Monday, November 8, 2010

The one-armed bandit strikes again

Reuters would not be Reuters without freedom from bias. We are a “stateless” news service that welcomes diversity into our newsrooms but asks all staff to park their nationality and politics at the door. This neutrality is a hallmark of our news brand and allows us to work on all sides of an issue, conflict or dispute without any agenda other than accurate, fair reporting. Our customers and our sources value Reuters for that quality and it is one we all must work to preserve.
That's an excerpt from Reuters Handbook of Journalism, the agency's ethical principles guide for its journalists.  It's also a standard that Reuters correspondents regularly flout.

In one of literally thousands of human interest stories on the Palestinians written over recent years, Reuters correspondent Nidal al-Mughrabi reports on "stressed-out" Gazans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due primarily to -- yep, you guessed it -- Israel:
Take, for example, Samira, a 43-year-old schoolteacher and mother of five who lived too close to a Hamas security complex bombed repeatedly during Israel's December 2008-January 2009 cross-border offensive.  "I could not sleep for months -- no, for a year. I used to have dreams and even while awake I used to hear the sound of explosions when there was really nothing happening," said the woman, who did not want to be named.  "One of my children also wet his bed for several months," she added.  A trauma therapist should have been on the case -- and in this instance, was. But in Gaza, despite decades of Israeli incursions, economic blockades, deadly internal infighting among Palestinians and grinding poverty, dealing with trauma is something brand new -- and not a total success, either. 
Experts estimate that up to 15 percent of Gazans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but Western-style psychotherapy is a relatively recent arrival.
Gazans, for whom therapy comes after scraping a living, also are culturally wary of seeking outside help with emotional and mental problems. The Israeli blockade ensures the enclave remains dirt poor, and not in a position to pay for new health services.
Al-Mughrabi, who, like his colleagues at Reuters, never writes sympathetic human interest stories on Israeli Jews, once again ducks an easy opportunity to comply with the purported ethical principles of his employer by ignoring comparable suffering on the Israeli side of the conflict.  So, with about 5 minutes of research, we'll honor those published principles:
The stress and anxiety caused by years of living under the rocket threat have left their mark on the children of Sderot. A study presented at a conference in Jerusalem Monday revealed that 45% of the town's children under the age of six suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is expressed through developmental regression, sleeping disorders or aggression.

The data, which has been collected since 2003, also indicated that 41% of mothers and 33% of fathers are suffering from PTSD and often experience flashbacks from difficult experiences and avoid places that remind them of rocket attacks.
It's not difficult being an ethical journalist -- unless of course, your press credentials say "Reuters".

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