Media giants’ tattered credibility

Published November 26, 2023
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

THE credibility of global media organisations such as the BBC, CNN, SkyNews and even progressive newspapers such as the UK’s Guardian appears to be in tatters as their editorial policies were found seriously wanting in the aftermath of Israel’s massively disproportionate response to the Hamas’s break-out last month from Gaza and attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, including some 400 soldiers.

Hamas militants also took some 250 hostages from Israel back to Gaza with them as, they said, they needed leverage to secure the release of some of the 8,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, over 1,000 of whom, mostly women and children, have never been charged and are detained — I’d say held hostage — on what are called ‘administrative orders’.

Israel’s enraged and blind carpet bombing of Gaza City and other northern parts of the Strip has seen a staggering 14,000 Palestinians killed, over 60 per cent of them women and children, while Western powers led by the US and dutifully followed by UK, Germany and others supported Israel’s mass murder, even genocide, by saying it was exercising its right to self-defence.

To start with, tragically, many of these organisations mirrored their governments’ view that see­m­­ed to suggest that the root of the Middle East conflict dated back to Oct 7, 2023, and not as far back as the Nakba in 1948 that saw the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their ancestral land.

Even colleagues are seen as children of a lesser god by some of our Western media outlets.

Since their own governments were endorsing the Israeli occupiers’ view, the media organisations ended up echoing the latter’s propaganda. Take, for example, the numbers of those killed in Gaza, which was always attributed to the ‘Hamas-controlled’ health authority, so as to create doubt about them. This when, from Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch to smaller organisations working in Gaza, all said Hamas figures were always accurate and not dodgy at all. Ironically, the only figure that was revised was the initial Israeli figure of 1,400 killed by Hamas to 1,200. The initial number as well as the revised one has been carried by the media without any attribution except for the day the revision happened.

This revision happened because the Israelis said that some of the charred bodies recovered from the kibbutz that Hamas attacked were assumed to be those of Israelis, but later, forensics tests and analyses made clear those belonged to Hamas fighters.

Despite this admission, the global media did little to cover stories on credible websites, even an eyewitness testimony on Israeli radio that Israeli tanks had fired at houses where Hamas were holding Israelis hostage and many died in such explosions and the resultant raging fires.

Similar treatment was reserved for Israeli Apache (gunship) helicopter pilots’ statements, in which one reserve lieutenant-colonel said they were following the ‘Hannibal directive’ whereby they fired at any vehicle they suspected of carrying hostages.

You only have to google some of these instances to learn more but you can be sure very little of it would have figured in Western mainstream media. This is not to say for a moment that Hamas militants did not attack, kill and take Israelis hostage, among them soldiers, civilians, elderly women and children. They did.

Also, look at the coverage of Israel’s targeting of journalists and their families in Gaza. Declan Walsh, the respected New York Times journalist, in a tweet called our Gaza colleagues ‘titans’ of the profession. They disregarded the danger to their lives and reported on the Gaza genocide.

You may have read/heard of the killing of the family of the stoic Al Jazeera correspondent in Gaza. But, like me, you’d have learnt of the targeted killing of at least 60 journalists by Israel and some of their families in precision bombing runs by the occupation air force via social media. Even colleagues are seen as children of a lesser god by some of our Western media outlets.

With Israel’s wanton targeting of the civilian population in Gaza and the images of slaughtered, bloodied babies reaching the world only because of the heroic and selfless reporting by our valiant colleagues, the tide of blind Western governmental support to the genocidal ultra-right wing Netanyahu-led government is slowly turning.

The Spanish and Belgian prime ministers have categorically said enough is enough. Spain’s Pedro Sánchez appointed a Valencian-born Palestinian with family in the West Bank to his cabinet. Sira Abed Rego is on record saying after Oct 7 that Palestinians have the right to defend themselves against occupation. Sánchez has called Israel’s response excessive and called for a two-state solution, while vowing to recognise Palestine.

Opinion polls in the US and UK are suggesting that parties and candidates who have given Israel carte blanche to carry out mass murder in Gaza are alienating a chunk of their voters. Given Joe Biden’s slim victory margin over Donald Trump in the last presidential election, if he does not address his ‘pro-ceasefire’ voters’ concerns and wins them back by this time next year, he will be in serious trouble.

Israel and its Western supporters both in and out of government, bring to bear enormous pressure on the media. It takes steadfast, surefooted editors and those running editorials in various organisations to steer a path based purely on objective considerations. Impartiality is vital to the long-term credibility and, therefore, good health of the media in a highly competitive marketplace.

As it is, social media is making inroads into the monopolistic space enjoyed by traditional media, and though each one of us has often complained about the volume of toxicity on social media platforms, there are many around the world who are grateful for these in this case because without them, perhaps, the full horror of the Gaza genocide may not have emerged.

Despite large and established media organisations’ dereliction of duty, notwithstanding occasional flashes of brilliance by conscientious journalists breaking their shackles and reporting facts, it was largely social media platforms that helped stem the tide and even turn it somewhat.

If we’re lucky we’ll see traditional media following suit for self-preservation, if nothing else.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

abbas.nasir@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2023

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