The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee`s Subcommittee on Legal Warfare discussed on Tuesday the foreign media`s coverage of the current wave of Palestinian terror in Israel. Subcommittee Chairperson MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp) convened the session after CBS ran a contentious headline following last week’s murder of border policewoman Hadar Cohen near the Damascus Gate. ”Three Palestinians killed as violence grinds on,” the headline read.
”We must treat the international media arena as a hostile arena,” she said. ”I do not think the State of Israel should not be criticized, that is the media`s job. The problem lies in those cases where Israelis and Palestinians who are killed in the same incident are placed in one package. This conduct creates the sense that these murders are not linked in any way, to the point where they are viewed as road accidents.”
MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) noted that ”the number of foreign journalists is huge in relation to those who are covering Syria. Moreover, whenever there is an incident in Iraq with casualties, the headline is much smaller in relation to a much less significant incident that occurs in Israel.”
MK Tzipi Livni
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp) argued that one of the main problems of Israeli public diplomacy is the lack of one element that concentrates the public diplomacy efforts.
Government Press Office director Nitzan Chen said, ”We do not examine the quality of the reports or the facts that are published. This is a free country with freedom of expression.”
Chen noted that when CBS ran a similar headline following a December 24 terrorist attack, the president of the network apologized and said junior staffers had made mistakes. He said he had received no response since the GPO complained about the Cohen headline.
”Since October, most reports of the foreign press have been reasonable,” Chen told the lawmakers. ”There have been four or five incidents in which headlines after a terrorist attack were so twisted that news consumers in that country would have received the opposite impression.”
Besides the CBS headlines, Chen singled out a BBC headline from October: ”Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two” – about a Palestinian terrorist who was killed after murdering two Jewish civilians in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Reuters` Jerusalem Bureau chief and Foreign Press Association head Luke Baker rejected the claims of unbalanced or biased coverage by the foreign media. ”We go through a very rigorous process whenever news happens, where you have who speak Hebrew in contact with police, the army and many spokespeople and people who are on the ground,” he said. ”This is a pretty rigorous process of reporting and checking facts.”
Baker noted that since the beginning of the current wave of violence, Reuters has published 700 headlines, only one of which turned out to be problematic and was subsequently corrected.
”I clearly don’t think the foreign press is biased,” he stated. ”I don’t think anyone is denying there have been errors, problems from time to time. Sometimes it’s been harder to correct them than others.” The many news organizations operating in Israel put out a ”huge amount of coverage with very few factual errors,” he asserted. ”I fail to see the media has something to answer in terms of systemic bias.”