Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The ethnocentric vantage point

Reuters Handbook of Journalism is a collection of ethical guiding principles for its employees.  Contained within it, is a section on social responsibility where Reuters cautions its journalists to provide complete facts, all sides of an argument, and to avoid adopting an "ethnocentric vantage point":
We must be on alert for language that could imply support for one side of a conflict, sympathy for a point of view, or an ethnocentric vantage point. We should, for example, provide the dual names of disputed territories. We must not parrot any loaded expressions used by our sources, except in quotes and official titles. Generic references to a specific country as “the homeland” for example, are unwelcome.
When reporting on the Middle East conflict, Reuters regularly violates these principles.  Take for example, this story with writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan:
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel on Friday of choosing "settlements over peace" in a protest over publication of a plan to build 238 housing units in East Jerusalem.
Reuters utterly fails to provide the facts surrounding Jewish communities on this land.  For example, Jews lived in the area for over 3,500 years before being ethnically-cleansed by the Arab Legion in 1948.  Moreover, the never-abrogated Mandate for Palestine grants Jews the right, under international law, to settle there.

Beyond this irresponsible omission of the facts is a transparent embrace by the news agency, of an exclusively Arab vantage point, referring to the fictitious city of "East Jerusalem" seven times and the Arab-designated "West Bank" three times with no equitable reference to the Jewish appellation for the territory, "Judea and Samaria".

Clear, repeated, and unpunished violations of the Reuters Handbook, all.

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