Thursday, December 28, 2006

Let's try a little fairness

I sent the following letter to Reporters Without Frontiers as commentary on their report on the treatment of journalists in the Palestinian Territories.
As a reporter and editor and past officer in the Society of Professional Journalists, I have always been an advocate of journalists' rights. I have lobbied and spoken before legislative bodies in my state of Connecticut. As a result of my efforts, as well as efforts of many others, we enjoy a strong press-freedom body of laws in the state.
I also am aware that in many nations, reporters are routinely killed while plying their craft.
The report states in part: "Palestinian and foreign journalists working in the Palestinian territories are exposed to two different kinds of threats, one from the Israeli army, which has been responsible for many acts of violence against the press since 2000, and more recently from the various Palestinian factions that do not hesitate to target media that criticize them."
As a reporter who has been threatened by American police officials while doing his job, even to having a shotgun pressed against his nose (the perpetrator was punished by higher police officials), I cannot condone any such action.
But I can understand its cause.
You state that journalists are exposed to two different kinds of threats while working in the Palestinian territories. I disagree. I say they, and their readers, are exposed to a third threat: censorship. Many news organizations use stringers - freelance reporters and photographers - to gather news in the territories. The success of those journalists is dependent on their ability to keep sources. It is a universal truth in journalism that sources dry up for those reporters who write things the sources do not like. It is impossible to believe that doesn't happen in the Palestinian Entity.
Nobody is saying that these journalists make things up or lie about facts, but facts can be interpreted in many ways and stories can be told in many different fashions.
That leads to the frustration faced by the Israeli soldiers of whom you speak. I am not making excuses for them -- if they did as you allege. But one must wonder about the truth in some of those allegations.
I am happy, however, that you also assign blame to Palestinian officials for targeting media that criticize them.
In another part of the report, you propose "to rapidly bring together Palestinian and Israeli journalists, politicians from both camps and Israeli military officials to discuss this question and find a solution that would reduce the risks to which journalists working in the Palestinian territories are exposed." Why not also bring together Palestinian military officials as well as Israeli military officials.?
Again, thank you for your report. And thank you for your honest effort to protect journalists in many parts of the world. But please realize that you are dealing with Israeli, whose free press allows the free flow of ideas and soldiers whose lives and health are put on the line because of the lack of free flow of ideas in the territories. Please cut them some slack.

No comments: