Posted by: Lister | January 15, 2009

Freedom of the Press

Der Spiegal describes reporting of the war in Gaza:

The Israeli government has barred all media coverage from the Gaza Strip, which has forced correspondents from around the world to take up position here, one kilometer (0.62 miles) back from the border. In the distance, they can make out the silhouette of Gaza City. And they can see the smoke that rises after each air strike, too.

At the moment, this hill provides the best view of the war available — and it’s the Israeli view. The journalists are close enough to film the impact of Israeli bombs but too far away to see the Palestinian casualties.

[…] “I’m happy that you are here,” says Seaman [director of Israel’s Government Press Office], with barely concealed scorn, as he greets the assembled journalists. In front of him stands CNN’s star reporter Christiane Amanpour. Next to her are her colleagues from the BBC and two dozen other television channels. Then Seaman lets everyone know what he expects from them: “You’re here, and you are covering our side.”

[…] “Israel has never restricted media access like this before, and it should be ashamed,” says Ethan Bronner, Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times. CNN’s Ben Wedeman complains it feels like North Korea. Media groups from around the world are protesting against the way they are being treated in Israel, and the country’s own Foreign Press Association even took its case to court — and won.

The article makes the point that war reporting has changed since Vietnam. America’s wars in Iraq have not been covered in anything like the same way.

Israel didn’t have control of the media in Lebanon. And that was probably a big factor in the war having to end after little more than a month. About the current war, and the media’s attitude:

“Criminal,” says Gideon Levy, a left-wing columnist for the daily paper Haaretz. “Our media is systematically covering up the suffering in Gaza, and there’s only one opinion present in the TV studios — the army’s.” Levy accuses journalists of having “volunteered to serve the military.”

[…] “We’re experiencing this war only with the Israelis,” says Silke Mertins, a reporter with Financial Times Deutschland, “and that’s an oppressive feeling.” Thorsten Schmitz, a correspondent for the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, finds the working conditions grotesque: “It’s nothing more than voyeurism.”

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