This is how you can expose ISIS using Twitter and Google Earth

The Independent: Eliot Higgins is the British analyst who, from his home in Leicester more than 3,000 miles away, helped expose Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s use of Sarin gas.

The 35-year-old began blogging about the Syrian conflict as a hobby in 2012 under the pseudonym Brown Moses, after leaving a job in admin.

He had never been to Syria and did not speak Arabic. Now, Higgins runs the crowdfunded website Bellingcat, which recently claimed to have uncovered the location of an Islamic State (Isis) training camp using Google Earth; located where James Foley was killed; and spotted the Buk missile launcher which could have downed MH17 inside Russia – all within a month of reaching its funding goal on Kickstarter.

As well as investigations, with Bellingcat, Higgins aims to help educate journalists, activists and researchers about how to geolocate, verify and investigate images and videos that appear on social media. [Continue reading...]

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Anya Schiffrin: Who knew we were living in the golden age of investigative journalism?

Almost a decade ago, I spent more than a year freelancing for a major metropolitan newspaper — one of the biggest in the country. I would, on an intermittent basis, work out of a newsroom that appeared to be in a state of constant churn. Whoever wasn’t being downsized seemed to be jumping ship or madly searching for a life raft. It looked as if bean counters were beating reporters and editors into submission or sending them out of the business and into journalism schools where they would train a new generation of young reporters. For just what wasn’t clear. Jobs that would no longer exist? 

Before the special series I was working on was complete, my co-writer — the paper’s Washington investigative editor — had left for the friendlier confines of academia and the editor who greenlit the series had resigned in the face of management’s demands for steep cuts to newsroom staff. It seemed as if the only remaining person associated with the series was a gifted photographer (who left for greener pastures within a year).

I thought I was witnessing the end of an era, the death of an institution. 

At the same time, I was also working for a small but growing online publication that managed to produce three original articles each week — a mix of commentary, news analysis, and original investigative reporting.  More than a decade into that gig, the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com is still going strong, still publishing three original articles per week, and syndicating that content out to dozens and dozens of online publications, reaching hundreds of thousands of potential readers.

Over that time, online outlets have come and gone, venerable newspapers have closed up shop, predictions of doom — of the death of print publications, the demise of investigative reporting (maybe even of journalism itself) — have been aired repeatedly. And it’s true that in this new era it hasn’t been easy to make a living as a journalist or keep a media outlet afloat.  Yet, as a reader, I notice something else: I can’t even hope to read every eye-catching article that flashes by on my Twitter feed or piles up in my inbox from one listserve or another. I end up with 25 open windows in my taskbar — top-quality journalism from legacy media outlets and new digital magazines that I hope I might be able to skim later that day or the next or sometime before my laptop slows to a crawl under the weight of so much groundbreaking reporting.

It turned out that, 10 years ago, I actually was witnessing the end of an era while living through the formative stages of another.  It’s been a moment in which stories published on a relatively tiny website like TomDispatch circle the globe in a flash and a writer like me, who never went to journalism school, can see his articles almost instantly translated into Spanish, Japanese, Italian, and languages I don’t even recognize, and then reposted on websites from South America to Africa to Asia. In other words, they sometimes reach the sort of global audience that once might have been a stretch even for a reporter at a prestigious mainstream media outlet. 

Over these years, I’ve also watched others who have passed through the Nation Institute wade into a scary media market and find great success. TomDispatch’s own former intern Andy Kroll, for example, has gone on to break one important story after another at Mother Jones, a print publication that now thrives online, while former Nation Institute program associate Liliana Segura has taken a top post at First Look Media, one of the most dynamic and talked-about new media ventures in years. And they are hardly anomalies.

In her new book, Global Muckraking: 100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World, Anya Schiffrin, the director of the media and communications program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, chronicles the brave new world of global journalism in the age of the Internet (and how the stage was set for the new golden age of the reader we’re living in). In her inaugural article for TomDispatch, the longtime foreign correspondent reveals the investigative exposés by today’s top global muckrakers that you missed and explains why investigative journalism is on the rise, not the decline, worldwide. 

From Asia to Central America, a new generation of Nellie Blys and Ida Tarbells, Seymour Hershes and Rachel Carsons, is breaking one big story after another with equal parts old-fashioned shoe leather and twenty-first-century knowhow. “The fact that journalists have been calling attention to some of the same problems for more than a hundred years might make one despondent, but it shouldn’t…” Schiffrin writes in her book. “That the battles are still going on should remind us that new abuses, new forms of corruption, are always emerging, providing new opportunities and new responsibilities for the media.” Luckily, there is a new generation of reporters around the world, she points out, rising to the challenge. Nick Turse

The fall and rise of investigative journalism
From Asia to Africa to Latin America, muckrakers have corrupt officials and corporate cronies on the run
By Anya Schiffrin

In our world, the news about the news is often grim. Newspapers are shrinking, folding up, or being cut loose by their parent companies. Layoffs are up and staffs are down. That investigative reporter who covered the state capitol — she’s not there anymore. Newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune have suffered from multiple rounds of layoffs over the years. You know the story and it would be easy enough to imagine that it was the world’s story as well. But despite a long run of journalistic tough times, the loss of advertising dollars, and the challenge of the Internet, there’s been a blossoming of investigative journalism across the globe from Honduras to Myanmar, New Zealand to Indonesia.

Woodward and Bernstein may be a fading memory in this country, but journalists with names largely unknown in the U.S. like Khadija Ismayilova, Rafael Marques, and Gianina Segnina are breaking one blockbuster story after another, exposing corrupt government officials and their crony corporate pals in Azerbaijan, Angola, and Costa Rica. As I travel the world, I’m energized by the journalists I meet who are taking great risks to shine much needed light on shadowy wrongdoing.

[Read more...]

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How a fake ‘anti-semitic’ commenter smeared Common Dreams to support Israel

For Common Dreams, Lance Tapley reports: Like many other news websites, Common Dreams has been plagued by inflammatory anti-Semitic comments following its stories. But on Common Dreams these posts have been so frequent and intense they have driven away donors from a nonprofit dependent on reader generosity.

A Common Dreams investigation has discovered that more than a thousand of these damaging comments over the past two years were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel.

His intricate campaign, which he has admitted to Common Dreams, included posting comments by a screen name, “JewishProgressive,” whose purpose was to draw attention to and denounce the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under many other screen names.

The deception was many-layered. At one point he had one of his characters charge that the anti-Semitic comments and the criticism of the anti-Semitic comments must be written by “internet trolls who have been known to impersonate anti-Semites in order to then double-back and accuse others of supporting anti-Semitism” — exactly what he was doing. (Trolls are posters who foment discord.)

The impersonation, this character wrote, must be part of an “elaborate Hasbara setup,” referring to an Israeli international public-relations campaign. When Common Dreams finally confronted the man behind the deceptive posting, he denied that he himself was involved with Hasbara.

His posting on Common Dreams illustrates the susceptibility of website comment threads to massive manipulation. [Continue reading...]

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James Foley and fellow freelancers: exploited by pared-back media outlets

Martin Chulov writes: For more than three years now, much of what the world has seen, read and learned about the Middle East has been produced by journalism’s newest hands. They are not recruits, in the true sense of the word: few have the endorsement of established media outlets. Even fewer have been sent to the region with budgets, backing, or even basic training.

But from Tunisia to Syria and all stops in between, freelance reporters and photojournalists have reported history with a determination that old media could rarely match, even during the halcyon days when media organisations could afford to maintain correspondents and bureaux around the world.

Libya was a magnet for many freelancers when insurrection broke out in February 2011. Some had covered the tumult next door in Egypt, others were drawn to journalism, wanting to witness the end of Gaddafi’s cult-like state.

As the battle for east Libya ebbed and flowed around the town of Ajdabiya, the freelancers at times outnumbered the anti-Gaddafi rebels on the frontline. Both groups – with a fair few staff reporters among them – would often surge forward together or scamper for safety when regime forces advanced. James Foley was among them. [Continue reading...]

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James Foley’s killers pose many threats to local, international journalists

CJP: The Committee to Protect Journalists is extremely concerned for all journalists, most of them Syrians, still held captive by the Al-Qaeda splinter group Islamic State, which has repeatedly kidnapped, killed, and threatened journalists in the territories over which it holds sway. President Barack Obama confirmed today that the group is responsible for the barbaric murder of U.S. freelance journalist James Foley.

“Local and foreign journalists already knew that Syria was the world’s most dangerous place to be a reporter before the beheading of James Foley brought that knowledge to the general public,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The members of the Islamic State who murdered him use violence and intimidation to silence all independent reporting in the areas they control. Despite that, Syrian and foreign reporters like Jim Foley are prepared to put their lives at risk, in an attempt, in the words of another U.S. journalist killed in Syria, Marie Colvin, to ‘bear witness.'”

Syria has been the most dangerous country in the world for journalists for more than two years. In addition to Foley, at least 69 other journalists have been killed covering the conflict there, including some who died over the border in Lebanon and Turkey. More than 75 percent of the deaths came in crossfire or combat situations, but journalists have also been directly targeted by all sides of the conflict. More than 80 journalists have been abducted in Syria, an unprecedented number since CPJ’s founding in 1981. CPJ estimates that approximately 20 journalists, the majority of whom are Syrians, are currently missing in the country. [Continue reading...]

The Associated Press reports: A U.S. official says the Islamic State militants who beheaded American journalist James Foley in Syria had demanded $132.5 million — or 100 million Euros— in ransom for his release.

A second U.S. official says the demands were sent in emails to Foley’s family in New Hampshire. Both officials spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ransom demands by name.

Separately, Foley’s former employer said that the militants first demanded the money late last year.

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Is James Foley’s death the end of frontline reporting?

Janine di Giovanni writes: Like many families of those who simply disappear and go missing, James Foley’s were no different. They believed that one day their son, who had gone missing before Thanksgiving 2012 in Syria, would walk through the door.

Jim was smart. Jim was brave. Jim was a good guy. Because of these traits, his family and his closest friends held out hope and refused to believe he was really gone.

Nicole Tung, who had been with Foley just before he was kidnapped and returned several times alone to northern Syria to search for her friend, was not giving up hope. Sometimes, while working in Aleppo, she would disappear to meet with someone to try to find out if her friend was being held in certain prisons, if he was safe, if he was still alive.

President Barack Obama paid tribute to Foley at a press conference today, describing him as someone who “courageously told the story of his fellow human beings.”

In times like these, journalists—particularly those who report war and conflict and are something of a little tribe—tend to grow even closer. Decisions are made not to report details which could hurt the search for missing reporter. Decisions are made not to watch the video which claimed to be Foley’s last.

The day after the video was released was a dark day for journalists. Foley, who had been kidnapped before, was much loved and respected. His death, like the death of other reporters before him—such as the American Marie Colvin, who died from a bomb blast in Homs in February 2012; or the legendary Reuters war reporter Kurt Schork, who was murdered by Sierra Leonean rebels in 2000, resonated widely. It shakes the very core of what we do and what we believe.

On a private Facebook page for those of us who work and report inside Syria, S-Logistics, the tributes were swift and eloquent. Reporters blacked out their profile photos in solidarity with our slain colleague. But the real question many of us are wondering is: how do we continue to do this kind of work when barbarians like the Islamic State reward us with kidnappings, beheadings, imprisonment, rape? [Continue reading...]

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Palestinians decry Gaza journalist killings

Al Jazeera reports: Hala Hamad first received the news of her husband Khaled’s death in a television report. “My family were telling me, ‘No, it’s not him,’ but I knew [from] his camera and his vest written Press on it,” she told Al Jazeera, breaking down in tears.

Twenty-four-year-old Khaled Hamad worked for a local media company in Gaza City called ‘Continue’ Production Films. He was killed alongside 28-year-old ambulance driver Fouad Jaber when an Israeli tank shell struck the ambulance in which they were travelling.

The two were in the hard-hit neighbourhood of Shujayea, as Jaber’s ambulance was one of the first to arrive to evacuate the wounded, and collect the dead bodies.

“I had an unusual feeling, something etched deep in my heart,” said Abu Fouad, about the day his son was killed. [Continue reading...]

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Fighters in Al Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas

Among the reader comments that appear here, a fairly common one is a rebuke on my choice of sources and my willingness to regurgitate “the lies of the mainstream media” — or something along those lines.

I don’t find “mainstream media” a particularly useful concept because all too often it’s employed as the bluntest possible tool for media analysis.

To view a particular piece of reporting as credible or lacking in credibility simply on the basis of the commercial niche occupied by its publisher, is plain dumb. The following report illustrates my point.

An article focusing on two fighters in Hamas appears in today’s Wall Street Journal.

How can a right-wing newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch with editorial writers like Bret Stephens, former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, provide solid reporting on Hamas? Surprisingly it can.

The report notes that Hamas is a “guerrilla army” thereby drawing a distinction between its objective nature and the politically charged designation — “terrorist” — which is applied by the U.S. and Israeli governments.

The report notes Hamas’ military accomplishments (and alludes to its recent use of drones for battlefield surveillance) and that its fighters are uniformed.

It notes that the choice to engage in armed resistance has been made by and supported by those have witnessed the futility of a peace process pursued through negotiations.

All in all, it’s a report that could profitably be read by many an Israeli who still accepts the propaganda that Israel faces a fanatical foe who values death more than life.

When the shrapnel-torn body of Ahmed Abu Thoraya returned to this city in the Gaza Strip, only one member of his family knew for sure he had been a fighter in Al Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas.

Mr. Abu Thoraya had given his brother, Mohammed, a short will before he left town on July 19. “He said ‘I’m going somewhere,'” his brother recalled recently. “I knew that he may not come back.”

The conflict in the Gaza Strip has brought the secretive guerrilla army of Hamas out of the shadows and into battle against Israel’s military for only the second time. When the brigade’s fighters are killed, Hamas street organizers eulogize them as heroes, posting images of them in fatigues and toting rockets. And families in the Gaza Strip are coming to terms with never-before-discussed identities of sons and neighbors.

The fighting has given Israel its first good look at Hamas’s street-fighting abilities since 2009—the only other time the Israeli Defense Forces have taken on large numbers of the Qassam fighters at close quarters. The Hamas militia has inflicted the heaviest death toll on Israel’s military in a decade, some 64 soldiers so far. Israel and the U.S. regard Hamas, which also has a political wing and delivers social services, as a terrorist enterprise.

On Tuesday, the latest cease-fire broke down when a salvo of rockets from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel, and Israel retaliated against militant targets in Gaza. Truce talks in Cairo were suspended.

“Hamas has advanced on all fronts,” said a senior official in the Israel Defense Forces. “This time when we meet them on the battlefield, they are better trained, better organized, better disciplined.”

That wasn’t the Hamas that Israel encountered in its 2009 ground invasion of Gaza. When Israel’s military entered the strip back then, Hamas fighters, for the most part, quickly melted away.

This time, Hamas surprised Israeli soldiers by using a network of tunnels under the walls and fences enclosing the Gaza Strip to emerge inside Israel. Hamas commando units that Israel believes took shape mostly in the last year carried out complex ambushes inside and outside Gaza.

Hamas’s internal communications proved more difficult for Israel to track, and Hamas exhibited a new capacity for aerial observation of Israeli troop movements. Hamas rockets, though mostly intercepted above Israel, managed to shut down Israel’s main airport for a time. [Continue reading...]

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The war photo no one would publish

Torie Rose DeGhett writes: The Iraqi soldier died attempting to pull himself up over the dashboard of his truck. The flames engulfed his vehicle and incinerated his body, turning him to dusty ash and blackened bone. In a photograph taken soon afterward, the soldier’s hand reaches out of the shattered windshield, which frames his face and chest. The colors and textures of his hand and shoulders look like those of the scorched and rusted metal around him. Fire has destroyed most of his features, leaving behind a skeletal face, fixed in a final rictus. He stares without eyes.

On February 28, 1991, Kenneth Jarecke stood in front of the charred man, parked amid the carbonized bodies of his fellow soldiers, and photographed him. At one point, before he died this dramatic mid-retreat death, the soldier had had a name. He’d fought in Saddam Hussein’s army and had a rank and an assignment and a unit. He might have been devoted to the dictator who sent him to occupy Kuwait and fight the Americans. Or he might have been an unlucky young man with no prospects, recruited off the streets of Baghdad.

Jarecke took the picture just before a ceasefire officially ended Operation Desert Storm — the U.S.-led military action that drove Saddam Hussein and his troops out of Kuwait, which they had annexed and occupied the previous August. The image and its anonymous subject might have come to symbolize the Gulf War. Instead, it went unpublished in the United States, not because of military obstruction but because of editorial choices.

It’s hard to calculate the consequences of a photograph’s absence. But sanitized images of warfare, The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf argues, make it “easier … to accept bloodless language” such as 1991 references to “surgical strikes” or modern-day terminology like “kinetic warfare.” The Vietnam War, in contrast, was notable for its catalog of chilling and iconic war photography. Some images, like Ron Haeberle’s pictures of the My Lai massacre, were initially kept from the public, but other violent images — Nick Ut’s scene of child napalm victims and Eddie Adams’s photo of a Vietcong man’s execution — won Pulitzer Prizes and had a tremendous impact on the outcome of the war. [Continue reading...]

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‘I just want people to pay’

Even though I spend too many of my waking hours on the internet, like a hamster on an endlessly spinning wheel, I have some sympathy for John R. MacArthur’s disdain for online publishing. Indeed, it’s probably because of this sense that the internet has an unlimited capacity to eat time that I see some appeal in the idea that we might return to a pre-digital age of print.

But the passionate defense of print media that the publisher of Harper’s magazine makes, falls apart when we learn this:

On several occasions during a recent interview, he could not quite remember a fact that supported a point. His version of searching for it on Google was yelling to a staff member, who hurried to deliver the information.

Who needs Google when they have staff?

But perhaps the more relevent question would be: who needs to use Google when they have staff who can use Google?

MacArthur’s argument against online publishing is that the web isn’t “much more than a gigantic Xerox machine” that prevents publishers and writers getting paid.

Even so, when he somewhat dismissively refers to the internet as a place where people go to blow off steam, I wonder whether he is oblivious of the degree to which he indirectly relies on it — like a man who says he doesn’t need to know how to cook because all his meals get delivered by caterers.

MacArthur might believe his argument is against those who promote online media and thereby undermine the economic viability of publishing, but maybe he should imagine how he would make his case with Gutenburg.

Whereas Gutenburg came up with the means of making the written word accessible to the masses and thereby democratized human expression, the revivalists of print seem more interested in restricting access of their publications to their well-heeled subscribers.

MacArthur might believe that everyone who is cultivated enough to appreciate a quality literary magazine will also be able to afford paying for it, but in making that assumption he represents the American liberal elite with its over-sized sense of being liberal and its downplayed status as an elite.

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Guardian agrees to publish anti-Hamas ad

Roy Greenslade writes: The Times is under attack for refusing to run an advert about the conflict in Gaza. The paper is accused of being part of a British media “infamously skewed against Israel.”

The ad is a statement, written jointly by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel prize-winning author, and Shmuley Boteach, an outspoken American-born Orthodox rabbi.

It calls on President Obama and other political leaders across the world “to condemn Hamas’s use of children as human shields”, which amounts to “child sacrifice”.

The advert has been carried in five US newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, which is published by News Corporation, the owner of The Times. The Guardian has agreed to run the advert on Monday.

The New York Observer reports that the fee The Guardian will receive for the ad is roughly $20,000. A source at the paper is quoted saying: “The Guardian may be left wing but they obviously believe in free speech and allowing their readers to hear the voice of a Nobel Laureate about a very important issue.”

If The Guardian is only printing this ad because it believes in free speech and it does not endorse the ad’s content, it could make its position clear by donating the $20,000 fee to a Gaza relief fund.

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Why are American journalists afraid of asking #Israeli officials tough questions?

Chris McGreal writes: Here are a few questions you won’t hear asked of the parade of Israeli officials crossing US television screens during the current crisis in Gaza:

What would you do if a foreign country was occupying your land?
What does it mean that Israeli cabinet ministers deny Palestine’s right to exist?
What should we make of a prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who as opposition leader in the 1990s was found addressing rallies under a banner reading “Death to Arabs”?

These are contentious questions, to be sure, and with complicated answers. But they are relevant to understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today. They also parallel the issues routinely raised by American journalists with Palestinian officials, pressing to consider how the US would react if it were under rocket fire from Mexico, to explain why Hamas won’t recognise Israel and to repudiate Palestinian anti-Semitism.

But it’s a feature of much mainstream journalism in the US, not just an issue of coverage during the last three weeks of the Gaza crisis, that while one set of questions gets asked all the time, the other is heard hardly at all.

In years of reporting from and about Israel, I’ve followed the frequently robust debate in its press about whether Netanyahu really wants a peace deal, about the growing power of right-wing members inside the Israeli cabinet opposed to a Palestinian state, about the creeping air of permanence to the occupation.

So it has been all the more striking to discover a far narrower discourse in Washington and the notoriously pro-Israel mainstream media in the US at a time when difficult questions are more important than ever. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, and a crop of foreign leaders have ratcheted up warnings that the door for the two-state solution is closing, in no small part because of Israel’s actions. But still the difficult questions go unasked. [Continue reading...]

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Mass U.S. surveillance targeting journalists and lawyers seen as threat to American democracy

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Jon Snow: The children of Gaza

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Russian paper issues front page apology to Netherlands for MH17

Foreign Policy: In the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, many Russian media outlets have put forth a variety of ridiculous conspiracy theories to explain the plane’s demise. In the face of overwhelming evidence that Moscow-backed separatists shot down the plane, the Russian media stubbornly insists that the thugs armed, funded, and led by the Kremlin could not possibly have done such a thing. On Friday, a corner of the Russian media offered them all a powerful rebuke.

In a striking front-page design that serves as a testament to the power of that dying medium, the liberal Novaya Gazeta offered an apology to the people of the Netherlands, which lost 193 citizens in the crash. “Forgive us, Netherlands,” reads the headline.

Novaya Gazeta is one of the few — if not the last — liberal newspapers operating in Russia. It has a small circulation and its readership is mostly limited to Moscow. Anna Politkovskaya, the legendary war reporter who chronicled the horror of Russian military operations in Chechnya only to be murdered for running afoul of the regime, wrote for the paper. Mikhail Gorbachev is a shareholder.

But it’s hard not to think that this front page will land the paper on the Kremlin’s blacklist.

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Why are so few Israeli journalists questioning their military’s assault on Gaza?

Janine Zacharia writes: When Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in 2008 to stop Hamas rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israeli journalists were hungry to cover the military operational details. They wanted to know how many Hamas militants had been killed or captured, what of the terrorist group’s infrastructure had been hit, what remained on the Israel Defense Forces’ target list, and so on. What didn’t interest most newspapers or newscasts was the wider impact on the other side, especially the civilian death toll. If there was any questioning, it wasn’t why so many Palestinians were being killed, but why the campaign hadn’t started sooner. By the time Israel launched Pillar of Defense, its next Gaza military offensive in 2012, the Israeli media watchdog group Keshev concluded that the war had “blurred the distinction between the IDF spokesperson and Israeli media outlets more than ever.”

The same can be said today.

Israeli journalists, many of whom I have known and admired during nearly two decades of reporting on this conflict, are skilled. They can be relentless questioners, brutal in their analysis, and still maintain their access to key figures. Give them a good old-fashioned financial or sex scandal and they’ll make that politician wish he’d never run for office. Just ask former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or former President Moshe Katsav how the coverage of their trials went.

But in times of war, many, if not most, Israeli journalists — with some admirable exceptions — hunker down with the rest of the country and are afraid to ask tough questions, especially in the early days of a military campaign. Instead, they tend to parrot the country’s political and military leaders. (The Hebrew phrase critics have for journalists in these times is — meguyasim — the drafted, or recruited.) Israelis are barred from entering Gaza. And with that access cut off, few Israeli journalists have cultivated Palestinian sources because there is amazingly little interest among the Israeli public in understanding Palestinian affairs. [Continue reading...]

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NBC ‘witch hunt’ to enforce an Israeli-centric view of the attack on Gaza

Max Blumenthal writes: MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal’s on-air protest of the network’s slanted coverage of Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip has brought media suppression of the Israel-Palestine debate into sharp focus. Punished for her act of dissent with the cancellation of all future appearances and the termination of her contract, Jebreal spoke to me about what prompted her to speak out and why MSNBC was presenting such a distorted view of the crisis.

“I couldn’t stay silent after seeing the amount of airtime given to Israeli politicians versus Palestinians,” Jebreal told me. “They say we are balanced but their idea of balance is 90 percent Israeli guests and 10 percent Palestinians. This kind of media is what leads to the failing policies that we see in Gaza.”

She continued, “We as journalists are there to afflict the comfortable and who is comfortable in this case? Who is really endangering both sides and harming American interests in the region? It’s those enforcing the status quo of the siege of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.”

Jebreal said that in her two years as an MSNBC contributor, she had protested the network’s slanted coverage repeatedly in private conversations with producers. “I told them we have a serious issue here,” she explained. “But everybody’s intimidated by this pressure and if it’s not direct then it becomes self-censorship.”

With her criticism of her employer’s editorial line, she has become the latest casualty of the pro-Israel pressure. “I have been told to my face that I wasn’t invited on to shows because I was Palestinian,” Jebreal remarked. “I didn’t believe it at the time. Now I believe it.”

An NBC producer speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed Jebreal’s account, describing to me a top-down intimidation campaign aimed at presenting an Israeli-centric view of the attack on the Gaza Strip. The NBC producer told me that MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC executives are micromanaging coverage of the crisis, closely monitoring contributors’ social media accounts and engaging in a “witch hunt” against anyone who strays from the official line. [Continue reading...]

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RT ‘covers’ the shooting down of MH17

Adam Holland writes: Operating a fake news channel to promote state propaganda comes with considerable intrinsic problems and contradictions. Propaganda and news reporting have contrary purposes that propagandists carefully work to obscure by various means. That’s the art of propaganda: blurring the line between reality and BS, creating false equivalencies between the two, and implicitly arguing that the BS is superior. That’s easy for the propagandist when he can cherry-pick what he covers and restrict the information that enters into the conversation. But occasionally events overtake the propagandist’s ability to control the message. The mask slips, and he is revealed as being what he was all along: a craftsman of untruths.

That’s exactly what’s happened very suddenly and clearly yesterday at Russia’s RT news agency. As the wreckage of MH17 burned in the streets and yards of a small town in Donetsk Region in Ukraine, and as the bodies of its 298 passengers and crew lay where they were strewn, unburied and still warm, the people at RT and other Russian propaganda outlets rushed to fill the void between rapidly unfolding reality and the needs of those in power in Russia. How could they both present the appearance of reporting while maintaining Putin’s brand?

Under ordinary circumstances, RT can carefully craft their reporting to fit their underlying message, but when a surface-to-air missile downed that plane, this process was exposed and thrown out of control.

In the morning, as their video showed the smoking wreckage of MH17, RT repeatedly aired two sound clips from two interviews: one with an anonymous witness who off-handedly claimed that he saw the SAM launched from a Ukrainian army position, and another with an anonymous Russian military expert who asserted that the Ukrainian military must have downed the plane. The expert based this conclusion not on any particular knowledge of the facts concerning the shoot-down, but on his assessment of the Ukrainian military as being “inept”. These two clips were repeatedly played on Thursday morning, at least once every 15 minutes. [Continue reading...]

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