Sunday, February 22, 2015

22-Feb-15: Terming a Palestinian Arab news source 'independent' might require some flexibility of definition

Inside the Ma'an News Agency offices [Source: Ma'an web site]
The indispensable Elder of Ziyon posts a blog under the title "One day after Gazans killed in tunnels, Hamas claims there are no tunnels" today, in which he lets three separate news reports from a notable Arab source pretty much speak for themselves. 

They tell a story that mainstream news editors and reporters know but rarely convey to their readers: that Ma'an, the Palestinian news agency usually described as 'independent', pretty much is not.

Story Number 3 reported by Ma'an New Agency on Saturday (yesterday) afternoon ["Hamas accuses Egyptian media of spreading anti-Palestinian lies"] quotes the notably unlovely Hamas "spokesman" and sometime mule [background here], Sami Abu Zuhri, slamming (that's their word) what he calls
a "Zionist-like" network that had spread the rumors and sought to sow discord between Egypt and Palestine. 
These rumors concern tunnels running between Egypt and Hamas-controlled Gaza. Abu Zuhri from Hamas says they don't exist any more, and that's exactly what Ma'an reports with no if's, and's or but's:
All of the tunnels under the border area, he said, have been destroyed and both Egyptian and Palestinian security forces have been guarding both sides of the borders. [Ma'an, Saturday]
Story Number 2, also from Ma'an News Agency, appeared two days earlier, Thursday, under the give-away title "Hamas fighter, civilian killed in Gaza tunnels near Rafah":
Two Palestinians died in separate incidents in underground tunnels beneath the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt on Thursday. The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, said that a fighter in the group was killed during a military mission in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The brigades said in a statement that "Muhammad Talal Abu Matar, 25, from western Rafah was killed in a jihadi mission," without providing further details. However, a spokesperson for the Gaza Ministry of Health said that Abu Matar was killed in an accident in one of the tunnels. Also Thursday, a young Palestinian man died after being accidentally electrocuted inside a smuggling tunnel connecting Rafah to Egypt... [Ma'an, last Thursday
Two deaths in non-existent tunnels? And a few days before that, on Monday February 16, there's this ["Egypt finds 2.5 km smuggling tunnel under Gaza border"], also via Ma'an:
Egyptian border guards on Sunday discovered a smuggling tunnel from Gaza which ran at least 2.5 kilometers underground. Egyptian military officials told Ma'an that it was the longest tunnel ever discovered by Egyptian security forces. The opening of the tunnel was found in an unpopulated area near Rafah. Large communication networks connected to satellites were found inside the tunnel. [Ma'an
Elder connects the dots:
Ma'an knows that Hamas is lying, but it doesn't have the integrity - or the bravery - to prove it using its own reporting. Instead, when a terror group releases a statement, Ma'an acts as its mouthpiece, without caveats or context. Just something to keep in mind when one uses Palestinian "independent" media as a news source.
The Ma'an News Agency was launched in 2005 with funding from the Danish and Dutch Representative Offices to the Palestinian National Authority... [It] describes itself as "the main source of independent news from Palestine" and "the premier source of independent Palestinian news on the internet". According to a 2007 survey, 95.6% of Palestinians with internet access "frequently visit" the site... [Ma'an] claims that it "scrupulously maintains its editorial independence and aims to promote access to information, freedom of expression, press freedom, and media pluralism in Palestine." The Ma'an Network was founded with the goal of creating a media source that was free of factional control, unlike the major existing broadcasters such as Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV and Fatah's Palestine TV... Funding for Ma'an Network comes from advertising revenue and from foreign donors... [Wikipedia]
Ma'an self-promotion [Image Source]
People who track the scandalous story of how foreign aid money lubricates the Palestinian Arab hate/terror machinery know, it's none too easy getting those foreign donors to take a critical view of what's being done with their (tax-payers') money. Ma'an's funding, according to a March 2007 analysis published by NGO Monitor, which assiduously tracks what happens to foreign aid to the Palestinian Arabs, comes from
the US government's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and United States Institute of Peace; the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the US-based National Endowment for Democracy and Academy for Educational Development; the United Nations Development Programme and European Commission Technical Assistance Office. ["The Ma'an Network: Promoting Understanding or a Radical Palestinian Agenda?", NGO Monitor | March 2007]
The report concludes by pointing out that the Ma'an Network has close links to highly politicised non-governmental organizations that "promote conflict rather than internal development or peace-building" with the result that what it actually does "contradicts the funding aims of its donors.and contradicts the funding aims of its donors." Could it be the donors don't know this? Perhaps they ought to be advised to get their news and analysis from better sources.

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