ACTION ALERT: Ensure Fairness For Mumia on NBC’s The Today Show!
Hans Bennett | 11.20.2007
ACTION ALERT: Ensure Fairness For Mumia Abu-Jamal on NBC’s The Today Show!
On Dec. 6, NBC’s The Today Show intends to air a show about Michael Smerconish and Maureen Faulkner’s new book “Murdered By Mumia.” According to the announcement on Michael Smerconish’s website, the show is planning to feature both Smerconish and Faulkner as guests.
The International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Journalists for Mumia, and Educators for Mumia have initiated a media-activist campaign urging people to write The Today Show at email@example.com asking them to fairly present both sides of the Mumia Abu-Jamal / Daniel Faulkner case, by also featuring as guests, Linn Washington, Jr. (Philadelphia Tribune columnist and Associate Professor of Journalism at Temple University) and Dr. Suzanne Ross (Clinical Psychologist and Co-Chair of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, NYC).
A sample letter and accompanying press pack have been created to use for contacting The Today Show. Please take a minute and contact them to ensure fair media coverage of this controversial and important case.
The International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (FreeMumia.com)
Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal (Abu-Jamal-News.com)
Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal (EmajOnline.com)
Dear Today Show,
On December, 2007, the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal will be entering the 27th year. In the course of those years, much of the media coverage has contained pure speculation and falsehoods. Media watchdogs like FAIR.ORG have sharply criticized this coverage as being biased against Abu-Jamal.
We understand that on Dec. 6, the Today Show intends to air a show about Michael Smerconish and Maureen Faulkner’s book “Murdered By Mumia.” Interestingly, the scheduled interview regarding the new book focusing on Mrs. Faulkner comes at a time of many startling new developments in this historic case, generating international attention.
Reflecting the international interest in this case, in 2003, Abu-Jamal was named an honorary citizen of Paris, and in 2006, the city of St. Denis named a street after him. While this was largely motivated by opposition to the death penalty, they also cited strong evidence of both an unfair trial and Abu-Jamal’s innocence.
One of these developments centers on extraordinary photos of the 1981 crime scene taken by Philadelphia-based press photographer Pedro Polakoff (viewable at Abu-Jamal-News.com) that reveal manipulation of evidence, and completely contradict the prosecution’s case, including Officer James Forbes’ testimony that he properly handled both Abu-Jamal’s and Faulkner’s guns (the photos show Forbes holding both guns in his bare hand). Also the photos reveal that there were no large bullet divots or destroyed chunks of cement where Faulkner was found, which should be visible in the pavement if the prosecution’s scenario was accurate, according to which Abu-Jamal shot down at Faulkner and allegedly missed several times while Faulkner was on his back. Of particular note, this photographer twice attempted to provide these photos to the District Attorney for both the 1982 trial and the 1995 PCRA hearings, and was ignored both times.
Since his incarceration, Abu-Jamal has published six books and countless articles, and has delivered hundreds of speeches, including keynote addresses for college graduations. As a prolific writer and tenacious journalist, he has earned the respect (and support) of such notable prize-winning authors as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, John Edgar Wideman, and Salman Rushdie. Just recently, he was accepted into the PEN American Center, one of the highest honors a writer can achieve. Additionally, at the time of his arrest, he was president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Black Journalists, and was awarded the PEN Oakland award for outstanding journalism after the publication of his first book, Live from Death Row. Since Live, he has garnered a following of dedicated readers around the world, including scholars, college educators, and journalists. His work is, in part, testament to the dignity he has demonstrated for the past 25 years he has been on death row.
The ethical interests in balance and fairness in presenting “news” regarding the Abu-Jamal case, arguably requires providing Today Show viewers with information evidencing Mr. Abu-Jamal’s innocence and unfair trial. To represent this other side, and to provide perspectives addressing the informational needs of your viewers, I ask that you also feature experts Linn Washington, Jr. (Philadelphia Tribune columnist and Associate Professor of Journalism at Temple University) and Dr. Suzanne Ross (Clinical Psychologist and Co-Chair of the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, NYC) as guests on your Dec. 6 show (they can be contacted via Journalists for Mumia: firstname.lastname@example.org).
While Mrs. Faulkner certainly has a “story” and is entitled to her opinions, your viewers should be privy to other facts, such as the prosecution withholding key evidence, witness coercion, racist jury selection, and evidence that Judge Albert Sabo boasted about his desire to help the prosecution “fry the nigger,” as enclosed in the press packet provided here for you: http://www.abu-jamal-news.com/pr/PressPackNov07.pdf
I also write to provide you with information (inclusive of material from Abu-Jamal’s lawyer) in the interests of journalistic balance, fairness and integrity. The press packet includes 1) A recent Black Commentator article by Philadelphia lawyer/journalist David A. Love describing the significance of the Polakoff photos, 2) An Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal press release about the Polakoff photos, written by Princeton University Professor Mark L. Taylor, 3) Criticism of the 1998 ABC 20/20 program about Abu-Jamal, 4) Background on the case, focusing on both the 1982 trial and 1995-97 PCRA hearings, with a focus on Abu-Jamal’s alleged “hospital confession,” ballistics evidence, and the testimony of Veronica Jones, 5) Recent police intimidation of Abu-Jamal’s supporters, including reported death threats against Sgt. DeLacy Davis, of Black Cops Against Police Brutality, and more.
Thank you for your consideration.