Israeli atrocities and the media bias
By: Saad Al-Dosari
There is a bit of naivete in expecting that media outlets, anywhere in the world, will “always” be publishing fair and unbiased stories about any topic they choose. Believing that only fairness and high morals keep these outlets running is similar to believing in mermaids or stubbornly confirming that spiderman is based on a true story!
Take the conflict in Gaza as an international example about how morals and facts have nothing to do with news reporting. There is no major international media outlet, whether TV network, radio or print media that have not been criticized for the coverage of the running conflict in Gaza. It is a conflict that falls in an area replete with political, religious and emotional dimensions.
While a listener writes to NPR saying “I am appalled at the coverage NPR is providing for the current crisis in Palestine/Israel. All of the stories I have heard have origins in Israel and they all begin with a profusion of support for Israel defending itself.” Another listener writes “I am fed up with NPR for its constant bias against Israel. Your news reports only talk about Palestinian casualties.”
BBC had to defend its coverage of the conflict after a protest rally and 45,000 online petitions stating that it would “like to remind the BBC that Gaza is under Israeli occupation and siege (and) that Israel is bombing a refugee population.”
The New York Times also found itself under fire and had to deal with the shocking cover story of the New York Observer that wrote “Two Weeks of Shallow, Facile Moral Equivalency in The New York Times; The paper of record records one side — and only one side — of the war in Gaza,” contrary to what it might seem at the first glance, the cover story was actually accusing the Times of pro-Palestinian coverage throughout the conflict! Times public editor wrote that she received “more than 1,000 e-mails from readers on this topic recently, with protests on both sides, and, in some cases, charges of bias coming from both sides.”
In the rest of Europe, media is accused of taking the side of Palestinians as well. In Germany, for instance, a German Jewish historian wrote “Can the current German coverage of the Gaza conflict still be considered legitimate criticism or must it be seen as anti-Semitism.”
Taking sides in reporting should not come as a surprise to anyone. Freedom of expression and unbiased reporting are just slogans seemingly attached to real-life journalism. News organizations do not work in a void, they are part of life with its complex political, economic, cultural and social intersections and red zones. Although they influence the public opinion, they are also influenced by the public atmosphere. American media, for example, can criticize Israel, but only to a certain extent because the public opinion is biased in favor of Israel. “American public opinion toward Israel is a complicated phenomenon with many drivers, and it is possible that media coverage plays into it, but it seems far likelier that pre-existing “pro-Israel” attitudes among American public opinion are nudging media coverage in the same direction,” argues Max Fisher on ‘vox.com.’
Even if you take it down to the level of the human element producing these journalistic materials, the journalist or the opinion writer, you cannot expect him or her to be ‘totally’ free of bias and personal judgments. Sometimes, these personal beliefs add flavor to the story.
This is not meant to defend bias or unprofessional journalism. Still, with its good and bad, journalism is needed; at least to provoke our conscience from time to time, to open our eyes every once in a while. This is just a cry to realize that the truth is scattered all over the place, that a story has so many faces and colors, that you only need to read and weigh them against your own personal judgment. It is beyond obvious that you cannot force everyone to look into the world through your own eyes, you can only try.
Away from the breaking news and headlines, from different opinions and analyses, maybe we should agree that this conflict has to stop. Everyday innocent lives are lost, blood is spilt, screams of kids and women touch the sky and all these weigh heavily on our conscience, because after all we are human beings.