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    Russian Radio Host Fired for Insensitive Tweet

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    Aleksander Plushev, a journalist and radio host for the Echo of Moscow radio station, has been fired for posting an offensive tweet following the death of the son of Sergey Ivanov, the Kremlin chief of staff.

    MOSCOW, November 7 (RIA Novosti) – Aleksander Plushev, a journalist and radio host for the Echo of Moscow radio station, has been fired for an ethics violation, Vedomosti newspaper reports, citing the station’s main shareholder Gazprom-Media.

    On November 5, following the news that the son of Sergey Ivanov, the Kremlin chief of staff, died, Plushev tweeted, “Do you consider the death of Ivanov's son, who ran over an old woman with his car and later sued her son-in-law, to be proof of the existence of God or higher justice?” Later that day, the radio host apologized to those, who were offended by the phrasing of the question, and removed the tweet. He later tweeted, “But the question remains: Do you believe in the existence of the higher justice (god, karma) that punishes those you consider bad?”

    On November 6, Plushev announced he was fired by Yekaterina Pavlova, the Echo of Moscow CEO, adding Editor-in-chief Aleksey Venediktov was not aware of the decision. Venediktov maintains Plushev could not be fired without the editor-in-chief’s consent and remains an employee. However, Venedictov was critical of Plushev’s tweet saying a person, asking such a question, “would not be able to work as a journalist in decent media.” He added that social media was a private space. Venedictov apologized to Sergey Ivanov for Plushev’s tweet calling it “incorrect, “shameful” and “unethical” on the air, according to a transcript published on the Echo of Moscow website.

    But should social media be indeed considered a private space? Evidence points to the contrary. Offensive tweets are rarely acceptable in countries with a responsible civil society.

    In 2012, Yahoo News fired its Washington bureau chief David Chalian after he was caught saying Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate at the time, and his wife Ann were “happy to have a party with black people drowning”. The remarks were made during a webcast from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. The event coincided with Hurricane Isaac making landfall in the state.

    Chalian apologized for the controversial remarks in a Facebook post saying he was “profoundly sorry for making an inappropriate and thoughtless joke. I was commenting on the challenge of staging a convention during a hurricane and about campaign optics,” as quoted by Politico. For its part, Yahoo said, “Chalian's statement was inappropriate and does not represent the views of Yahoo!.  …  We have already reached out to the Romney campaign, and we apologize to Mitt Romney, his staff, their supporters and anyone who was offended.”

    In July 2014, CNN reassigned correspondent Diana Magnay, who was covering Israel’s campaign against Hamas in Gaza, after she referred to the Israeli soldiers standing nearby as “scum”. Magnay tweeted: “Israelis on hill above Sderot cheer as bombs land on #gaza; threaten to ‘destroy our car if I say a word wrong’. Scum.” Following the incident, CNN spokeswoman told the Huffington Post Magnay “deeply [regretted] the language used, which was aimed directly at those who had been targeting our crew,” adding the reporter “certainly meant no offense to anyone beyond that group, and she and CNN apologize for any offense that may have been taken.”

    In 2011, Aflac, a US insurance company that also operates in Japan, fired the comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who provided the voice for the Aflac duck in TV commercials, for insensitive tweets about Japan, hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. The natural disaster, referred to as the “toughest and the most difficult crisis” for the country since WWII by then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, left over 15,500 people killed, more than 6,100 injured and caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant inter alia.

    One Gottfried’s tweet said, “Japan called me. They said ‘maybe those jokes are a hit in the U.S., but over here, they're all sinking,’” as quoted by CNN. He also tweeted, “I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said ‘is there a school in this area.’ She said ‘not now, but just wait.’” After getting fired by Aflac, Gottfried apologized “to anyone who was offended by my attempt at humor regarding the tragedy in Japan”, as quoted by the People magazine. “I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families,” Gottfried added.

    Michael Zuna, Aflac’s senior vice president at the time, insisted that “Gilbert's recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac,” as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “Aflac Japan - and, by extension, Japan itself - is part of the Aflac family, and there is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times,” Zuna added.

    In 2013, Business Insider fired Pax Dickinson, its chief technology officer, after his offensive tweets on feminism, poverty and race relations were uncovered. Some of his most controversial tweets include: “A man who argues on behalf of feminism is a tragic figure of irony, like a Jewish Nazi.” In another inflammatory remark Dickinson contended: “feminism in tech remains the champion topic for my block list. my finger is getting tired.”

    “A Business Insider executive has made some comments on Twitter that do not reflect our values and have no place at our company. The executive has left the company, effective immediately,” Henry Blodget, the founder, editor, and CEO of Business Insider said in a statement. Pax Dickinson has since removed some of the offensive tweets but many of them remain on his Twitter account.

    As is common practice in such cases, reporters, TV and radio hosts as well as high-ranking executives are often fired for offensive remarks posted on social media. At the very least, conscientious people along with their employers issue sincere apology for posting insensitivities. Often such incidents lead to disciplinary action.


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