A Shocking Loss of Media Nerve: Locked Out of Gaza

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Paul D. Boin Paul D. Boin's picture
A Shocking Loss of Media Nerve: Locked Out of Gaza

A Blog for Media Justice, By Paul D. Boin, is jointly sponsored by Rabble.ca and the Media Justice Project.

Regardless of where you stand on the current Mideast crisis between Israel and Gaza, what I find most shocking about the mainstream media coverage is the lack of media outrage over the blocking of journalists from entering Gaza by the Israeli government.

Since the crisis broke out on December 27th, I have been collecting and reading all the editorials published by the major mainstream North American newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Globe and Mail, National Post, and Toronto Star). In these numerous media outlet opinion pieces that carefully detail their official stances on the current crisis, only the New York Times (January 6th editorial, yet still not enough) mentioned a word about the fact that their organizations were being prevented from doing their primary job – being a witness and recorder of world events for the publics they are supposed to be serving.

When one recalls how numerous and ferocious these same media outlets have issued their ‘brave’ editorial positions against being blocked from the courtrooms of a sexy murder case, the hypocrisy is unbearable. During these far less important events, the editorials vehemently blather forth about “The public’s right to know!” and how “A free press is the first and most important measure of a democratic society.” 2 weeks after being blocked from covering the most important story in the world at this moment, and five of these six (and all three Canadian) mainstream media popinjays still have not issued a word in protest? Why are there not dozens/hundreds of lead editorials protesting this blatant crime against media freedom?

What makes this even worse is that these very same media organizations have their own brave journalists at the fence of the scene of this critical story just chomping at the bit to get in and do their jobs . The corporate masters and official editorial writers of the major mainstream media organizations are not only letting down the people of the world, and the civilians (on both sides) being killed and maimed, they are letting down their own journalists.  

“All the news that’s fit to print.” “Canada’s National Newspaper” (not to mention the slogans of their electronic media counterparts: “The most trusted name in news,” and “Trusted, connected, and Canadian”). Hardly!

“We have defaulted on our profession,” said Helen Thomas upon reflecting on how her mainstream media journalist colleagues covered the lead-up to the Iraq war. This time, the journalists are there waiting to get in. It is the corporate and editorial decision-makers that have defaulted on their profession. These same decision-makers wonder why their news organizations are losing readers (and viewers). If you don’t serve the public, and allow and fight for your journalists to serve them, then the public will not serve you.

The disgraceful and cowardly game is up mainstream media. Your hypocrisy has now been laid bare for all the world to see. Will you mainstream media decision-makers summon up enough nerve to honor your profession and your journalists, and to truly serve the public? Will you finally take a real stand for media freedom and the public’s right to know? The world, the victims of this crisis, and your future awaits your decision.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Here's the URL for Paul's Media Blog:

http://mjblog.mediajustice.ca/

(The link that appears in the [url=Rabble.ca[/url]">http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/rabble-staff/shocking-loss-media-nerve][... blog doesn't work!)

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The real reason the media doesn't complain about being shut out of Gaza is that they don't care. They are happy to accept the Israeli spin on this barbarous assault without a reality check on the ground.

Justin Podur has a good article on [url=Rabble.ca[/url]">http://www.rabble.ca/news/turn-canadian-media-please]Rabble.ca[/url].

Justin Podur wrote:
In the face of a major ongoing crime like that of Israel's siege and assault on Gaza, Canadians turn to the Canadian media in good faith to try to learn and understand what is happening, who is to blame, and what they might be able to do to help the victims. On each of these counts, the Canadian media fails.

But the days when Canadians would be stuck listening to local radio, picking up the local print newspaper, or watching local television packaged by Canadian media corporations for their consumption are over. There is, for the time being, media choice. And given the choice, on Israel/Palestine, it would be foolish to turn to the Canadian media.

These days I actually don't have the stomach to do an exhaustive survey of Canadian coverage of these massacres. I have done such surveys in the past (see [url=http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/2049]my letter to the Toronto Star's Mitch Potter from a few years back)[/url], and I spent a lot of time and energy thinking about how to democratize the mainstream Canadian media and pressure it to be more open. These days, though, I mainly follow my own advice.

A friend of mine, Brooks Kind, spent some time going through the least biased of the Canadian media, CBC radio, over the past two weeks. He found that the CBC suppressed crucial facts, presented an unrepresentative spectrum of opinion and falsified the historical record. The suppressions and omissions are in the service of the perspective of the U.S. and Israeli governments (and Canadian politicians), but they are no less false for that. With the reminder that I am picking on the CBC not because it is the worst, but because it is by far the best, here are just a few examples....

martin dufresne

I too would like to see newspeople report without Israeli hindrance but do you think their bosses would nevertheless let them publish or air anything radically contrary to the spin demanded by the pro-Israel lobby?

Journalists have traditionally been shut out of war zones. Do we think our right to oversee situations ranks higher than those of the parties in presence? That 'universal gaze' conceit is an ideological basis of imperialism.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

martin dufresne wrote:

Do we think our right to oversee situations ranks higher than those of the parties in presence?

What an ignorant comment!

Journalists are being kept out of Gaza by Israelis, not by Gaza. You think that the world's right to information should yield to the imagined "rights" of Israel - one of the "parties in presence"?

al-Qa'bong

Quote:
Journalists have traditionally been shut out of war zones.

 

I dunno, Matthew Halton and Ernie Pyle might disagree with you on that.

 

I find the thread title strange, considering that the media lost their nerve sometime late in the morning of September 11, 2001.  They've been little more that government propaganda outlets ever since.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Meanwhile, in "Free" Iraq:

Quote:
The government wants to require foreign and Iraqi journalists to sign a code of conduct in exchange for permission to attend this month's provincial elections, raising concerns among media analysts that independent coverage could be undermined.

Iraqi authorities said the goal is to ensure fair coverage and to prevent the distortion of facts in a politically charged environment.

Parts of the 14-page code require that reports be balanced and unbiased and prohibit media from falsifying or misrepresenting information. The code also bans coverage of candidates and political campaigns for two days before the Jan. 31 vote. Punishment for violation ranges from warnings to thousands of dollars in fines.

The rules were drafted by a government commission that oversees domestic broadcasters at the request of the independent Iraqi High Electoral Commission.

Journalists must agree to them in order to get credentials to attend election events, including press conferences and polling stations.

[url=http://www.headlinecontent.com/newsarticle.aspx?catId=3&articleId=175730...

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The [url=L.A">http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-fg-israel-pr9-2009j.... Times[/url] has published an article on how Israel is managing the news.

The fact that foreign journalists are barred from entering Gaza is mentioned in paragraph 21 of the 24-paragraph article.

 

[url=Meanwhile">http://www.menassat.com/?q=alerts/5699-gaza-fourth-journalist-killed][co..., 4 Palestinian journalists have been killed in Gaza[/url]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=Nowhere">http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2009/01/does-it-matter-context-in-gaza/][c... in the world is mainstream discourse less critical of Israel than in the United States, and that includes Israel.[/url] 

Quote:
As long as Israel remains one of our greatest allies, its version of events will always be given, at very least, the benefit of the doubt.

This is evident not only in the space given “official” accounts, but in the language used to characterize those accounts.

For instance, on December 29th the Associated Press lead off a story by describing the targets of the Israeli assault on Gaza as “symbols of Hamas Power.” As the story was picked up throughout the mainstream media, so was this description. Some even used it in the headline.

Attributed to no one, such descriptions are offered as assumptions. And assumptions imply a certain amount of truth or legitimacy. When Israel tells the world it is in a “war to the bitter end” against Hamas (and the U.S. publicly offers its blessing), characterizing these bombing targets as “symbols of Hamas power” implies that all such targets are justified.

This of course leaves the burden to prove otherwise on the Palestinians and anyone else who challenges such assumptions.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Quote:
What makes this even worse is that these very same media
organizations have their own brave journalists at the fence of the
scene of this critical story just chomping at the bit to get in and do
their jobs .

I'm not going to dispute the sentiment expressed, but why are the brave journalists chomping at the bit in Israel? If I were a brave journalist wanting into Gaza to tell the truth, I think I would go to Egypt.

 

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url="Egypt">http://www.3news.co.nz/News/Foreign-journalists-barred-from-entering-Gaz... routinely bars journalists from crossing into Gaza"[/url]

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Yes, I read that CBS report. But I think if I was determined, I would have greater success bribing an Egyption border guard, or before the serious bombing began, making it through one of those tunnels.There was a time when journalists would do anything for a story rather than wait patiently for authorities to provide us with authorized pictures and guided tours.

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

Incredible that Iggy has the nerve to say that there is no occupation in Gaza. Who is it that controls who gets in and out of there, including journalists?

George Victor

 

"Incredible that Iggy has the nerve to say that there is no occupation in Gaza. Who is it that controls who gets in and out of there, including journalists?"

 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

 I would think that for journalists, their employers might rank high here. And for their employers, their insurance companies and advertisers. The gutsy people covering Afghanistan would be the ones to ask, not the armchair folk of babble.

It's Me D

I'm a little confused... there are lots of journalists reporting from Gaza... they just don't work for CTV etc... its obviously possible for those who actually want to do so.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Quote:
My other nominee for a Bush Freedom Medal is that amorphous group known as western journalism, which has always made much of its freedom and impartiality. Listen to the way Israeli "spokespersons" and ambassadors are interviewed. How respectfully their official lies are received; how minimally they are challenged. They are one of us, you see: calm and western-sounding, even blonde, female and attractive. The frightened, jabbering voice on the line from Gaza is not one of us. That is the subliminal message. Listen to newsreaders use only the pejoratives for the Palestinians: words like "militants" for resisters to invasion, many of them heroes, a word never used, and "conflict" for massacre. Mark the timeless propaganda that suggests there are two equal powers fighting a "war", not a stricken people, attacked and starved by the world's fourth largest military power which ensures they have no places of refuge. And note the omissions - the BBC does not preface its reports with the warning that a foreign power controls its reporters' movements, as it did in Serbia and Argentina, neither does it explain why it shows but glimpses of the extraordinary coverage of al-Jazeera from within Gaza.

There are the ubiquitous myths, too: that Israel has suffered terribly from thousands of missiles fired from Gaza. In truth, the first homemade Qassam rocket was fired across the Israeli border in October 2001, and the first fatality occurred in June 2004. Some 24 Israelis had been killed in this way, compared with 5000 Palestinians killed, more than half of them in Gaza, at least a third of them children. Now imagine if the 1.5 million Gazans had been Jewish, or Kosovar refugees. "The only honorable course for Europe and America is to use military force to try to try to protect the people of Kosovo ...," declared the Guardian on 23 March, 1999. Inexplicably, The Guardian has yet to call for such "an honorable course" to protect the people of Gaza.

Such is the rule of acceptable victims and unacceptable victims. When reporters break this rule they are accused of "anti-Israel bias" and worse, and their life is made a misery by a hyperactive cyber-army that drafts complaints, provides generic material and coaches people all over the world on how to smear as "anti-Jewish" work they have not seen. These vociferous campaigns are complemented by anonymous death threats, which I and others have experienced. Their latest tactic is malicious hacking into websites. But that is desperate, since the times are changing.

Across the world, people once indifferent to the arcane "conflict" in the Middle East, now ask the question the BBC and CNN rarely ask: Why does Israel have a right to exist, but Palestine does not? They ask, too, why do the lawless enjoy such immunity in the pristine world of balance and objectivity? The perfectly-spoken Israeli "spokesman" represents the most lawless regime on earth, exotic tyrannies included, according to a tally of United Nations resolutions defied and Geneva Conventions defiled. In France, 80 organizations are working to bring war crimes indictments against Israel's leaders. On 15 January, the fine Israeli reporter, Gideon Levy, wrote in Ha'aretz that Israeli generals "will not be the only ones to hide in El Al planes lest they are arrested [overseas]."

One day, other journalists and their editors and producers may be called upon to not only explain why they did not tell the truth about these criminals but even to stand in the dock with them. No Bush Freedom Medal is worth that.

[url=John">http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2009/01/come-on-down-for-your-freedom-meda... Pilger[/url]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Quote:
The assault on Gaza exposed not only Israel's callous disregard for international law but the gutlessness of the American press. There were no major newspapers, television networks or radio stations that challenged Israel's fabricated version of events that led to the Gaza attack or the daily lies Israel used to justify the unjustifiable. Nearly all reporters were, as during the buildup to the Iraq war, pliant stenographers and echo chambers....

We retreated, as usual, into the moral void of American journalism, the void of balance and objectivity. The ridiculous notion of being unbiased, outside of the flow of human existence, impervious to grief or pain or anger or injustice, allows reporters to coolly give truth and lies equal space and airtime. Balance and objectivity are the antidote to facing unpleasant truths, a way of avoidance, a way to placate the powerful. We record the fury of a Palestinian who has lost his child in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza but make sure to mention Israel's "security needs," include statements by Israeli officials who insist there was firing from the home or the mosque or the school and of course note Israel's right to defend itself. We do this throughout the Middle East. We record the human toll in Iraq, caused by our occupation, but remind everyone that "Saddam killed his own people." We write about the deaths of families in Afghanistan during an airstrike but never forget to mention that the Taliban "oppresses women." Their crimes cancel out our crimes. It becomes a moral void....

The cliché that Israel had a right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks...was accepted in the press as an undisputed truth. It became the starting point for every hollow discussion of the Israeli attack. It left pundits and columnists chattering about "proportionality," not legality. Israel was in open violation of international law, specifically Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which calls on an occupying power to respect the safety of occupied civilians. But you would not know this from the press reports. The use of attack aircraft and naval ships, part of the world's fourth-largest military power, to level densely packed slums of people who were hungry, without power and often water, people surrounded on all sides by the Israeli army, was fatuously described as a war....

It was Israel, not Hamas, which violated the truce established last June. This was never made clear in any of the press reports....

There were a few flashes of integrity in the American press. The Wall Street Journal ran a thoughtful piece, "How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas," on Jan. 24 that was unusual in view of the acceptance in U.S. press coverage that Hamas is nothing more than an Islamo-fascist organization that understands only violence. And some journalists from news organizations such as the BBC did a good job once they were finally permitted to enter Gaza. Jimmy Carter wrote an Op-Ed article in The Washington Post detailing his and the Carter Center's efforts to prevent the conflict. This article was an important refutation of the Israeli argument, although it was ignored by the rest of the media. But these were isolated cases....

[url=Chris">http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090126_with_gaza_journalists_fail_... Hedges[/url]

al-Qa'bong

Quote:
A friend of mine, Brooks Kind, spent some time going through the least biased of the Canadian media, CBC radio, over the past two weeks. He found that the CBC suppressed crucial facts, presented an unrepresentative spectrum of opinion and falsified the historical record.

 

An obvious example of this is how CBC Radio reporters routinely repeated the IOF propaganda line that the massacre of the people of Gaza was a "retaliation for rocket attacks," or a "response to the rockets that Hamas rained down on Israeli towns."

thorin_bane

The Asper owned Canwest news service reported that , and I quote "Hamas took over Gaza in a bloody military coup" Why is this outright lie allowed, no corrections, no nothing. Nazi's would be proud of the propoganda they spew.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Yeah, but they got it from an "unimpeachable" source:

Quote:
"Eighteen months ago, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a coup…” droned President Bush in his weekend radio address. “Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage ever since their illegal coup against the forces of (Palestinian Authority) President Mahmoud Abbas,” Condoleezza Rice told reporters outside the White House January 2.

The idea is that those who’ve been governing in Gaza (to the extent that anyone can govern a concentration camp to which entry and exit by land air and sea is controlled by hostile forces, and to which almost all commerce is similarly controlled) are illegitimate, having seized power by force.

Bush and Rice, who’ve themselves seized so much by force in the last eight years (two countries’ worth) and sadly, will probably never be held accountable before a court of law for war crimes, have absolutely no shame. But to address this particular allegation of theirs.

The political party Hamas was elected to power in January 2006 with 44% of the vote to Fatah’s 41%, receiving 76 of 132 parliamentary seats, in the first democratic election held in the Palestinian territories.

[url=Gary">http://www.counterpunch.org/leupp01062009.html][u]Gary Leupp[/url]

wwSwimming

The mainstream media is firmly in the "amen choir" corner of Israel, even more so talk radio.  Still, via newspapers outside the US, independent reports from people in the Gaza, etc., there have been a lot of articles about the experience of Palestinian civilians since Dec. 27, about when Israel started their most recent assault. 

I don't think the media lost their nerve so much as, they never had it on this subject in the first place, and it is shocking for us to find out how biased the reporting is. 

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