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Former Syrian refugee cries foul at 'racist' media coverage of Ukraine war –



A former Syrian refugee living in British Columbia says he’s upset by the way some media outlets are portraying people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine compared to how they speak about refugees from countries in the Middle East and Africa.  

Hassan Al Kontar, who works with the Red Cross in Fort St. John, B.C., says he feels a great level of solidarity with Ukrainians but doesn’t appreciate what he says are some journalists’ stereotypes that non-European countries are uncivilized.

In one example, a CBS correspondent in Kyiv recently said in a live report: “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades — this is a relatively civilized, relatively European [country]… where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”

Countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are “the oldest civilizations on Earth,” Al Kontar tweeted in his criticism of reporter Charlie D’Agata, who later apologized after the clip was widely condemned on social media. 

Al Kontar is one of many people calling out what they say is racism in western media outlets’ inaccurate presumption that refugees are people of colour coming from outside Europe — during a time when fleeing Ukrainians are being welcomed by European leaders who, at the same time, shun asylum seekers from countries like Nigeria, India and Lebanon.

As a former refugee whose home country of Syria is ruled by a dictatorship backed by Russia, Hassan Al Kontar says he empathizes with the plight of Ukrainians. (Submitted by Hassan Al Kontar)

In another example, a columnist for the Daily Telegraph in the U.K. came under fire for writing that the sight of Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country was shocking because they “seem so like us.”

“War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations,” Daniel Hannan wrote. His column was criticized for suggesting that white lives matter more than Black and brown ones.

‘Need to get the facts straight’

Al Kontar, 40, made international headlines in 2018 when he was stranded in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport for nearly seven months. He settled in Whistler, B.C., in January 2019 thanks to sponsorship from a group of residents there, before he moved to Fort St. John.

As a former refugee whose home country is ruled by a dictatorship backed by Russia, he says he empathizes with Ukrainians.

“We know exactly how they feel and our hearts go with them — because we have been there,” he told host Carolina de Ryk on CBC’s Daybreak North.

Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion arrive at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on Wednesday. Shock expressed in certain media outlets at the sight of white refugees from a ‘civilized’ country has been criticized by many. (Markus Schreiber/The Associated Press)

But to assume refugees never come from Europe is plain wrong, he says, citing the fact that the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created in 1950 to help millions of Europeans who had fled their homes after the Second World War. 

“We cannot even be equal as human beings,” he said. “They [journalists] are educating people — they need to get the facts straight.”

Daybreak North8:24A Syrian refugee feels solidarity with Ukrainians but is critical of racism in media coverage

Hassan Al Kontar says he understands what Ukrainians are going through, but is critical of western media’s portrayal of the situation. 8:24

‘Us and them’ narrative

Nathan Andrews, a political science professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., says while media outlets have always perpetuated the dichotomy of “us and them” in news coverage, it’s striking to see how some lives are still perceived as more important than others.

“We’re actually just ignoring the reality and creating the impression that bad things only happen to other people, and other people here would mean Black or brown people elsewhere in the world,” Andrews said.

“You cannot just talk about a group of people being uncivilized. Conflicts are not necessarily tied to particular parts of the world … we should pay attention to these nuances when reporting and not just lump everything together.”

Al Kontar says “ordinary people” can help change these narratives by calling out what he describes as divisive remarks that discriminate against certain groups and by offering support to anyone who is need — like he once was.

“People, ordinary people, they have the power. I said that three years ago, when they changed my life, when they gave me a second chance, when they granted me a safe solution here in Canada, when they accepted me,” he said.

Subscribe to Daybreak North on CBC Listen or your favourite podcast app, and connect with CBC Northern British Columbia on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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Police investigating threatening social media post captured near Pointe-Claire school – CTV News Montreal



Montreal police were on site at John Rennie High School Thursday after threatening images were posted to social media, which may have featured a firearm.

The post included two images: the first showed what appeared to be the side of the school. The second image depicted a young man holding what appeared to be a firearm in an unknown location. 

Police say the post is related to a conflict between two people who have yet to be identified, and that they were likely going to meet at the school. The threats were not directed toward the school itself. 

Police got a call reporting the post at around 9:40 a.m.

Students remained in class while officers stationed themselves at the school. The board notified parents of the situation and asked them not to pick up their kids.  

School board officials said in an internal note to parents that “at no point were staff or students in danger.”

School officials decided to send students home in the early afternoon as officers continued their investigation. Some were bussed out of school property at around 1 p.m.

Police say their firearm division is trying to learn more about the threats. There have been no arrests.

In a statement released later in the day, the Lester B. Pearson School Board thanked the police for acting quickly.

“Today’s incident was extremely regrettable and troubling,” the board said.

“We are extremely relieved and thankful for the prompt and thorough response of law enforcement and the professional way our staff managed the situation.”

A school spokesperson confirmed classes would resume Friday morning. 

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Media Advisory: Minister Osborne to Speak at YMCA Annual Enterprise Olympics Conference – News Releases – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador



The Honourable Tom Osborne, Minister of Education, will bring remarks at the YMCA Annual Enterprise Olympics Conference today (Friday, May 27).

The event takes place at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel, 5 Navigator Avenue, St. John’s at 12:30 p.m.

Enterprise Olympics is a program that encourages the growth of entrepreneurial thinking among students and teachers and provides a quality experience for young people considering careers in entrepreneurship.

– 30 –

Media contact
Tina Coffey
709-729-1906, 687-9903

2022 05 27
9:05 am

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Texas school shooter warning signs drowned in sea of social media posts – Global News



The warning signs were there for anyone to stumble upon, days before the 18-year-old gunman entered a Texas elementary school and slaughtered 19 children and two teachers.

There was the Instagram photo of a hand holding a gun magazine, a TikTok profile that warned, “Kids be scared,” and the image of two AR-style semi-automatic rifles displayed on a rug, pinned to the top of the killer’s Instagram profile.

Shooters are leaving digital trails that hint at what’s to come long before they actually pull the trigger.

“When somebody starts posting pictures of guns they started purchasing, they’re announcing to the world that they’re changing who they are,” said Katherine Schweit, a retired FBI agent who spearheaded the agency’s active shooter program. “It absolutely is a cry for help. It’s a tease: can you catch me?”

Read more:

Misinformation and conspiracy theories spiral after Texas school shooting

The foreboding posts, however, are often lost in an endless grid of Instagram photos that feature semi-automatic rifles, handguns and ammunition. There’s even a popular hashtag devoted to encouraging Instagram users to upload daily photos of guns with more than 2 million posts attached to it.

For law enforcement and social media companies, spotting a gun post from a potential mass shooter is like sifting through quicksand, Schweit said. That’s why she tells people not to ignore those type of posts, especially from children or young adults. Report it, she advises, to a school counselor, the police or even the FBI tip line.

Increasingly, young men have taken to Instagram, which boasts a thriving gun community, to drop small hints of what’s to come with photos of their own weapons just days or weeks before executing a mass killing.

Click to play video: 'Husband of teacher killed in Texas school shooting dies of heart attack, family says'

Husband of teacher killed in Texas school shooting dies of heart attack, family says

Husband of teacher killed in Texas school shooting dies of heart attack, family says

Before shooting 17 students and staff members dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, Nikolas Cruz posted on YouTube that he wanted to be a “professional school shooter” and shared photos of his face covered, posing with guns. The FBI took in a tip about Cruz’s YouTube comment but never followed up with Cruz.

In November, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley shared a photo of a semi-automatic handgun his dad had purchased with the caption, “Just got my new beauty today,” days before he went on to kill four students and injure seven others at his high school in Oxford Township, Michigan.

And days before entering a school classroom on Tuesday and killing 19 small children and two teachers, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos left similar clues across Instagram.

Read more:

Everything we know so far about the Texas mass school shooting

On May 20, the day that law enforcement officials say Ramos purchased a second rifle, a picture of two AR-style semi-automatic rifles appeared on his Instagram. He tagged another Instagram user with more than 10,000 followers in the photo. In an exchange, later shared by that user, she asks why he tagged her in the photo.

“I barely know you and u tag me in a picture with some guns,” the Instagram user wrote, adding, “It’s just scary.”

The school district in Uvalde had even spent money on software that, using geofencing technology, monitors for potential threats in the area.

Ramos, however, didn’t make a direct threat in posts. Having recently turned 18, he was legally allowed to own the weapons in Texas.

Read more:

Buffalo mass shooting: How should platforms respond to violent livestreams?

His photos of semi-automatic rifles are one of many on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube where it’s commonplace to post pictures or videos of guns and shooter training videos are prevalent. YouTube prohibits users from posting instructions on how to convert firearms to automatic. But Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, does not limit photos or hashtags around firearms.

That makes it difficult for platforms to separate people posting gun photos as part of a hobby from those with violent intent, said Sara Aniano, a social media and disinformation researcher, most recently at Monmouth University.

“In a perfect world, there would be some magical algorithm that could detect a worrisome photo of a gun on Instagram,” Aniano said. “For a lot of reasons, that’s a slippery slope and impossible to do when there are people like gun collectors and gunsmiths who have no plan to use their weapon with ill intent.”

Meta said it was working with law enforcement officials Wednesday to investigate Ramos’ accounts. The company declined to answer questions about reports it might have received on Ramos’ accounts.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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