Communique: 15 December 2003
2003 DISHONEST REPORTING "AWARD"
Dear HonestReporting Subscriber,
2003: It was the year of the road map, the year of the hudna. Abu Mazen and Abu Ala, war in Iraq, targeted strikes in Gaza, the security fence. Destruction of Maxim in Haifa, Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem, the horrific "Children's Attack" on bus #2. The year that brought us an Israeli in space, Der Stuermer in the UK, the homicide donkey, child guinea pigs, and Rachel Corrie.
2003 was another trying year for Israel Â¯ a nation fighting simultaneous, uphill battles against terror and for fair coverage in the world media.
With the year drawing to a close, HonestReporting regretfully presents the third annual Dishonest Reporting "Award," our yearly recognition of the most skewed and biased coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thanks for your nominations and votes! We begin with the ignoble award "winner," followed by recipients of Dishonorable Mention:
IGNOBLE AWARD WINNER: REUTERS
With over 200 news bureaus worldwide, Reuters stakes its claim as "the largest international multi-media news agency." Though Reuters' own editorial policy claims the agency's reporters "do not offer subjective opinion," and intend merely "to enable readers and viewers to form their own judgement," in fact Reuters' coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is flagrantly biased against Israel. Some examples from 2003:
* In January, Reuters blamed Israel for "killing" Palestinian suicide bombers:
Iraq has paid millions of dollars to families of Palestinians, including those of suicide bombers, killed by Israeli forces since the start of the uprising in September 2000.
* As Israel prepared to build a wall to protect worshippers at Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, Reuters published this headline:
"Israel to Split Christ's Birthplace with Barrier"
To emphasize its (completely external) point, Reuters repeated the word "Christ" or "Christian" in each of the article's first four sentences.
* On Nov. 18, two Israeli soldiers were killed outside Bethlehem and a number of Palestinians were wounded in Gaza. Reuters had pictures of both events, but journalists who subscribe to Reuters' photo service were encouraged to publish the Palestinian victims in this email (emphasis added):
Dear User of the Reuters Pictures Archive,
Please find below a single picture presentation showing two Palestinians rushing a wounded Palestinian to hospital in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern part of the Gaza strip, November 18, 2003 :
* When Palestinian terrorist groups announced a hudna with the PA, Israel was not a party in the agreement, and the official road map demanded a full disarming of terror groups Â¯ not a temporary hudna cease-fire. Yet Reuters took the opportunity to vilify Israel with the headline:
"Israel Pours Scorn on Truce With Militants"
And when Israel did show flexibility for Palestinian demands, above and beyond the roadmap's requirements? On Nov. 3, Reuters reported that Israel reinstated 15,000 Palestinian work permits, and included this comment in a news report:
150,000 Palestinians [previously] made a living in Israel, so Sunday's restoration of 15,000 Israeli work permits is still only a drop in the ocean.
Actually, 15,000 was fully 10%, and a risky loosening of anti-terror policy. Even the Palestinian official quoted by Reuters called it "an important step."
* * *
The previous examples are specific to particular articles, but Reuters' anti-Israel bias extends to general editorial policy on terminology and headlines:
Reuters' refusal to use the term "terrorism" or "terrorist" reached new levels of absurdity this year. In November, Reuters released a list of "Worst Guerilla Attacks since September 11" that omitted terror in Israel entirely.
But beyond distancing itself from the term "terror," Reuters regularly legitimized Palestinian terrorist groups and their murderous acts by ascribing to them a worthy (though false) motive Â¯ the pursuit of independence:
The military wing of the Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement faxed to Reuters. Hamas has spearheaded a 28-month-old Palestinian militant uprising against Israel for a state in Gaza and the West Bank. (Feb. 15 - emphasis added)
Or take this Oct. 3 Reuters photo and caption:
Members of the Islamic movement Hamas burn the Israeli and the U.S. flag over a model of the Star of David during a march through the streets of the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza and vow to continue the three-year-old uprising for statehood. (emphasis added)
Hamas makes it perfectly clear in their official charter that their goal is the destruction of the State of Israel, and not merely an independent Palestinian state. Legitimate liberation struggles do not target innocent civilians in a systematic manner. Yet Reuters persists in this charade, justifying the horrific terrorist acts.
The terminology even reaches articles addressing Israeli perspectives. After the tragic space shuttle explosion in February, Reuters described Israelis' sadness over the death of astronaut Ilan Ramon:
The launch of Ramon's space flight had virtually erased news of the country's woes, spreading space fever among Israelis embittered by a Palestinian uprising for statehood, a scandal-plagued national election and a domestic recession. (Feb. 2, emphasis added)
Israelis were not embittered by an "uprising for statehood." They were, as always, prepared to offer Palestinians a state. They were embittered by relentless Palestinian terror.
Reuters refuses to use the term "terrorist" because (as global news editor Steven Jukes states) "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter." But by continually using the term "uprising for statehood" to describe the terrorist wave, Reuters chooses to present them as freedom fighters. So much for journalistic neutrality.
Reuters regularly makes the effort to help readers "understand" the human side of Palestinian terrorists. When two Israelis were killed in Negohot, Reuters included this background information to help readers rationalize the terrorist act:
Palestinians regard Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as major obstacles to peace and have regularly attacked them. (Sept. 26)
This description suggests Â¯ preposterously Â¯ that Palestinian terrorists perpetrate the willful murder of civilians out of their quest for peace.
In July, HonestReporting released a study of one month of Reuters headlines on the conflict. Some findings:
▪ In violent acts by Israelis, "Israel" was named in 100% of the headlines, and the verb was in the active voice in 100% of the headlines, i.e.:
"Israeli Troops Shoot Dead Palestinian in W. Bank" (July 3)
▪ But in violent acts by Palestinians, the Palestinian perpetrator was named in just 33% of the headlines, and the verb was generally in the passive voice, i.e.:
"Bus Blows Up in Central Jerusalem" (June 11)
That is, in the world of Reuters headlines, when Israel acts, Israel is always perpetrating an active assault and the Palestinian victim is consistently identified. But when Palestinian terrorists act, the event just "happens" and Israeli victims are left faceless.
Moreover, Reuters presents Palestinian diplomats as pursuing peace, but frustrated by their obstinate Israeli counterparts:
"Palestinians Urge Israel to Free Prisoners" (July 4)
"Israel Sets Tough Terms for Prisoner Release" (July 6)
"Israel Fumes at U.S. Opening to Doves, Steps Up Raids" (Dec. 3)
The overwhelming message from Reuters headlines is tendentious indeed: Israel is the aggressor, and Palestinians are hapless victims.
* * *
Though maintaining that "the integrity, independence and freedom from bias of Reuters must be upheld at all times," Reuters' news reports indicate that the agency has clearly taken sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ceasing to provide neutral information, Reuters has instead become a sort of world ambassador for Palestinian factions, operating via the ubiquitous Reuters news wire.
And for this, the Reuters "news service" deserves the Dishonest Reporting "Award" for 2003.