Journalistic ideals, Palestine style

We Westerners have so internalized the idea that journalists should at least strive for objectivity, that we forget that other cultures may have entirely different ideas. Richard Landes, in “Al-Dura and the public secret of Middle East journalism” describes the Muslim tradition:

According to the Islamic Mass Media Charter (Jakarta, 1980), the sacred task of Muslim media men [sic], is on the one hand to protect the Umma from “imminent dangers,” indeed to “censor all materials,” towards that end, and on the other, “To combat Zionism and its colonialist policy of creating settlements as well as its ruthless suppression of the Palestinian people.”

So when asked why he had inserted unconnected footage of an Israeli soldier firing a rifle into the Al Dura sequence in order to make it look like the Israelis had killed the boy in cold blood, an official of PA TV responded:

These are forms of artistic expression, but all of this serves to convey the truth… We never forget our higher journalistic principles to which we are committed of relating the truth and nothing but the truth.

When Talal abu Rahmah received an award for his footage of Muhammad al Dura in Morocco in 2001, he told a reporter, “I went into journalism to carry on the fight for my people.”

On November 14, the full, 27 minute footage that abu Rahmah gave to France2 television will be shown at trial in the defamation suit filed by France2’s Charles Enderlin against French media watchdog Philippe Karsenty.

These tapes were filmed by Talal abu Rahmah on September 30, 2000, and for seven years, Enderlin has claimed that the tapes prove him right and show the boy in such unbearable death throes that he cut them out of his report. But several experts who have seen the tapes ([Richard Landes] included) claim that the only scene of al Dura that Enderlin cut was the final scene where he seems alive and well; and still more disturbingly the rest of the rushes are filled with staged scenes.

Of course, regardless of the outcome, the damage has long since been done. Israelis and others have died in the name of vengeance for al-Dura. Israel has had to get used to asymmetric warfare in battlefield struggle with Hamas and Hezbollah; apparently she must also expect it in the opinion war.

Update [12 Nov 1701 PST]: Karsenty says that France2 will only show 18 minutes of footage in court (video of Karsenty here).

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