Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ewen MacAskill has got to be kidding

Ewen MacAskill is diplomatic editor for the Guardian. In his August 2, 2006 blog entry entitled The Media Offensive, MacAskil implies that the Israeli government is being dishonest about the war compared to "the many western journalists in Lebanon cataloguing the horrors of the daily bombing." According to MacAskill,

"For journalists, it is easy to get a quick quote from an Israeli government spokesman. An article in the German-language Spiegel last week detailed a highly professional Israeli press and PR operation that sees accredited foreign journalists deluged every morning with lists of possible stories and emailed immediately after Hizbullah attacks with mobile phone numbers of victims, witnesses and grieving relatives. The proffered experts and interviewees speak a range of languages; transport to press conferences is laid on, and there is always coffee and sandwiches for those attending. Access couldn't be easier.

It is far more time-consuming getting even a quote from the Palestinians and even more difficult from the highly secretive Hizbullah, even though it has a press spokesman. Hizbullah may not care: its messages are aimed not at the west but the rest of the Arab world, which can easily be reached through its own television station.

It is not Hizbullah that the Israeli government has to counter, but the many western journalists in Lebanon cataloguing the horrors of the daily bombing. The Israeli PR machine may be slicker, but that does not mean it is winning."

This position is simply incredible.

On the one hand, you have the Israeli government spokesmen making a case that its war against Hezbollah in Lebanon is justified. Agree with them or not, that is what the Israeli government is doing, and it is what you would expect any other government to do in the same situation. They are not trying to pretend to be disinterested observers in the conflict.

In contrast, you have much of the western media pretending to be disinterested observers, reporting the facts, when in truth the opposite is true - they are acting as propagandists for Hezbollah. Specifically, according to a report at National Review Online by Tom Gross, a former Jerusalem correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph,

"CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson admitted that his anti-Israel report from Beirut on July 18 about civilian casualties in Lebanon was stage-managed from start to finish by Hezbollah. He revealed that his story was heavily influenced by Hezbollah’s “press officer” and that Hezbollah have “very, very sophisticated and slick media operations.”

When pressed a few days later about his reporting on the CNN program "Reliable Sources," Robertson acknowledged that Hezbollah militants had instructed the CNN camera team where and what to film. Hezbollah “had control of the situation,” Robertson said. “They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn’t have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath.”

Robertson added that Hezbollah has “very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access into those areas. You don’t get in there without their permission. We didn’t have enough time to see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, a taxi driver by day, and a Hezbollah fighter by night.”…

Another journalist let the cat out of the bag last week. Writing on his blog while reporting from southern Lebanon, Time contributor Christopher Allbritton casually mentioned in the middle of a posting: “To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I’m loathe to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist’s passport, and they’ve already hassled a number of us and threatened one.”
Read the whole thing.

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