opinions editor

“Welcome to Texas! Unless you’re Al Jazeera.” That’s the title of Brazilian blogger Gabriel Elizondo’s post on the Al Jazeera website on September 4, 2011.

Within this blog, he shares details of his very unpleasant visit to Booker High School, where hospitality and warm welcomes quickly turned into a hostile environment driven primarily by prejudice.

 “I easily imagined sitting in the bleachers, eating a hot dog and drinking a Coke, talking football with parents and maybe slipping in a little 9/11 if they allow me,” said Elizondo in his initial post. Unfortunately, that was about as far as that would go.

On a drive across the country in an attempt to talk to U.S. citizens about the ten year anniversary of September 11th, Elizondo stopped in Booker, Texas in order to film a local football game, as well as talk patrons about their views regarding 9/11.

Although Elizondo initially received a pleasant greeting from Lisa Yauck, the Principal of Booker High, her grins and good cheer quickly washed away upon discovering that he was writing a piece for Al Jazeera, a Middle Eastern news organization.

From there, Yauck’s obvious distaste for the news outlet was then directed toward the reporter.

The criticism that surrounds Al Jazeera is a direct result of the various controversies regarding the organization. This includes allegations such as those made by FOX News, CNN, and other Western media outlets,  previously aired videos from the organization showing masked terrorists beheading western hostages in Iraq.

Accusations have also been made that they promote terrorism and violence.

Numerous other complaints that they are anti-American and biased offers more of a look into the opposing side of this situation.

However, the truth is Al Jazeera’s purpose is to provide a much better insight of international news, as stated by the organization’s executive, Wadah Khanfar, and to promote the free flow of information.

Even Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, has admitted it to be an effective source of news.

“Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news,” said Clinton. “You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock.”

However, this was only the beginning of the mistreatment Elizondo experienced that night. Michael Lee, the Superintendent for Brooker High, then approached the reporter and, without so much as an introduction, exchanged words with Elizondo.

This confrontation led to the superintendent’s refusal to allow him to film, photograph, or interview Texans while attending the event.

Elizondo was forced to remove himself from the premise after being treated so dejectedly.

Soon after Elizondo expressed his disappointment in the behaviors exhibited that night on his blog, Lee issued his own claim on the matter, addressing several assertions that were previously made against him. He covered his trail of disregard for Elizondo’s purpose at the event.

“The principal had concerns that these interviews would interfere with individuals watching the game and intrude on student privacy. In light of these concerns, the principal asked that I address Mr. Elizondo’s request,” Lee said. “Student safety is a top priority at all District events and the administration reserves the right to take all reasonable action to ensure that safety is not compromised.”

Where was the student’s safety compromised or in any way endangered? How did Elizondo’s presence stir as much controversy as it did?

 Nowhere in the district’s policy does it claim to protect their students at district events, solely during school. More specifically, nowhere does it claim that the action of filming, photographing, or interviewing are prohibited or are in anyway dangerous to the student population.

Furthermore, if the event is public by open invitation and the spectators there are in attendance through their own choice, then isn’t it of their own option and duty to protect themselves from potential harm?

Considering Elizondo’s credentials as a professional journalist, he must certainly be aware of the protocol for releasing information to the public, and that should include the consent of those being filmed, photographed, or interviewed. Therefore, Lee’s claimed effort for safety can be deemed unnecessary.

“In an effort to balance the sometimes competing interests of the media, parents and students, the district has created a designated space for all media to film football games without detracting from student activities or disrupting spectators,” said Lee in a press release.

If that were the case, why wasn’t this option provided to Elizondo?

The prejudiced behavior exhibited that night at Booker High’s football game was very inappropriate and displeasing. The way the circumstances were handled was very unnecessary and extremely unjust.

By taking a step back and looking at the event on a bigger scale, how different would the situation have gone had Elizondo been a journalist for a well-known media establishment, like Time Magazine? It would have been nothing like this.

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