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A message to the media - your bias is showing

20 January 2009

A message to the media - your bias is showing

These past three weeks we've had many terrible stories reported of the murderous assault on the people of Gaza by the Israeli military.

But adding insult to the suffering of Palestinians has been media reporting which reinforces the tragedy.

Consider these points:

Media descriptions of the combatants:

Palestinians fighting have been described variously as militants, Islamists, insurgents, extremists or even terrorists preceded by either the adjectives Hamas or Palestinian. Israeli troops are described as soldiers.

These descriptions regularise Israeli forces but marginalise Palestinian fighters who are resisting Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Why does the media have no difficulty describing the French resistance in WWII as resistance fighters but can't afford the same respect to Palestinians? Palestinian fighters should be referred to as the Palestinian resistance.

Reporting who said what:

Media reports here have featured regular direct commentary from spokespeople for the Israeli embassy in Australia as well as official Israeli government spokespeople. We would not know there is an official Palestinan diplomatic presence in Australia. Israeli diplomats have dominated TV, radio and the print media. New Zealand reporters based in the area invariably report from inside Israel where it is safe. The Palestinian view has been reported second hand usually from translated Hamas news broadcasts. We realise the language problems for the New Zealand media but this isn't an excuse for allowing the Palestinian view to be regularly swamped by the well-oiled Israeli propaganda offensive.

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Balance means...?:

It seems the media is using reports of the humanitarian disaster on the Palestinian side as a "balance" to frequent quotes and interviews with Israeli spokespeople. However humanitarian reports alone convey nothing of the reasons for the Palestinian struggle. The public are left in the dark and as talkback radio testifies most of the blanks are filled in with bigotry and prejudice using the media descriptors of the fighters (as described above) as the only guide.

A survey of New Zealanders would tell us...?:

If a survey were to be conducted of New Zealanders' understanding of the middle-east conflict it is almost certain a majority of New Zealanders would believe things such as:

* Palestinians are occupying Israeli land (this has been shown to be a majority view in several Western countries) and are the aggressors.

* Israeli is fighting foul but only because they have to against dirty, sweaty Arabs who want to kill all Jews.

* Israel wants peace but Palestinians want an endless war.

* Hamas is a terrorist organisation while the Israeli government is democratically elected.

* Israelis have built a beautiful country through hard work while Palestinians prefer to live in lazy squalor.

Erroneous views such as these are prevalent in New Zealand and while everyone is entitled to their point of view the public should have access to facts and clear descriptions of context so they can develop informed opinions. With the Middle East this hasn't happened for 60 years.

The best indication of how abysmal media reporting on the Middle East has been for many decades is the predominance of ignorance in comments on talk-back radio. Listen to the drivel and weep.

Then take a closer look at how balanced media reporting has been these past three weeks.


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