BBC & Sky say “No appeal” to Gaza victims

January 29, 2009

The BBC and Sky TV are continuing to hold the line that broadcasting a humanitarian appeal for aid to help rebuild the Gaza Strip would compromise their journalistic credibility and their ability to objectively report on the Middle East conflict.

Overnight (Kiwi time) a group of protestors staged a sit-in at the BBC HQ in London and burned their TV licences. Meanwhile a group of British MPs is backing a motion in the House of Commons that would attempt to force the BBC to broadcast the appeal.

Meanwhile the appeal has already raised in the vicinity of $NZ 1.6 million.

The refusal of Sky to broadcast the appeal makes some sense, it is, after all, owned by Rupert Murdoch who is very pro-Israel and regularly feted by the Zionist lobby in the USA. Sky, like Fox in the US, is still neo-con in outlook and would never compromise Murdoch’s links with Israel.

However, the BBC case is more nuanced and I’m still struggling with the issue of credibility and compromise.

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Gaza appeal creates row in UK media

January 27, 2009

The refusal of the BBC and Sky TV to broadcast a charity appeal for victims of  Israeli ground and air attacks in Gaza earlier this month (Jan 2009), is causing outrage in Britain.

Church leaders and MPs have joined in calls for the BBC and Sky TV to join Channels Four and Five in broadcasting the appeal video, produced by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

The whole fracas raises some very interesting questions about the line between news and advertorial and the editorial independence of news organisations reporting on the controversial conflict between Israel and the Hamas organisation, which controls Gaza and has been firing Qassam rockets into Israeli settlements.

The video is available on the Guardian’s website.

The BBC’s Director-General, wearing his “editor-in-chief” hat, argues that broadcasting the appeal would compromise the organisation’s impartiality in the coverage of an ongoing news story. This seems, at face value to be a persuasive argument.

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CNN and BBC reporters enter Gaza

January 17, 2009

CNN reporter Ben Wedeman crossed into Gaza from Egypt.
Defiance amid destruction

RAFAH, Gaza (CNN) — Bloodshed, fear, privation and anger were all clearly visible in Gaza as we finally managed to enter the territory. Unsurprisingly, there were also displays of fist-shaking defiance, but what I had not expected was the high morale.

The BBC’s Christian Fraser is also in Rafah

…on Friday we finally made it into Gaza to see first-hand the destruction.

Rafah has been pounded throughout this conflict, the Israelis dismantling the network of smuggling tunnels that run beneath the border.

But there is plenty more that has been destroyed, too. [BBC]

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A war crime by any other name – Israel’s “shake and bake” attrocities

January 16, 2009

UNRWA Director John Ging said UNRWA’s headquarters — located in a densely populated neighborhood — was hit repeatedly by shrapnel and artillery, including white phosphorus shells — the use of which is restricted under international law.

“It looks like phosphorus, it smells like phosphorus and it’s burning like phosphorus,” Ging said. “That’s why I’m calling it phosphorus.” (CNN 16 Jan 2009)

Under international law, technically, white phosphorus (WP) is not banned as an “obscurant” – but the Israelis know full well that the “secondary” effects are deaths and horrific burns for anyone caught in the hot, burning rain.

Does the use of WP in Gaza constitute a war crime. I think it might.

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I’ve taken sides in the social networked war

January 15, 2009

The propaganda war in cyberspace is hotting up. It’s an interesting twist on social networking that Facebook has become a battleground in the Gaza conflict.

The BBC is carrying a detailed report about hacker attacks on pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian websites.

Gaza crisis spills onto web [BBC]

I’ve also joined a Facebook group “Stop Israeli attacks on Gaza”


Israel responds to media “Please explain”

January 15, 2009

ifj-slogalIn times of war, the line between winning and losing can come down to the public relations battle as much as the military offensive itself.  (CNN 14 January)

The Israeli miitary machine is coming under increased pressure from news organisations to expain its reasons for limiting reporters’ access to Gaza.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontieres) reports that more than 100 media organisations have signed its petition urging the Israeli government to lift the ban, which has been in place since November.

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The moral purpose of journalism

January 14, 2009

“We always end up starting with the Israeli side,” said a Japanese television journalist, speaking on the condition of anonymity, “because that’s where we are and that’s what we can see.”

(Christian Science Monitor, 10 January 2009)

The job of the news media is not to try to solve all the world’s problems, but to shake awake the world’s conscience. Good journalism can do that.

(Philip Seib, The Global Journalist, 2002, p.xiv)

I’ve been deliberately staying away from posting my thoughts on the coverage of the present conflict in Gaza; mainly because when I try to watch it on TV I get enormously angry and depressed. I’m also reluctant to say too much because there’s nothing more likely to stir passionate outrage among the dribblejaws than yet another anti-Israel rant.

But I’m now going to dip a toe in these troubled waters. My inspiration to do so comes from a number of sources:

  • The heroic act of shoe-throwing that I’ve covered in a number of posts. I’ve made it clear that I support the actions of the Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi. When he threw his shoes at George W Bush it was a symbolic act of disgust and outrage that had, apparently, been simmering in Muntadhar’s head for some time. It was, in my view, the act of a morally-upstanding person. From the positive reactions globally, it seems that many people agree that Bush deserved it.
  • I’m currently reading Philip Seib’s The Global Journalist: News and Conscience in a World of Conflict, and the book begins with an interesting, though flawed, thesis on the moral responsibilities that journalists carry around in their ethical kitbags.
  • Finally, I think it’s important to defend a political critique of Zionism from accusations of racism and anti-Jewish “hate speech”.

Before you read any further, you need to know that I am a strong supporter of the Palestinians who thinks the state of Israel is an imperialist construct and an outpost of American projected military power in the Middle East. I’ve come to the conclusion that journalists have a moral responsibility to say as much and to predicate all their reporting of the current Gaza conflict, as well as coverage of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and the associated “terror frame” of news analysis on this controversial starting point.

In other words, I believe in what Martin Bell calls the “journalism of attachment”, rather than feeble attempts at objectivity, which is, in and of itself, a form of inbuilt and largely unconscious bias.

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