Octavia Nasr (اوكتافيا نصر) is a journalist who covers Middle East affairs. She served as CNN's Senior Editor of Mideast affairs until her dismissal in July 2010 over her public statement of respect on Twitter for the Lebanese cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who she considered "one of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."
Octavia Nasr was born in Beirut, Lebanon to Lebanese Orthodox Christian parents. She studied in Beirut between 1968 and 1978; primary and middle school at the Sœurs des Saints Cœurs in Beirut. She completed her high school studies at the Collège des Pères Antonins in Baabda, Lebanon. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Lebanese American University (LAU). She has started her graduate studies in Middle Eastern affairs at Georgia State University (GSU), in Atlanta, Georgia. Nasr is married and has two daughters. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and is fluent in Aarabic, French and Engligh.(Citation needed)
Nasr worked at CNN from 1990 until her dismissal in 2010. Most recently, she served as the Senior Editor for Arab affairs across all of CNN’s platforms. In this capacity she appeared on CNN shows to discuss breaking news in the Middle East and how it pertains to the US and the world.
Nasr is the recipient of many awards including: Edward R. Murrow for Continuing Coverage: CNN, Coverage of the Middle East Conflict; the 2006 Golden Cedar Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Lebanese-American Chamber of Commerce as well as CNN World Report’s Achievement Award
Fadlallah comments and CNN dismissal
Following the death of Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah on July 4, 2010, Nasr tweeted on the same day that she was "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot..."
Nasr was criticized for this perceived show of sympathy and support for Hezbollah, an organization which the U.S. government designates as a terrorist group, amid claims that her stated position was incompatible with her role at CNN as editor of news on the Middle East.
In response to reactions to her comment, Nasr wrote on July 6 that the tweet was "an error of judgment". She noted Fadlallah "regularly praised the terror attacks that killed Israeli citizens. And as recently as 2008, he said the numbers of Jews killed in the Holocaust were wildly inflated." She also noted "In 1983, as Fadlallah found his voice as a spiritual leader, Islamic Jihad - soon to morph into Hezbollah - bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 299 American and French peacekeepers."
Nasr concluded her statement by saying that Fadlallah was "revered across borders yet designated a terrorist. Not the kind of life to be commenting about in a brief tweet. It's something I deeply regret." A CNN spokesman responded saying that "CNN regrets any offense her Twitter message caused. It did not meet CNN’s editorial standards." The following day, on July 7, CNN fired Nasr. In an internal CNN memo announcing Nasr's departure, CNN International’s senior vice president for newsgathering, Parisa Khosravi, wrote, "We believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward."
Articles and commentaries following Nasr's sacking have been divided. Mediaite's Dan Abrams asked "Can you imagine what would happen to an American journalist expressing admiration for an Al Qaeda leader who had other, better, attributes?" Others expressed concern over what they viewed as similar incidents, most notably Hearst syndicated columnist Helen Thomas retiring under criticism one month earlier.
Those who agreed with CNN's decision stated that it had a right to enforce standards of objectivity in its reporting. Those who supported Nasr felt her firing constituted a new trend in the political climate for journalists and journalism covering politically sensitive issues in general, and the Middle East in particular.
Shumley Botech wrote "For people like...Nasr..., an imam like Fadlallah who wants to kill Americans and Israelis but who is unexpectedly nice to women has taken a giant leap forward from the Dark Ages, deserving respect and praise. This attitude is, of course, not only deeply amoral and patronizing nonsense but historically false."
Expressing a contrary opinion, Robert Fisk derided CNN and its credibility over the firing, saying "Poor old CNN goes on getting more cowardly by the hour. That's why no one cares about it any more."
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