Black media critic Richard Prince has launched a series of attacks on a National Newspaper Publishers Association-led delegation that traveled to Morocco in early January at the expense of the government, writing under one headline: “Black-Press Visitors to Morocco Called Pawns.”
Prince, who has spent all of his professional career with White-owned newspapers, made only a passing reference to Israel’s practice of funding trips for U.S. journalists and dignitaries.
Prince strongly criticized the 14-member delegation for taking the all-expense paid trip because journalistic standards prohibit such trips. However, in a major disservice to Black media, he neglected to point out that the Black Press does not have anywhere near the same resources as the White media and therefore should not be held to the same standard.
In one article, Prince quoted the travel policies of such news organizations as the New York Times and the Washington Post, which have significantly more financial resources than the Black Press.
“Of course, we understand that it is preferable that we pay our own way on such trips,” said NNPA Chairman Cloves C. Campbell, Jr. “But since we’re not getting our fair share of ad dollars and therefore don’t have the resources to pay for the trips, we have to come up with creative ways of covering Africa because the Motherland is too important for us to ignore.”
Africa is so important that seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are there—Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria.
Prince published pictures of the delegation in the southern province of Dakhla and a photo of NNPA News Service Editor-in-Chief George E. Curry near the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, crediting the wrong photographer in both cases.
Prince quoted a representative of Morocco’s opponent in the ongoing dispute over Western Sahara but did not quote anyone from the Moroccan government. Morocco claims the land as part of its country and proposes that it remain part of the country but retain its own autonomy, a position contested by neighboring Algeria through the Polisario Front.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario), an organization that has sought independence for the former Spanish territory since 1973, has called for a referendum that will offer residents the choice between autonomy or independence from Morocco.
Prince wrote, “…Ahmed Boukhari, the Polisario’s representative to the U.N., told Journal-isms that Morocco’s bankrolling of the black-press trip had ulterior motives.
“’In my opinion [it] is a trip politically motivated and with political objectives related to Western Sahara. Morocco’s credibility has been stained these last years as a consequence of human rights violations in Western Sahara,’ he said. ‘Journalists who are not well informed about what is going on in Western Sahara and sensitive to a good reception could be used as a propaganda tool. In any case, any journalist of this group could and in my opinion must be authorized by Morocco to enter into contact with Saharawi human rights defenders.’”
However, as NNPA’s Campbell stated, “No limitations have been placed on what we can write or discuss and we’re under no obligation to write anything.”
Campbell also rejected the back-handed charge that journalists who went on the trip “are not well informed about what is going on in Western Sahara” or that they “could be used as a propaganda tool.”
“The journalists who went on the trip are probably better informed about that region than most White journalists,” Campbell stated.
In an interview, Curry took issue with the idea that Black journalists may have been duped.
“I am disappointed, but not surprised that Richard [Prince] would even raise that issue prior to seeing anything we have written,” he said. “Naturally, we will tell both sides of this story.”
Curry, a former Washington correspondent and New York bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune and former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, said Prince could have looked at his series on China last year to know that he is not gullible.
If you went by the tone of Prince’s coverage, you would think that the Black journalists had visited a pariah nation, instead of the first country to formally recognize U.S. independence. You also would not have known that President Obama recently hosted Morocco King Mohammed VI.
Campbell declared, “We are going to continue taking trips to Africa, regardless of what anyone writes. We openly acknowledge who funds our trips and trust that our readers are intelligent enough to know if we are presenting news that is fair to each side.”