Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 04/03/2012: Why Helen Thomas Need Not Fear Palestinian Arrest

From DG:

1) The PA proves Tony Snow correct

Guess who the PA honored
It seems, however, that there is in fact someone who sees [Helen] Thomas and her comments in a more positive light. On Sunday, dozens of diplomats and journalists assembled in Washington for an event in her honor. The man responsible for organizing the event was none other than the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization General Mission to the U.S., Maen Areikat.
Representatives of the PLO in Washington released a statement claiming that the text of the prize was written to "recognize Thomas' long career in the field of journalism, during which she defended the Palestinian position every step of the way."
"[D]efended the Palestinian position every step of the way?" That doesn't sound like "journalism," but advocacy.

It appears that the PA has confirmed the late Tony Snow's rebuke to Thomas:
HELEN THOMAS: The United States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis.
MR. SNOW: I don't think so, Helen.
HELEN THOMAS: We have gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.
TONY SNOW: What's interesting, Helen --
HELEN THOMAS: And this is what's happening, and that's the perception of the United States.
TONY SNOW: Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view, but I would encourage you --
According to the Barak Ravid report the reception honoring Thomas included "journalists." Interesting. Did it bother them that they were giving tribute to someone who was being honored for crossing the line into advocacy? Did it bother them that the organization honoring "press freedom" is hypocritically cracking down on the press? (h/t Challah Hu Akbar) As Mahmoud Dweik writes:
The Palestinian Authority government of Salam Fayyad, announcing this week the launching of the 2012 Award for Press Freedom, invited Palestinian journalists to submit their candidacy for the prestigious award, the first if its kind in the Palestinian territories.
The award is intended to encourage freedom of media and speech in the Palestinian territories, where local journalists have long been facing a campaign of intimidation and harassment by the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Ironically, the news about the launching of the new award coincided with the arrest of Youssef Shayeb, a Palestinian journalist from Ramallah, on charges of "slander and defamation."

2) People love it when you lose. They love dirty laundry 

As some ignore the lack of press freedom in the Palestinian Authority, others are exaggerating it in Israel. As one Justin Martin writes at the Columbia Journalism Review:

By far the country that jails the most journalists per capita is Eritrea; Israel is a distant second. The CPJ report was quick to list Iran as the world's premier jailor of journalists, and the Islamic Republic is up there, but clearly Eritrea and Israel also need to do some explaining. Israel jails more journalists than either the Palestinian Authority (zero) or militant group Hamas (three), both of which it criticizes for human rights miscarriages.
Given that CJR is a trade publication for the world of journalism, one would assume that articles published there were held to some standard of objectivity and accuracy. In this case that is not true. Elder of Ziyon points out that the statistics Martin relies on are meaningless.

This item came to the attention of many people because it was tweeted by the incoming Israel correspondent of the New York Times, Jodi Rudoren.
What do #Israel and #Iran have in common? Jailing journalists, according to @cjr. http://bit.ly/H9BdgT"
 Later on in response to complaints about this Rudoren tweeted:
. @ GileadIni Really not. Was trying to make a lite point off a tidbit. Its Twitter, not a dissertation. Others' analyses also intrstng
Really, that's a lame defense

She could just as well have tweeted, "What to Iran and Turkey have in common?" instead. After all, a few months ago a newspaper reported that according to journalists group in Turkey, 97 journalists were behind bars. That shows (along with the assertion that no journalists were jailed by the PA) that not only were the statistics used faulty, but the raw data was highly inaccurate. By the way the paper that reported on the plight of the Turkish journalists was the New York Times, Rudoren's paper.
There are now 97 members of the news media in jail in Turkey, including journalists, publishers and distributors, according to the Turkish Journalists' Union, a figure that rights groups say exceeds the number detained in China. The government denies the figure and insists that with the exception of four cases, those arrested have all been charged with activities other than reporting.
I wouldn't accuse Rudoren of malice here, she really tries to highlight some positive news about Israel. But she was careless with her tweet about jailed journalists. Given the acknowledged limitations of Twitter, she should be aware that her tweets can be understood as judgments if she's not careful.

And this double standard is nothing new.
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