Reporters Without Balance

Posted: October 20, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Cast Lead, Gaza, Human Rights, IDF, Israel, Own Articles, Palestinians, Press and Media, Terrorism
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“FREEDOM WATCHDOGS” USUALLY outdo each other in criticizing particular governments / countries / politicians they happen to dislike. The Human Rights Watch, for example, champions, well – human rights, choosing their targets carefully. HRW’s website contains 4,270 references to Afghanistan, 4,170 references to Iraq (with casualties in both countries going into several dozens of thousands), 3,110 mentions of Darfur (casualties going into hundreds of thousands) and whopping 6,920 remarks about Israel (Palestinian / Israeli civilian casualties, Sept. 2000 – Dec. 2008: nearly 5150 / 727). While Israel accounts for small percentage of deaths among aforementioned locations, it receives most attention from Human Rights Watch. Amnesty International joins the HRW, with numbers going 35,300, 35,300, 8,850 and 65,500 accordingly. I should mention that while I am not legitimizing Israel’s actions with these numbers, it does seem inappropriately unbalanced to me.

Just as with aforesaid organizations, many watchdogs simply throw numbers at their readers, no context provided. Case in point: Reporters Without Borders (a.k.a. Reporters Sans Frontières) “Press Freedom Index” for the year 2006 (the year of conflict between Israel and Lebanon) ranks Lebanon in 107th place, citing the following as reason of downfall:

Lebanon has fallen from 56th to 107th place in five years, as the country’s media continues to suffer from the region’s poisonous political atmosphere, with a series of bomb attacks in 2005 and Israeli military attacks this year. The Lebanese media – some of the freest and most experienced in the Arab world – desperately need peace and guarantees of security. The inability of the Palestinian Authority (134th) to maintain stability in its territories and the behaviour of Israel (135th) outside its borders seriously threaten freedom of expression in the Middle East.

Missing from RWB report: additional reasons for freedom of speech infringement in Lebanon (like terror groups controlling the news coverage). It is quite probable, that RWB considers constant Jew-hating propaganda on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar as freedom of speech as well. It’s not the terrorists that are to blame for restrictions of journalism, it’s not the inept Siniora government – blame it better on the Jews.

In 2009, RWB criticizes Israel for mistreating, injuring and killing journalists during operation Cast Lead:

Israel has begun to use the same methods internally as it does outside its own territory. Reporters Without Borders registered five arrests of journalists, some of them completely illegal, and three cases of imprisonment. The military censorship applied to all the media is also posing a threat to journalists.

As regards its extraterritorial actions, Israel was ranked 150th. The toll of the war was very heavy. Around 20 journalists in the Gaza Strip were injured by the Israeli military forces and three were killed while covering the offensive.

In the meanwhile, you might remember, that during the Gaza offensive, international journalists demanded “unfettered” access to Gaza Strip. Now, imagine what would happen, if in fact Israel did. Obviously, more reporters would die during firefights and air raids, with RWB and others this time accusing Israel of waging a war on journalists and free speech.

See the no-win-win situation? If Israel tries to save itself the trouble of having a numerous hotheads going in and getting their heads blown off – it is accused of freedom of speech infringement. If it would actually allow journalists in (as it did in West Bank), those would be killed in firefights (with some being shot by Israeli forces), spurring organizations such as aforementioned Reporters Sans Frontières to cry wolf.

What’s even worse, is that such groups never, ever, present context, evidence to the reader; neither do they investigate cases. For example, look at this case: Fadel Shana, 23, cameraman for Reuters in Gaza, allegedly killed by IDF Merkava tank shell from a distance. The video clip is quickly runs us through the basics of the incident; quickly enough, in fact, to get the viewer worked up at the evil Israelis, without giving him or her a chance to study the situation. But please allow me to do so, still.

First and foremost, Reuters claims Shana was killed soon after he started filming. While far from certain, it is unclear if tank crew had the optics to discern the object, mounted by Shana. Remember – quite a few guided anti-tank rockets are mounted on a tripod, thus it is unclear if tank crew could see that the object was actually a camera, rather than an RPG.

Reuters08 The report also states that Shana was traveling in a car clearly marked “TV”, which we could see in a video. What we also could see in the video, is that Shana obviously films from a high location, while the car is parked between two mounds. It is still unclear if the tank crew could the the parked vehicle at all.

Then come the victims. Let’s turn to another Reuters statement:

After medical examinations of Shana’s body, Reuters said that Israel had used a controversial type of tank shell which scatters metal darts, or flechettes, around the surrounding area after exploding, risking civilian casualties. Israel refused to comment on the report, but stated that the weapons were not illegal.

Reuters07 Hm… Now maybe I’m a skeptic (I am), but after three years Combat Engineering service, I’ve seen my share of explosions and aftermaths of such. For example, I could tell you that after an explosion, fragile Reuters04equipment, such pictured (neatly folded) tripod (right) would not survive. I also know, that after an explosion, you would surely see burns on bodies of victims. Yeah, those we can’t see either.

Another amazing thing, by the way, that in otherwise empty surroundings (you can see a lonely house in the video), so many Reuters05 people found themselves around the cameraman, including children. Pictured (right) is another image from the report, showing a child carried by paramedic, put on a hospital bed and rolled into ER. What did a child do together with the cameraman covering war?

Quite obviously, Reporters Without Borders become Reporters Without Balance. On many occasions I maintained: if you want to criticize Israel, it is fine. However, for anyone to listen to you, be fair and investigate your reports, don’t just throw them to public unsubstantiated. For example, phrases such as “completely illegal [arrests]” make your report look foolish and childish. If you want to be heard by anyone else but the radicals – you also have to back up your statements with some facts.


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