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June 25th, 2003 Amy Roe | News Stories
 

Muslims Protest Oregonian

     
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They cheered. They yelled. They held signs comparing Oregonian reporter Les Zaitz to disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair.

About 100 people showed up Thursday to protest The Oregonian's coverage and editorials regarding Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye and Maher "Mike" Hawash.

Originally arrested on suspicion of carrying explosives in his luggage, Kariye was eventually exonerated of all charges except lying to get public health insurance. Even though Kariye was never charged with terrorism, a May 31 story written by Zaitz about Kariye's sentencing ran under the headline "Terror Case" and detailed how feds had "targeted" Kariye.

Last week, retiring FBI special agent Charles Matthews said the bureau had never linked Kariye to terrorism. "There has been a lot of speculation, but it has not come from the FBI," Matthews told KBOO radio. "And the FBI never associated [Kariye] with terrorism.... Just did not happen."

Oregonian news staff received emails announcing the protest the day before. In the email, Ala'a Abunijem, president of the Islamic Center of Portland, said the paper had failed to improve its coverage of Muslims despite a meeting with Muslim leaders early this year.

Dan Hortsch, who was public editor at the time, said the paper made no promises at the meeting to make changes or add corrections.

"When the meeting was over, I had no indication there would be anything of this sort," Hortsch told WW. "I was at least mildly surprised when I heard there was going to be a demonstration."

Columnist David Reinhard, whose editorials suggested the arrest and detainment of Hawash were justified, did not attend the protest either, as he was out of the building.

Zaitz, too, was absent. "Has anyone told you there was a factual error in that story?" he asked WW. "I guess that speaks for itself."

 
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