Mood: don't ask
Topic: big media
We tuned into this question of censorship/editing discretion in a report in The Australian Media section today, by Errol Simper:
29 May 2008 Last dispatch fuels conspiracy
The hot story of concern apparently ran in The Age on 10 May 2008, but not in The Sydney Morning Herald which is noteworthy. Then when you read the dramatic nature of the story you begin to wonder how very significant the omission was because it sure looks like news written by a 5 year veteran. Here is the lead in to the big feature:
Ed O'Loughlin, Gaza and Sderot
May 10, 2008
As Ed O'Loughlin's five years as Middle East correspondent come to an end, he reflects on his time covering one of the world's most intractable conflicts.
THE car was still burning when we came upon the scene. A bullet-proof plate from a flak jacket lay near the wreckage, its plastic layers peeled open like the pages of a book. My "fixer" recognised the silver Pajero at once, and he hurried over to a colleague to find out what had happened. When he came back he looked almost puzzled. "It's Fadel," he said. "He's dead!" And he started to weep for his friend.
In fact four were already dead, men and boys, and two more were to die of their wounds a few days later. But 23-year-old Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana was the one who made headlines.
Hundreds of innocent people die in Gaza every year — far more than we bother writing about in the West. But footage from Shana's camera revealed that he had actually filmed an Israeli tank firing the shell that killed him, as he stood in his clearly marked press flak jacket, by his clearly marked press vehicle.
A second tank shell, fired several minutes after the first, sprayed would-be rescuers with a second cloud of three-centimetre "flechette" steel darts, killing 19-year-old Khalil Dogmoush and injuring several others, including freelance photographer Ashraf Abu Amra.
We didn't know all of this at the time, as we stood by the wreckage of Shana's vehicle. All we knew was that a press vehicle had been targeted minutes earlier, that we were standing beside that vehicle, fully exposed to a hillside where Israeli tanks were operating, and that an Israeli drone was whining overhead.
And we knew from long experience that, whatever had happened, the Israeli Defence Force would deny responsibility. This it duly did, claiming that its troops had fired only at armed militants who had attacked them at close range.
I have covered quite a few stories like this over the past 5½ years, in Gaza and elsewhere. Since the present uprising began in 2000, close to 5000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli action, according to figures from the Israeli rights group B'tselem. Slightly more than 1000 Israelis were killed by Palestinians. In the first three months of this year, 11 Palestinians died for every Israeli civilian.
Eman al-Hams was a 13-year-old schoolgirl who was machine-gunned to death at point blank range by an Israeli officer, who admitted the act on army radio. The officer was subsequently acquitted, promoted and decorated. Asma al-Mughair, 16, and her brother Ahmed, 13, were both shot in the head on the roof of their home in Rafah, which was in the sights of an Israeli sniper's nest, only 100 metres away. Seven members of the Ghaliya family were blown to bits while picnicking on a Gaza beach which Israeli artillery was shelling.
But if you Google any of the above names you will quickly learn — from armchair bloggers and Israeli Government spokespeople — that all of these stories are false, elaborate hoaxes concocted by anti-Semitic journalists to smear the state of Israel. Little wonder, then, that Israeli talkback was generally of the opinion that Fadel Shana got what he deserved.
And you can't help asking yourself, as you stand exposed on a roadway stained with blood and gristle and carbonised rubber, with a killer robot circling overhead, what would they say if it was you who'd been hit? For the average Middle East correspondent this is not a difficult question to answer. As a character remarked in the BBC political satire The Thick of It, looking up your own name on the internet is like opening the door to "a room full of people who are trying to throw shit at you". Fortunately, the job gives one a thick skin. But the Israeli Defence Force's culture of denial and impunity, repeatedly condemned by Israeli and foreign rights groups, does nothing for your confidence when you have reason to fear that someone you can't see is studying you on a computer screen, or through a gun sight.
The story that had brought Fadel Shana to central Gaza that day, April 16, was the killing of three militants and six civilians in Israeli air strikes against the border hamlet of Johara A'diq, close to where three Israeli soldiers had died in a militant ambush earlier that morning.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies are annoyed with ABC Media Watch for not having their voice in on the controversy over why no SMH feature. We know the JBD feel annoyed because Simper refers to the JBD protesting their innocence of any undue or specific pressure to censor O'Loughlin. See the Media Watch story here where the JBD are reported in standard lobbying mode back in 2006. Even so it looks a bit like a pre emptive buckle by the SMH if anything rather than direct influence, and the protests of non interference by the JBD just adds to that view. We think the Herald wimped out, and Media Watch probably should have given the JBD some more say in their story.
We make the general comment too that the intractable grievance and violence in the Middle East is a moral and political whirlpool that sucks in otherwise agnostic and peace loving observers across the world, even Sydney town. One must take care not to be infected with the madness of hatred and indeed injustice there.
Here for the record is the text of the JBD letter which we requested earlier today, and note our own contribution to censorship by deleting the names of personalities better to concentrate on the issues:
Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2008 2:45 PMSubject: NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
May 22, 2008
Dear [Media Watch]
I am writing to express disappointment at the fact that, in airing this week's segment on Ed O'Loughlin and the non-appearance of his farewell article in the Sydney Morning Herald, you chose not to include any comment from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
This is despite the fact that the point of the segment was the allegation that undue pressure had been applied to the Sydney Morning Herald by the Jewish community, with an inference that we had a hand in the non-appearance of Mr O'Loughlin's article. The inference is untrue. We did not know about, and made no representation to the Sydney Morning Herald about, Mr O'Loughlin's article.
Furthermore, your reporter, .... was informed by me that we did not know about the article. Yet Media Watch aired an inference which you knew had been denied - as is the fact - and chose not to air that fact.
We do not resile from our criticism of Mr O'Loughlin's reporting as lacking in balance and context. Nor do we resile from bringing to the attention of the Sydney Morning Herald the offensiveness of drawing a comparison between the Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza, which was the subject of a 2003 Press Council ruling indicating that such a comparison is unacceptable, yet which was expressed in a letter printed in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year. I am sure you would appreciate the offence of such a comparison to the Jewish community, in particular to Holocaust survivors, and that it is a matter which the Board of Deputies was justified in taking up.
I was surprised that Media Watch failed to include our side of the story - given the programme's rigorous approach to the presentation of media stories, and that presenting the other side of the story is a fundamental of journalistic practice.
The ABC Code of Practice requires "that every reasonable effort must be made to ensure that the content of news and current affairs programs is accurate, impartial and balanced".
By not airing any comment from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies on your programme, the allegations against us were left unchallenged, which meant that the segment lacked balance.
Please would you read this letter in full on air next week.
[NSW Jewish Board of Deputies]
We talk about the aparthied legal reality in Israel/Palestine in an earlier post about nuke whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu (pictured above, released on conditions after a long stretch in gaol. Gaza may not be anywhere near the Warsaw Ghetto but it is still a big worry for all those same critics of the old (assuredly pro Nazi) South African regime infamous for black white aparthied.
21 May 2008 Nuke weapons road block to a one state solution for Palestine/Israel?