Hi Passengers,

Hope your week is off to a good start. This is Davide Mastracci, the managing editor at Passage. I’m back again to share the latest reactionary antics in the corporate media with you.

This time, I want to tell you about a story that has been in the news for a while, but point out something about it that hasn’t gotten enough discussion. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Last month, the University of Toronto rescinded a job offer to Valentina Azarova, a Germany-based scholar who would have been hired as the director of the law school’s International Human Rights Program (IHRP)
  • Members of the hiring committee are alleging that Edward Iacobucci, the faculty’s dean, rescinded the offer after facing external pressure from David Spiro, a member of the Tax Court of Canada who cited concern with Azarova’s work on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories
  • Since then, U of T has received international blowback for the decision from academics, advocacy and human rights organizations, activists, and people in the legal world alike. The entire IHRP faculty advisory board as well as others at the school have resigned in protest
  • There is now an internal U of T review into what happened, but it has been heavily criticized for not being mandatory or independent 

This is obviously a pretty bad situation. But so is the fact that many articles in the corporate media on this scandal have failed to do what I just did: name the judge accused of being behind this injustice.

Between the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and Toronto Sun, Azarova was named in at least 22 articles. Spiro, meanwhile, was named in just 8 of these, meaning nearly 65 per cent of articles on the situation in these publications have been deeply flawed. 

Moreover, Spiro only began to be named in these articles after the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) wrote a letter to the judicial council that named him. There’s no sign that the NCCM had info the media didn’t that allowed them to name him. But even if they did, that’s still a failure on the media’s behalf. 

There are cases where the media don’t name someone central to a story even if they can confidently identify said person. In almost all of these cases, protection is given because the journalist is legally required to do so (for example, youth accused of crimes) or because the person in question is a victim in a vulnerable position or an anonymous whistleblower who has legitimate reasons to fear for their safety if their identity was revealed.

This is obviously not the case here. Spiro is not a victim; he is accused of perpetrating an injustice. Spiro is not in a vulnerable position; he is a member of the powerful Tax Court of Canada, and his extended family has donated tens of millions of dollars to U of T. 

It’s also worth considering the real world power dynamics of the topic in question. Palestinians are the victims of an apartheid system, and Spiro is accused of trying to punish someone who has dared to document what is happening to them. (And if you want to learn more about how Canadian media is incredibly biased against Palestinians as well, you can read my article Uncovering Canadian Media’s Devastating Pro-Israel Bias.)

So with that in mind, I have to ask: Why is the media hesitant to name Spiro as if he’s the victim in this situation? Every story in which he isn’t named is incomplete, and impacts the public’s ability to be fully informed of what’s going on. 

If you come across articles on this scandal going forward, take a look and see if Spiro is named. Feel free to let me know of any new ones where he isn’t named, as they’re detrimental to all of us seeking justice.

If you’ll hang with me for a couple more minutes, I have something else I want to share with you. As I mentioned last week, I’m going to be using this newsletter to send you mini media briefs regarding some of the worrying stuff I see in the corporate press that I’m not able to write entire stories about. But sometime in the near future, these emails will become exclusive to members only.

We’re currently in the midst of a membership drive, so please do consider becoming a fellow Passenger to continue receiving these briefs from me to you. We need at least 30 more members before the end of the month to reach our goal, and we’d love for you to be one of them. 

We rely exclusively on readers like you to exist, publish what you wouldn’t see in the corporate press and pay our writers fast, and well. When you sign up, you’ll also get access to our daily newsletter, some new courses we’re about to launch, a free membership to the Harbinger Media progressive podcast network, and much more.

Give it some thought. If you want to discuss anything mentioned here do feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.

Thank you for spending part of your Monday with me. Talk again soon!


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