Friday, 30 January 2009


The Israeli Government can be astonishingly arrogant when it comes to security related matters, and particularly in connection with its treatment of journalists.

As far as I can tell, the general approach seems to be that

(1) They are a bunch of lying bastards;
(2) But we are going to present to them OUR side of the story, because it is the only side worth showing - however, we are either going to control what is disseminated, or be as obstructive as possible;
(3)and when they don't publish precisely what we want, we'll go into a sulk again and accuse them of being biased/one-sided/not getting the 'whole' story.

Journalism, from top to bottom, is a subjective enterprise, and it is inevitable that reportage is infused with personal opinion. Nonetheless, full unhindered access to the facts as they are is important: if one has nothing to hide, then there is no reason to be obstructive. The reporter who is selective with the truth, or unable to distinguish between opinion and fact will always be found out by the intelligent reader. (I think. Perhaps I'm being delusional. I haven't had my morning coffee.)

I say this whilst thinking about the Israeli government's decision not to let reporters into Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Spectacular own goal. Created a story in itself, opened up all sorts of speculation. Perhaps served a purpose in the very short term, but became counter productive once the foreign new outlets found ways around it - Gazan journalists, citizen journalism on the ground, and so on. Modern communications being what they are, it is impossible to suppress information for very long, if there are people interested i disseminating said information

Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based international news network, was one outlet who quickly found a way around this

(Slight digression - friends are always surprised when I tell them that Al-Jazeera has a bureau in Jerusalem, and reports freely - as freely as any other news network or broadcast outlet, that is - from Israel. Perhaps one is sometimes a little too harsh about freedom of the press in Israel. Perhaps not.)

...where was I? Ah, yeah, Al-Jazeera. They had people on the ground, and were able to report pretty constantly during the operation. No idea whether they are *biased* or not, since I don't receive the network on my cable TV subscription. But, either way, they provided imagery - some quite harrowing, disturbing - whilst the nincompoops elsewhere congratulated themselves for pissing off the foreign press corps in Israel

(another digression - I found out yesterday that there are 470 accredited foreign correspondents operating out of Jerusalem. This is incredible. What the fuck is the story here?

[yes, I know, I'm being slightly fatuous. But I still wonder why Israel and Palestine, grand population total approximately 11 million, attracts vastly more attention than, for example, the *Democratic* Republic of Congo, population 62 million, with more than 5 million deaths during the internecine wars that have plagued the country since the 1960s; or Sri Lanka, population 20 million, with a vast number of deaths and 'disappearances' a consequence of the long lasting civil war with the Tamils; or any other number of conflicts scattered across the globe. I don't pretend to have any answers at all to this. If you have any insight, do let me know]

... 470 foreign correspondents in Israel. Not counting stringers, local journalists who work freelance with foreign outlets, and so on. There are fewer accredited foreign correspondents in the United Kingdom, for fuck's sake)

...OK, enough on the digressions. Al Jazeera have now made available, under a Creative Commons licence, most of the footage shot in Gaza during Cast Lead. In practice, this means that anyone - me, for instance - can take this footage and distribute it, subtitle it, remix it and do pretty much as I please with it, so long as I credit Al Jazeera as the originating source. You can find it, if you want to have a look at it (and, incidentally, I think that everyone should - regardless of the rights or wrongs of Cast Lead, it is critically important that the population of Israel understands precisely what is being done in their name, then to decide if they are comfortable with it - ignorance is NOT bliss) here.

And in the meantime, the military/political establishment is still patting itself on the back for *controlling* the media, and will fall back on the old canard of bias and so on when these start to pop up here, there and everywhere - some use responsible, some not.

God, what a ramble. Sorry! Shabbat Shalom...

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