Black journalists receive Farrakhan tongue-lashing At their convention, he says they fear writing the truth

August 22, 1996|By James Bock | James Bock,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

NASHVILLE, TENN. — NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- Giving black journalists a severe tongue-lashing yesterday at their convention, Louis Farrakhan defended his controversial trip to pariah states in Africa and the Middle East earlier this year and said he had asked the U.S. government for permission to accept money from Libya.

The Nation of Islam leader told members of the National Association of Black Journalists that, because they worked for white-owned media, they were not free to tell what they knew to be the truth. He indirectly criticized The Sun's recent series on slavery in Sudan, whose Islamic fundamentalist regime he supports. The articles appeared in June.

"How many of you are ready to go there [Sudan], look at it and come back and report accurately even if you have to report against the lies that have been spread?" Farrakhan asked.

He did not elaborate. After he was criticized for meeting with African dictators on his trip early this year, Farrakhan challenged the news media to investigate slavery in Sudan. "Where is the proof?" he asked then.

But after The Sun published articles in June that described how two reporters bought and freed two young slaves in the African country, Farrakhan told the Nation of Islam newspaper last month: "The Baltimore Sun is not a news source I should accept as gospel." He urged others to "verify" The Sun's account.

Yesterday's remarks were the closest he has come to commenting further on slavery in the African nation.

U.S. officials assailed Farrakhan for meeting on his 35-day trip in January and February with anti-American Arab leaders such as Libya's Col. Muammar el Kadafi and Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

Farrakhan told the black journalists meeting here yesterday that the journey was "the greatest trip ever made by any black man in the history of America, but white folk will not tell the story."

He said black Africans treated him with reverence for his success in spearheading October's Million Man March in Washington, the largest gathering ever of black Americans.

Farrakhan said that he had been selected to receive a $250,000 prize given in Kadafi's name, and that Nation of Islam lawyers had asked the U.S. Treasury for permission to receive the money.

He also said that Kadafi had pledged to "place the wealth of Libya behind the Nation of Islam," possibly as much as $1 billion, but he left unclear the actual details of such a gift.

Farrakhan also said that Oct. 16, the first anniversary of the Million Man March, would be observed with a world's day of atonement at the United Nations.

Farrakhan angrily accused black journalists of selling out the truth for material rewards.

"They pulled you away from the black press and brought you into the mainstream media, and you became happy to be in the mainstream," he said. "This is a corrupt stream."

But after scolding the audience of 1,200 ("You're big-shot media people now, you don't have no time for God"), he suddenly turned conciliatory, exclaiming "Do you know that I love you? I know how valuable you are, especially to be where you are."

Farrakhan was surrounded by a large cadre of bodyguards, and conventioneers were frisked before they entered the hall where he spoke. Farrakhan said such precautions were "absolutely necessary in the American environment."

He answered a few gentle questions from the audience, revealing that he works out for two hours every day beginning at 6 a.m. He said he doesn't believe in mindless pursuits that most regard as "fun."

Apart from his statements made to the Nation of Islam's newspaper the Final Call, Farrakhan has never responded to requests from The Sun to answer questions about its reporting on Sudanese slavery.

Farrakhan was to speak last night at the headquarters of the National Baptist Convention, a major black denomination, but the event was moved to a local church when the Rev. Henry Lyons, president of the Baptist group, barred Farrakhan because of "philosophical differences."

Pub Date: 8/22/96

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