Reporting during wartime may be the ultimate challenge for the media. But the conflict between Israel and Hamas revealed, yet again, the severe limitations of traditional journalism.
Five media fails stand out in particular.
1. Top Five
2014 Gaza Conflict Edition Defending Israel From Media Bias HonestReporting
2. Casualty Figures as
Reporters often relied on figures provided by the
Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry even though Hamas
has a strategic interest in inflating the numbers.
3. Casualty Figures as Moral Barometer
Col. (Ret.) Reuven Erlich of the Meir Amit
Intelligence and Information Center checked 152
names supplied by the Gazan Health Ministry:
“The list was done hastily and later changes
were made. There were a number of false
names listed; the details of the dead are only
partial, making identification suspicious. There
are names used more than once and some
might have been killed by their own fire
rather than by the Israeli army. The list
doesn’t differentiate between civilians and
terror operatives. All the dead are listed as
4. Casualty Figures as Moral Barometer
Media outlets often claimed a
civilian count as high as 80%.
But a New York Times report
found that a suspiciously high
number of casualties were
males aged 20 to 29 –- the
primary age of Hamas terrorists.
5. Casualty Figures as Moral Barometer
often presented a
–– Palestinian numbers
next to Israeli numbers.
have moral undertones. Reported without
context, they suggest that Israel was the
aggressor or that the threat against Israel
6. Casualty Figures as Moral Barometer
But „the score‰ is not the whole story.
It does not reveal the
efforts Israel made to
protect its civilians,
and it doesnÊt take
into account the
by turning residential
7. Casualty Figures as Moral Barometer
As Bret Stephens wrote in The Wall Street Journal:
“The real utility of the body count
is that it offers reporters and
commentators who cite it the
chance to ascribe implicit blame
to Israel while evading questions
about ultimate responsibility for
8. The “Battered
Hamas intimidates journalists. The situation in
Gaza was so severe that the Foreign Press
Association (FPA) issued a scathing condemnation
of HamasÊs behavior towards journalists:
9. The “Battered Journalist” Syndrome
From the Foreign Press Association’s statement:!
“The FPA protests in the strongest terms the
blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox
methods employed by the Hamas authorities and
their representatives against visiting international
journalists in Gaza over the past month.
“In several cases, foreign reporters working in Gaza
have been harassed, threatened or questioned over
stories or information they have reported through
their news media or by means of social media.”
10. The “Battered Journalist” Syndrome
Amazingly, the response from some of the most influential
journalists covering Gaza was that the entire issue was over-blown.
The New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren even
called the FPA statement „nonsense‰ on Twitter.
11. The “Battered Journalist” Syndrome
Why go out of the way to downplay
something that had an obvious impact on
the stories that emerged from the conflict?
Because if reporters were transparent about
the challenges they faced, they would have to
admit that Hamas exerted some level of control
over the stories that came out of Gaza.
12. The “Battered Journalist” Syndrome
As journalist Michael Totten wrote following the publication of
the FPAÊs statement:
“The Gaza war was a huge story, of course,
and it had to be covered, but it could just as
easily have been covered from the Israeli
side of the line. Covering both sides of the
story is of course preferable whenever
possible, but providing balanced coverage
from Israel alongside censored coverage
from Gaza is a form of journalistic
malpractice. Stop it.”
13. Failure to Disclose
Many journalists and photographers insisted
their work was unhindered by Hamas but
could not explain credibly why there were so
few pictures of Hamas fighters in action.
14. Failure to Disclose Missing Information
The New York TimesÊ star photographer Tyler Hicks
said he didnÊt see any terrorists or rocket launchers.
„ItÊs as if they donÊt exist,‰
ThatÊs how most photo sections
treated the issue – as if rocket
launchers and the people firing
them at Israel didnÊt exist.
15. Failure to Disclose Missing Information
But there was no shortage of photos
of Palestinians reacting to Israeli
airstrikes. In numerous photo
galleries of Gaza, it was hard to tell
that there were two sides fighting,
not just one.
Media outlets have an obligation
to let readers know whatÊs missing.
16. Over-Emphasis on
Grisly War Photos
While there were virtually no
pictures of Hamas fighters
during the days of heavy
fighting in Gaza, there was an
abundance of pictures of
children and babies hurt in
17. Over-Emphasis on Grisly War Photos
But it badly
fighting in Gaza.
Taken together with
the absence of photos
of Hamas fighters, the
message is clear:
Israel is an aggressor
that targets children.
In reality, Israel was fighting to protect its citizens against
rocket attacks and terrorist tunnels under its borders.
19. Failure to State Hamas’s Real Goals
Throughout the weeks of
fighting, and especially
during the periods of
negotiations for a cease-fire,
the media claimed that
HamasÊs main motivation
was either to ease the
blockade around Gaza or to
open a port or airport.
So why did Hamas spend
years building a complex of
tunnels and bunkers that
reached across the border
and into Israel?
20. Failure to State Hamas’s Real Goals
It would be more
honest to point out
that Hamas is
Its charter says so
“The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the
links in the chain of the struggle against the
Zionist invaders. It goes back to 1939… and
Muslim Brotherhood in the 1948 war and the
Jihad operations of the Muslim Brotherhood in
1968 and after.!
“…the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to
the realization of Allah's promise, no matter how
long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless
him and grant him salvation, has said:!
“’The Day of Judgement will not come about until
Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when
the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The
stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla,
there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him…’”!
21. Failure to State Hamas’s Real Goals
The media has an obligation to present the conflict
as it is: the aggression of a terrorist group working
for the destruction of Israel, and IsraelÊs efforts to
defend its citizens.
22. Failure to State Hamas’s Real Goals
As S.E. Cupp wrote in The New York Daily News:
“Rarely is it mentioned in a news report that Hamas’
primary objective, its main goal, what it really
wants and what its military arm is designed and
determined to get, is the total destruction of
Israel and the annihilation of the Jews.
“It’s a crucial component that’s regularly left out of
news reports. But any story that does not mention
this among Hamas’ chief demands is not an
intellectually honest or complete one.”
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13) CC BY-SA Wikimedia Commons/Jedudedek; 16) CC BY flickr/Surian Soosay; 18) CC BY-NC-SA flickr/Free Press and
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Defending Israel From Media Bias HonestReporting