The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest ongoing political struggles in the world. This podcast looks at a number of factors affecting journalists and journalism in Palestine – from social media and the digital revolution to restrictions on movement and journalistic independence – and asks how, and if, journalists can remain objective in such a fractious environment.
The International Press Institute (IPI) has an update on the journalists detained after the Israeli seizure of activists aboard the Gaza flotilla:
Israel on Wednesday deported hundreds of activists, and a number of foreign journalists, who had been detained after a Gaza-bound flotilla they were aboard was stormed on Tuesday in an operation that left nine people dead. However, several journalists remained in custody at 15:30 CET.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are calling for the Gaza authorities to release British freelance journalist, Paul Martin.
The arrest and detention yesterday [Monday] of documentary filmmaker Paul Martin came as he was about to give evidence at a military tribunal. His detention was a “shocking violation of journalists’ rights” according to the IFJ, who demanded his immediate released.
Reuters’ Gaza bureau ran a four-day training course this week in recognition of cameraman Fadel Shana, who was killed in the region on 16 April 2008.
Twenty Palestinian journalists received tuition in TV production, with extra training on aspects of safety and ethics in conflict zones, a release from Reuters said.
Sessions on filming and editing ran alongside first aid training, including the treatment of gunshot and blast wounds.
In April 2008, Shana was killed by a shell fired by Israeli soldiers. He was the first Reuters journalist to be killed in Gaza. The cameraman was on his way to cover an incident when his vehicle stopped. On getting out of the vehicle an explosion killed Shana and two bystanders.
A soundman travelling with Shana escaped serious injury.
Commenting on the training programme, Reuters bureau chief in Israel and Palestinian territories, Alastair Macdonald, said: “Fadel was killed doing a job to which he was dedicated and to which he brought immense talent and promise. To honour his memory and to improve opportunities for young Palestinian journalists who would wish to follow his example, we are delighted to be able to provide this training.”
“Fighting in Gaza and Sri Lanka and the recent unrest in Iran all raised questions about how journalists can do their job when governments deny access (…) With the Israeli government relying more and more on public relations management and an increasingly sophisticated use of new media to get its message across, what is the role of the journalist in 21st century conflicts?”
The panel included Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC’s Global News division: Adrian Wells, head of foreign news, Sky News; and Jean Seaton Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster’s Communication and Media Research Institute
The Iranian government-funded international English-language channel, Press TV, has been criticised by Ofcom for its impartial treatment of content. In a bulletin published today, the broadcasting regulator said that it found two of George Galloway’s Press TV programmes, Comment and the Real Deal, in breach of its broadcasting code.
“Ofcom considered that within the Programmes overall, there was not an appropriately wide range of significant views included and that the views that were included that were contrary to the opinion of the presenter, were not given due weight. As a consequence, Ofcom considered the Programmes to have breached Rules 5.11 and 5.12 of the Code.”
Ofcom received complaints suggesting that the programmes ‘failed to put both sides of the argument in relation to the situation in Gaza; constituted Iranian propaganda; and that George Galloway in particular did not conduct a balanced discussion on the issue of Gaza’.
“Press TV maintained that all the Programmes complied with the rules on impartiality in Section 5 of the Code, and it highlighted how it had included sufficient alternative views within the Programmes.”
“I don’t want to prejudice the Ofcom investigation. All stations receive complaints. I await to see what the exact nature of the complaints are.
“The fact is that Press TV is regulated by Ofcom, and is therefore under the direct scrutiny of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Codes, unlike the BBC in many instances. So even if we wanted to be a dictatorial, Stalinesque propaganda station, Ofcom simply wouldn’t allow it. Also, it would be very dull.”
Journalism.co.uk had been surprised to learn at last month’s Journalism in Crisis event that the BBC used only stringers to cover South America, according to director of news Helen Boaden.
The location of global bureaux ‘is something to do with your colonial past’ she said, adding to comments by BBC director-general Mark Thompson, when he was questioned by an irate audience member on the corporation’s lack of coverage in that part of the world (specifically Latin America).
Does the BBC really have no bureaux in Central and South America? Well, the BBC press office later told Journalism.co.uk, it depends how you define stringers and bureaux.
There is a distinction between ‘newsgathering hub’ bureaux and ‘non-hub’ regional bureaux the BBC spokesperson said. While there are no ‘newsgathering hub bureaux’ in South and Central Americas, there are four regional offices, located in Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Havana. How many in each, Journalism.co.uk asked.
Two in each of the four cities: one producer and one local fixer, both on sponsored stringer contracts with retainers. Other individual stringers cover the rest of the continent other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, with freelancers working from Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Chile and Jamaica.
It’s an interesting question: where are international news organisations’ bureaux and why? A particularly pertinent one to raise, given the difficulties in accessing material from Iran at the moment. The BBC office in Tehran remains open, but permanent correspondent Jon Leyne has been ordered to leave the country, the corporation reported yesterday.
While the BBC had two producers inside a Gaza office in 2008, it did not have any permanent crew on the ground and this affected its coverage of the crisis at the end of that year, and the early part of 2009.
NB: Whether Al Jazeera were the ‘only’ English-language international broadcaster in the area for the 12-day media block is still a bone of contention: a journalist later reminded Journalism.co.uk that his employer, Iranian government-funded Press TV, was also reporting from the region during that period.
One question that arose: does a 140-character update equate to journalism?
If it comes from a news organisation/journalists does this make it more journalistic? What about eyewitness reports of news events, for example?
Speaking personally, recent coverage of news events – using Twitter as one element – such as Al Jazeera’s tweets from Gaza, UK newspapers’ tweeting of the budget and G20 protests have provided me with breaking news, relevant contextual links and real-time insight.
As Suw Charman-Anderson commented (appropriately on Twitter): ‘isn’t journalism just polished-up conversations?’ – the conversations encouraged by social media use.
You can also add the question: does it need to be defined?
Perhaps, to a certain extent for news orgs, it does – with regards to accuracy, verification, regulation.
But as a format using Twitter in combination with other multimedia tools and outlets can create a new grammar for presenting news – and a way to unpack ‘journalism’ from its box and show the context, links to and conversation around what would previously have been a standalone ‘news item’.