We have been involved in perhaps 250 or 300 interviews and reports - we don't keep track of the exact number but it's in that vicinity. We've written here and on the Malki Foundation website about the inaccuracy, irresponsibility, incompetence and sheer idiocy of a certain proportion of the reporters and journalists we have met. Not all, and not even most. But enough to make it clear to us that the credit most people tend to give to the media (that they report objectively and fairly) is often wrong, and that's a serious problem for all of us.
For anyone still caught up in the illusion that the news media are interested in presenting an impartial and accurate version of the facts, there's no better antidote than what Britain's reporting community has just done.
Friday, 13 April 2007 | The National Union of Journalists has voted to boycott all Israeli goods for “aggression” in Palestinian territories. After almost an hour of debate at today’s Annual Delegate’s Meeting in Birmingham, the conference voted 66 to 54 in favour of the ban [and] to “condemn the savage, pre-planned attack on Lebanon” last summer and the “slaughter of civilians in Gaza” over the last few years. Paragraph four read: “That [this] ADM calls for a boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid South Africa led by trade unions and the TUC to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel by the British government.”There's nothing wrong with individuals forming views which are extreme or idiotic. That's a privilege every one of us has in free and open societies. Nor is there anything especially bad, in our view, with journalists taking a political stand. If the rest of us can do it, why not reporters and photographers?
What bothers us very much, however, is the inane and entirely self-serving stance taken by editors and ombudspersons in the news media, and most of all in the British news media, that they adhere strictly to professional standards and that to impugn their objectivity and fairness - as so many friends of Israel have found it necessary to do in recent years - is to reveal a certain unacceptable bias and subjectivity. The very first item in the NUJ's so-called Code of Ethics is
1. A journalist has a duty to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards.Well, friends, the charade is over. Unless and until repudiated by its members, the decision of the representative organization of the reporting profession in the UK stands as an indictment of every last one of them.
It's also fair warning that, at least in relation to matters concerning Israel, we are dealing with people with partisan, prejudicial viewpoints that make their reporting and their photography, their headlines and their choice of interview subjects as biased and as agenda-driven as those of that other master practitioner of the agenda-driven journalistic craft, Joseph Goebbels.
Harold Evans, the distinguished British journalist (sorry if this, too, sounds oxymoronic but it's an appropriate way to describe Evans) said this in 2004 in an address to the Foreign Press Association in London:
"Fifty-three journalists died last year... Most of them were murdered for trying to tell the truth about the world. Truth seems to me to be more and more a casualty of a partisan press… The men and women who lost their lives gave them for the highest aspirations of journalism. Every time a fellow journalist distorts the facts, every time a journalist intrudes on private grief, every time a journalist torments the facts to fit a preordained thesis, he betrays those who died and shames the profession."Britain's journalists have some serious and immediate soul-searching to do. And no, we're not holding our breaths.