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Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Committee to Protect Journalists...doesn't

The Committee to Protect Journalists has a fine-sounding name, but, like the even more scurrilous CIA-linked Reporters Without Borders (who trade on the respected name of Doctors Without Borders to ply their anti-communist agenda), their priorities have rather strong biases. On June 26, Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer, a frequent guest reporter on KPFA's Flashpoints and Pacifica's Democracy Now!, was returning from receiving a prestigious journalism prize in Britain, when he was attacked, abused, and tortured by Israeli border agents as he attempted to re-enter Gaza. The attack received limited press coverage (Reuters), but has been largely ignored in the West. And even when it has been covered, it has been censored. Here's the first paragraph of the Reuters story which appeared in Ha'aretz:
A Palestinian journalist said from his hospital bed on Monday that Israeli security personnel abused him and broke his ribs on his way home to the Gaza Strip after receiving a journalism award in Britain.
Now here's the same first paragraph as it appeared on Yahoo News and, for example, in the Washington Post:
A Palestinian journalist said from his hospital bed on Monday that he was abused and injured by Israeli security personnel on his way home to the Gaza Strip after receiving a journalism award in Britain.
Note how in the emphasized section, "broke his ribs" in the original has been softened to merely "injured" in the "approved" "Western" version. The rest of the article is essentially identical, word-for-word. The headline of the "Western" version of the Reuters story is also telling: "Gaza reporter says mistreated by Israel." No, he says he was tortured. You can dispute that, if you like, but if you're going to report it not as fact but merely as his allegation, then you really are obliged to report the allegation correctly.

Democracy Now had brief coverage of the story yesterday, but the best coverage comes from Flashpoints co-host Nora Barrows-Friedman who broadcast an interview with Omer which was, to put it mildly, painful to listen to. The audio isn't online yet [Update: now online here (mp3)], but the bulk of the story is online at Nora's blog. If there's anything amusing about the story, and there really isn't, it's the Israeli spokesperson who said that they hadn't been aware Omer was a journalist. An interesting admission about who they knowingly torture (everyone other than journalists, I guess) and who they only torture, one presumes she is claiming, by mistake.

I gave Committee to Protect Journalists the benefit of the doubt by giving them a few days, lest their web person be on vacation perhaps, but today a new story went up about another country, making it clear that CPJ has made a deliberate decision not to run the story. RSF, incidentally, who generally has an even more pro-"Western" bias than CPJ, has run the story and condemned the incident, and, indeed, even expanded the story by noting that they "had recorded five incidents of wrongful arrest [of journalists] in the past ten days."

I'm sure, absolutely sure, that I don't need to mention that any condemnation from the U.S. government or from Republican or Democratic politicians has been non-existent.

Update: It's worth contrasting CPJ's non-existent coverage of this story with another story on their front page, which I picked pretty much at random - their coverage of a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty [sic] reporter who was tortured in Turkmenistan. I'm not questioning the story at all. But the story is based entirely on claims by RFE/RL, and even contradicts itself (the lead says the CPJ "condemns the abduction, torture, and forcible psychiatric hospitalization" of the journalist, but the second paragraph says that "colleagues say they believe [he] was transferred to a psychiatric hospital," but that his "whereabouts have yet to be confirmed.") So when it comes to reporting on a Western reporter, CPJ will go so far as to "condemn" something they can't even verify took place, but when it comes to a Palestinian reporter, it appears their standards are rather tighter, to put it mildly.

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