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Protest planned against Fargo TV station over refugee health report

Cani Abdullahi, left, and Hukun Abdullahi look to Fauzia Haider's phone as she rewatches a Valley News Live report by its "immigration and relocation" reporter Bradford Arick targeting the local refugee population as "health risks" to those living "in a refugee resettlement area" on Monday, May 16, 2016 in a Fargo apartment. Nick Wagner / The Forum1 / 2
Cani Abdullahi, left, reacts to a Valley News Live report with friends Hamida Dakane and Hukun Abdullahi who gathered in a Fargo apartment on Monday, May 16, 2016, to watch the report by the news station's "immigration and relocation" reporter Bradford Arick targeting the local refugee population as "health risks" to those living "in a refugee resettlement area." Nick Wagner / The Forum2 / 2

FARGO—A protest is planned this weekend against a Fargo TV station in response to a story it aired about the supposed health risks of living near refugees.

Protest organizers called the story a "violation of basic journalism," asking the station to issue an official apology and demanding consequences for the people involved in the May ratings-period story.

The story, which aired Monday on the local NBC and CBS affiliate Valley News Live, said "everyone" living in "refugee resettlement areas" like Fargo-Moorhead was at risk of contracting tuberculosis.

Health officials later contradicted the report, noting that North Dakota has one of the lowest rates of tuberculosis in the country. Dr. John Baird, a health officer at Fargo-Cass Public Health, told The Forum that tuberculosis "is not a major problem in our community."

While it is true foreign-born people in the U.S. have a higher rate of tuberculosis than U.S.-born people, Baird said refugees do not pose a public health risk with tuberculosis because they are medically screened for the bacterial disease before and after arriving in the U.S.

Critics said the TV report stoked fears about refugees by unfairly labeling them a public health risk.

Citing those concerns, the Afro-American Development Association announced on Thursday it was partnering with other groups to organize a peaceful protest outside KVLY's Fargo office from noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

"Each of us should have the right to confront discrimination, harassment and misinformation that threaten to segregate us from our own community that we now call our home," said a press release from protest organizers on Thursday. "As refugees and immigrants ourselves who have gone through stringent medical screening including TB screening before and after our admissions to the United States, we find Valley News Live's ... report on Health risks of resettlement including rising rates of tuberculosis infection to be provocative and fabricated to garner hatred and fear among our fellow community members."

The press release was signed by the Afro-American Development Association as well as Somali Community Development of North Dakota, Bhutanese Community of Fargo and Bhutanese Buddha Society of North Dakota.

"We demand an official apology, and an immediate administrative action against Bradford Arick, the reporter who was responsible for the research and reporting; Ike Walker, Valley News Live's News Director; and Jim Wareham, the channel's General Manager," the press release said.

The protest will take place outside the station at 1350 21st Ave. S. in Fargo.

Cani Abdullahi, left, reacts to a Valley News Live report with friends Hamida Dakane and Hukun Abdullahi on Monday. Nick Wagner

"We are very thankful to be in this welcoming community, and the support we have received from our city leaders, organizations, and the community members to make our transition towards successful integration and community involvement in the quickest way possible," protest organizers wrote in the press release. "Due to multiple barriers, not all of us are there yet, but we are making every effort to be there eventually. Meanwhile, we will need additional encouragement, a sense of acceptance, and motivation so that we and our families can actually feel that we belong here."

News Director Walker said he is aware of the protest and had no comment on it.

"I'm not interested in talking to you or The Forum anymore. You guys are the ones that kind of spun all of this up. There are problems with your story," he said, declining to discuss the matter further.

Adrian Glass-Moore

Readers are encouraged to reach Adrian Glass-Moore at (701) 241-5599 or aglassmoore@forumcomm.com with comments, criticisms and tips. He joined The Forum as its night reporter in 2014.

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