Sunday, July 3, 2011

Reuters never certain of provocations against Israel; always certain of Israel's culpability

In a story about the Quartet issuing a statement formally discouraging other flotillas from attempting to breach the Israeli naval embargo of Gaza, Reuters correspondent Megan Davies demonstrates, with two paragraphs, everything amiss with the agency's coverage of the Middle East conflict:
In May of last year, Israeli marines intercepted a six-ship flotilla in international waters and killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American aboard one vessel, the Mavi Marmara, owned by a Turkish Islamic charity.
Israel said its marines were attacked by activists wielding metal bars, clubs and knives, but organizers of the convoy denied that. The incident led to a breakdown in already strained ties between Turkey and Israel.
Note that Davies is absolutely certain Israeli marines killed nine passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara but offers only Israel's allegation, rebutted by flotilla organizers, that the marines were attacked by passengers wielding weapons.

This raises essential questions for any journalist, but particularly for a Reuters journalist:
As Reuters journalists, we never identify with any side in an issue, a conflict or a dispute. Our text and visual stories need to reflect all sides, not just one. This leads to better journalism because it requires us to stop at each stage of newsgathering and ask ourselves “What do I know?” and “What do I need to know?”
Despite the presence of overwhelming photographic, video, physical, and eyewitness evidence available to Davies attesting to the assault by passengers on the Israeli marines, the Reuters correspondent apparently cannot say the assault even took place.  Rather, she ignores all of the evidence and twists the incident into a disputed he said, she said, citing anonymous convoy "organizers" to cast doubt on the historical record.

At the same time, the truth is that Davies doesn't know with any certainty whether passengers were killed by the Israeli marines.  In its report for example, the Turkel Commission found that passengers used firearms against soldiers boarding the ship.  Given nighttime conditions, the ensuing melee, and in the absence of any other evidentiary report, it's entirely within the bounds of possibility that one or more of the fatalities were the result of "friendly fire" by the passengers.

As Reuters has consistently done over the past year, Davies also refers innocuously to the Mavi Marmara as being owned by a "Turkish Islamic charity".  This, to suggest a mission with humanitarian intent.  Employing the propaganda technique of card stacking, Davies fails to inform readers that there was no humanitarian aid on board the Mavi Marmara and that the "charity"sponsoring the ship, İnsani Yardım Vakfı (IHH), has a long history of documented ties to Islamist terror groups around the world.  Afforded that information, readers might come away with a somewhat different view -- one contrary to that being peddled by Davies -- of the nature and objectives of the flotilla last year.

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