Link to the interview: https://promosaik.blogspot.com/2020/07/mohsen-abdelmoumen-racism-is-only-gross.html
Mohsen Abdelmoumen: « Racism is only the gross expression of filthy ignorance »
By Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following my interview with Mohsen Abdelmoumen, a journalist focusing on matters which are very important to me, like Yemen, Western Sahara, Palestine and who also treats matters like human rights, even if this term as he says, is misused, ethics in journalism and the struggle against the discrimination of people because of their ethnic origin and religious orientation. Another important matter in this interview concerns the importance of anti-imperialist views which must not remain unexpressed by engaged journalists. Would like to thank Mohsen very much for his time and precious answers.
Why did you decide to become a journalist?
It’s always difficult to talk about oneself because I grew up and lived in a world where we rarely talk about ourselves. Furthermore, having experienced commitment and activism at a very young age, I have learned that when one becomes politically committed – especially by being on the revolutionary left – to just causes such as social justice, freedom, etc., one is not used to talking about oneself. On the contrary, we give much more than we receive. Concerning the circumstances, I think that to be a journalist, it took a combination of factors, a kind of destiny. I started when I was very young, writing for myself in Arabic and French. My political commitment pushed me into permanent reading, be it books or texts. A friend of mine who is an occupational doctor then suggested to set up a local newspaper with his friends in Béjaïa, Algeria. The project did not come to fruition, yet we had started to set up the administrative process and so on. In the meantime, I was in contact with an Algerian news agency to which I sent dispatches and articles about current events in the city where I was. They were very interested in my work. At that time, we were living through a war against terrorism in which hundreds of thousands of Algerians paid with their lives, and many of the projects I was considering did not succeed.
One day, I met Henri Alleg, a great journalist and a great activist of the Algerian cause, he had been director of Alger Républicain. This meeting was a chance encounter, but it made an impression on me. I see a sign. The elders of Alger Républicain who had formed an association decided to relaunch the publication of the newspaper. I found myself in the middle of this project and we started the adventure with three. I did a lot of work, including contacting former supporters of the newspaper wherever they were and I was part of the newspaper for several years. Although it was an old newspaper, its reappearance was a baptism of fire for me. I put a lot of work into this newspaper.
A few years later, I organized a hunger strike in Algeria against the working conditions of journalists and then I moved away after Bouteflika was elected for his second term. I left Algeria for Europe where I also organized a hunger strike to obtain residence permits for more than a hundred people. It was an enriching experience because, among other things, I managed the media aspect of this action. I have spoken about our struggle to various newspapers and media such as international television stations such as Al Jazeera, the BBC, RTL, RTBF, France 3, RAI, Spanish and Scandinavian television stations, and so on. This allowed us to use information as a fighting tool and we were supported all over the world, notably by Hugo Chavez. We finally won.
After several years of absence in journalism, I returned to the profession by writing remotely and voluntarily for Algerian dailies such as La Nouvelle République and Algérie Patriotique, and then other Western sites that contacted me to be part of their team. The last media outlet I work for is the American Herald Tribune where I write regularly as a columnist, always on a volunteer basis. My background is not classic, I’ve made it on the job. I came to journalism by chance and by accident. It’s fate. In Alger Républicain, I had a column called « Strikes and riots » and I was in contact with many unionists. I did a lot of interviews and reports. It’s a long experience and I’m forgetting a lot of anecdotes, but the course that followed was even richer in contacts with very interesting personalities of international stature, I would even say fascinating. Thus, I was able to meet, in particular, Westerners who campaigned for the independence of my country, Algeria, but also ambassadors, scientists, activists, journalists, academics, writers, intelligence professionals, military, diplomats and many others. The interview is my strong side because I have easy contact. I have enriched myself as a human being through contact with these people. It’s a lot of work and it’s also stressful, but it’s exciting. As I’m usually the one asking the questions (laughs), this time it’s the opposite and it’s tricky because it’s a personal question. Nevertheless, I hope I have answered your question.
What do you think is the relationship between journalism and human rights today? And what are the main problems of it?
Already, the concept of human rights is biased because it is misused. We have seen criminal interventions such as those by the Americans in Iraq or the French in Libya, and many others, under the pretext of « human rights » and « democracy ». We have even seen the emergence of the concept of « humanitarian intervention » theorized by the sinister Bernard Kouchner. There is also the famous « creative chaos » of the no less sinister Condoleezza Rice and the American neocons. Unfortunately, « human rights » are nowadays used to invade and destroy countries. It is noticeable how this concept of human rights is used with variable geometry when it comes to the rights of the Palestinian people, for example, which poses a major problem regarding the definition of these human rights in the current political context. What are human rights?
The role of a journalist is to inform objectively while respecting professional ethics. He must be a truth teller, a whistle-blower. Unfortunately, many journalists are hostages of their career, they are locked in their editorial offices which are in the pay of financial lobbies, and can’t exercise their profession freely, so they can’t inform. They often become instruments of propaganda rather than information tools, genuine watchdogs.
In short, in our capitalist society, the concept of human rights is distorted and independent journalism does not exist. In order for both to exist, there has to be a change of the system. Media in the service of big business cannot produce independent journalism and a predatory capitalist system that has become imperialist in order to capture markets internationally cannot claim to serve human rights. In this context, the journalist simply serves an oligarchy.
How difficult is it to move away from a Eurocentric point of view in journalism? Which are the best strategies you can show to Western journalists?
As I said in the previous answer, a journalist who is not free and who does not exercise his profession freely because his newspaper or television is linked to financial lobbies will not be able to inform citizens. He will serve his employers and shareholders, and in time he will become a propagandist, which is noticeable today in the mainstream media, where lies are raging and the journalist has become a sounding board for political power. That’s not being a journalist and doing journalism. Above all, one must be independent, free to move around, defend one’s opinions, not negotiate one’s positions, not compromise or make concessions, even if the price to be paid is to leave this profession. To emancipate oneself from any kind of policy, Eurocentric or otherwise, is impossible when one is not free oneself. In my opinion, freedom must be placed above all else, i.e. at the slightest disagreement or pressure from the shareholders of the newspaper or the media in general, you have to leave the ship because there’s no point in struggling inside a newsroom, because there’s a big deficit in solidarity among journalists. In the event of punishment, everyone turns away from the person who is incriminated. In most editorials, it is believed that there is harmony or synergy, but this is not true, it is an illusion. On the contrary, there is fierce competition and this competition is the matrix of the capitalist system. There is a definite lack of organization within this profession. For example, there are strikes in many sectors but never or very rarely in editorial offices, where workers experience difficult working conditions on an equal footing with other citizens. As a result, the disorganization of this profession benefits the establishment, the shareholders, who make journalists work at low cost and in unsustainable conditions: immense workload, availability at all times, etc. They are held by the wallet. This profession is really in crisis, as can be seen, for example, by the fall of the paper press, but also by other phenomena that are not helping matters, such as the emergence of social networks that now compete with the work of journalists. We are in the age of citizen journalism with all the risks of receiving false information, poor analysis and so on. Although I encourage citizens to be in the news, to be citizen journalists, they must have a minimum of training and background to do this work.
The advice I can give to western journalists is to not accept to be propaganda tools and to free themselves from financial lobbies, and simply remain objective in processing information, which is quite impossible in our time. I had the honor of interviewing two great personalities: Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, and I advise journalists to read their masterpiece which is Manufacturing Consent. I also advise them to take an interest in the work of another great personality that I had the chance to interview, William Blum, who was a precursor of the alternative press and who wrote among other books Rogue State.
I would like to conclude my remarks by saying that I protest against the treatment of Julian Assange, who has devoted his life to informing and who is paying a heavy price in a prison. While he has done a lot for freedom of speech, no media today is talking about Julian Assange. They buried him alive. Talking about Julian Assange is doing journalism. There is no explanation for this silence, except that the media and politicians are all under the thumb of US imperialism.
The Yemen war is a forgotten war and a forgotten nightmare. What is the main problem of it and what is the solution?
The Yemen war began with a criminal intervention by Saudi Arabia and its allies, led by the United Arab Emirates, against the Houthis. The fundamental problem is this criminal Saudi intervention which massacred the Yemeni people using depleted uranium and there is talk of an appalling famine and various scourges affecting the civilian population. The international community has turned a blind eye to this criminal Saudi intervention and the abuses and even crimes against humanity that it has provoked. If there is silence about this war, it is mainly due to the influence of the Saudi lobby in the United States. Today, we are witnessing a real colonization of a part of Yemen including strategic ports and cities by the United Arab Emirates. The Emiratis hid their game well during the Saudi intervention and won the bet as the Saudis got nothing. On the contrary, they were attacked on their own soil by the Houthi rebels. We can see that Yemen is moving towards secession, as is currently happening in Libya. The South and the North are divided. The Hadi government is taken hostage by the Saudis, war is raging, the country is divided, and the Emiratis play a troubled role by arming militias and occupying strategic towns and ports. The Saudi and Emirati criminal intervention has led to a humanitarian catastrophe, a political failure and risks leading to the partition of the country. The Yemeni patriots must now expel the Saudi and Emirati occupiers from their soil. It is up to them to decide their fate and resolve their problems in a political manner by laying the groundwork for a serene dialogue with all the forces that make up this country. In Yemen, the solution is not military, but eminently political.
The phrase of the Saudi king Abdelaziz ben Abderrahmane Al Saud, which is transmitted between kings from generation to generation, is revealing: « Your glory is in the humiliation of Yemen and your humiliation is the glory of Yemen » (literal translation from Arabic). For me, this is a very important sentence that explains the relations between Saudi Arabia and Yemen and gives keys to understanding this war. I consider the Emiratis to be as guilty as the Saudis and all the Arab countries that took part in this criminal intervention. Just one last point: my country of origin, Algeria, was not part of the accursed Saudi coalition and did not take part in the criminal war against Yemen, and I am proud and happy about that.
The Western Sahara is another forgotten problem. Why? And how to oppose to Moroccan imperialism?
The issue of Western Sahara, although a UN decolonization issue, is forgotten because the Moroccan Makhzen lobby corrupts and buys off European MPs, members of the US Congress and also journalists. Morocco is experiencing economic and political problems with a decadent monarchy that does not hesitate to repress protesters, particularly from the Moroccan Rif, who are demanding their rights, and lobbying all over the planet to stifle the legitimate question and the just cause of the Saharawi people who must be able to dispose of itself. I interviewed several MEPs, some of whom revealed to me the existence of Moroccan lobbying which is similar to corruption which targets MEPs and we have seen the repercussions of these practices with the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement. The corruption to which Morocco is indulging and to which some politicians and MEPs are subjecting themselves gives a poor image of democracy and politics in Europe. Does a deputy who is mandated by his voters have the right to sell himself to third countries and participate in crushing an entire people? I will not hide from you that I felt immense disgust at the practices of some European politicians who support Moroccan colonialism at the expense of the just cause of the Sahrawi people. Their behaviour is despicable and immoral. Unfortunately, they engage in these practices while their peoples are not informed of these malpractices. Thus, the Moroccan lobbies supported by the Israelis and the Gulf countries are exerting pressure at all levels to ensure that the Saharawi question is not settled and that the Saharawi people do not recover its independence on its own territory. Historical facts tell us that Western Sahara has never belonged to Morocco.
Why does the world remain silent in the face of Moroccan occupation and colonialism in Western Sahara? Simply because Morocco is the privileged ally and vassal of Israel, the Saudis, the Emirates, and the Americans (I remind that Morocco has just installed a military base conceived by the Israelis on its border with Algeria. The Saharawi people, who is fighting for its freedom and for its basic right to independence on its own territory, has found itself faced with colonialism supported by world powers. That is why the solution is slow in coming. Morocco is using all legal and above all illegal tricks to stop the independence of this territory, to block any proposal towards the resolution of the Western Sahara crisis, and this is why the UN envoys have failed. They have not been able to work freely because Morocco has corrupted many European and American officials. It impedes the completion of the process leading to the decolonization of those Territories. The cause of the Saharawi people is just and the Saharawi people want to live free on their territory. Morocco had no business in Western Sahara.
How to counter Moroccan imperialism? In my opinion, it takes both a political and a media battle to let the world know that a people has been dispossessed of its land and is undergoing Moroccan colonialism. The political fight is to support the Polisario Front, to recognize it and to make its struggle known. The anti-imperialist political parties in the world must call on their governments and put pressure on their leaders to counter the propaganda of Moroccan imperialism and help the Sahrawi people regain its independence. It is a just struggle that all anti-imperialists, all internationalists, all freedom-loving people in the world must wage as much as the struggle for the Palestinian people. On the economic level, I suggest boycotting, like BDS, which is doing a remarkable job of boycotting Israeli products, all products that come from the Sahrawi territories occupied by Morocco. This Moroccan imperialism must be banished by all possible means and support the cause of the Saharawi people until it regains its independence.
My country of origin, Algeria, has always been with the Saharawi people in this struggle, just as it has always supported the Palestinian people. And in this case, I am very satisfied with my country’s position.
For me there is no refugee but only the person. How to struggle against racism and discrimination in the Western World today?
Racism is rooted in Western society; we have recently seen the global impact of the assassination of George Floyd. I believe that the best way to combat the harmful scourges of racism and discrimination is through education. If the family plays a role, the school must also do so by offering programs that tell the truth, for example about colonization and slavery. This is very important and it starts there. To fight racism, the best thing is knowledge, education, culture, because racism is only the gross expression of filthy ignorance. A great deal of work also needs to be done to raise awareness about the causes of immigration, which are closely linked to geopolitical phenomena, such as military interventions and wars generated by Western imperialist policies, and conflicts that serve the interests of the multinationals that monopolize the wealth of the African and other continents. There is also the support of Western governments for the despots who are leading their countries to both political and economic disaster and causing the departure of hundreds of thousands of desperate people with no future. The sad paradox is that Africa is a continent which is rich for the multinationals but poor for the African people. I think that in the future we will also have to fear a new type of immigration with global warming, which will push many populations to move and which will pose great problems.