Monday, July 20, 2009

Publish or perish...or don't publish at all??

The nature of Arab-West Report, and therefore most of my job, is fair and balanced reporting, ultimately working towards a greater understanding between cultures. Topics such as religion will remain a sensitive subject, particularly when there is such a level of misunderstanding, leading towards mistrust, between the varying cultures and religious beliefs. To achieve this understanding, the media has an obligation to present any story in a fair manner, with the facts present, and thereby allow the reader the option to form their own opinion of a story. To not do so, would appear to presume the ignorance of any reader "don't worry guys, they're too stupid to do their own research", or highlight the selective bias in reporting that many journals and publications employ. Sadly, last week I witnessed a blaring example of this.

On July 15, news broke of a report prepared by Breaking the Silence, a campaign group which includes former Israeli soldiers. The 110 page report presented testimony collected from 26 Israeli soldiers in which they detail the abuses they were ordered to commit against civilians during Israel's strike on the Gaza strip. Among the abuses were employing Palestinian human shields, firing on water tanks during a dramatic water shortage, the use of white phosphorous in residential areas, among others. The Israeli government has dismissed the report as slander and hearsay, urging officials to take the "official accounts" as factually sound. Yes, because you know, if you're just a regular Joe Schmo soldier, you bear no credibility. But those high ranking generals, that are paid enough to keep their mouths shut, yes, they are completely and unequivocally reliable sources. Uch. Breaking the Silence is not the first group to cry out for infractions of human rights, claims of war-crimes carried out by the Israeli army have been made by Amnesty International, the United Nations, and other human rights organizations. This 110 page report is unique however, in that it presents testimony from Israeli soldiers who themselves were carrying out these acts.

When I first read the story on the BBC, I posted the link to the story on Facebook. Awareness begets understanding and tolerance. The story received comments almost instantly, many from Egyptians or people living in Egypt, applauding the efforts of these Israeli soldiers in exposing the truth. I then received a request from a friend of mine, another expat working in journalism here in Egypt. She wanted to see the perspective that the U.S. media was giving to the entire situation, bearing in mind that the U.S. media (well...the U.S. in general sorry), is notoriously pro-Israeli (but hey, who am I to judge). I was intrigued to see the spin that the American media would provide to the story. What I found however, greatly shocked me. Searches run on the Web site of the New York Times returned no results. Fox news (the voice of any self-respecting neo-con) also returned no results, there were no reports whatsoever mentioned of Breaking the Silence. Through CNN I was able to find a report yet the Israeli military's statements rejecting the report and denying its credibility received more coverage than the report itself. Sidenote: The report is now available on CNN's site. However, when I ran my initial search on the 15th, I was unable to find anything on CNN's site, and only on their affiliate site The only news publication, other than AP and Reuters, that I found which deemed this story news-worthy, was The Washington Post.

Publish or perish; the number one survival method in journalism. Yet if you pick and choose which stories to publish, and which stories to completely ignore, is that still considered fair and balanced journalism? If both sides of any account cannot be equally reported on, is there still no spin on media reporting? It would be ignorant to presume that there isn't manipulation of the media, yet to be confronted with it in such a blatant example shows just how far there really is to go in fair and balanced reporting. It is shameful when such outright examples of "censorship" are evident - I use that term lightly, as I'm sure that many can agree with me that this is not an issue of censorship, but rather an issues of who is paying who's bills....

"I have one hand in my pocket...."

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