BOSTONIn the wake of CNN's high-profile retraction of a false report
claiming the United States had used Sarin nerve gas against defecting American
soldiers in Laos, CAMERA today called on the network also to come clean in its
coverage of Israel and the Middle East. CAMERA Executive Director Andrea Levin
said the Boston-based media monitoring organization had documented serious
errors, distortions and omissions in CNN's reporting on Israel. "Unfortunately,
the same basic problems that permitted the spurious nerve gas story to get on
the air are also at the root of misinformation broadcast about the Middle East."
Levin said the investigation by Floyd Abrams, the independent analyst hired
by CNN who found the network's accusations against the U.S. military "insupportable,"
mirrored CAMERA's own assessments about coverage of Israel. "Abrams
observed that CNN editors and reporters systematically ignored or minimized all
'information...inconsistent with the [broadcast's] underlying conclusions.' This
is precisely the dangerous approach we see with regard to Israel," said
According to CAMERA, CNN's Jerusalem Bureau, led by Walter Rodgers, and
including reporter Jerrold Kessel and local staff, as well as some officials in
Atlanta, appear to embrace views sympathetic to Palestinian arguments and
critical of Israel. Information inconsistent with such a viewpoint is regularly
discounted and ignored.
Levin cited as one example the network's broadcast of a blatantly false
report about the status of Arab residents of Jerusalem. CNN claimed Arab
population numbers were "dwindling" as a consequence of harsh Israeli
policies. Despite CAMERA's exhaustively documenting the falsity of the charge
the Arab population is growing four times faster than the Jewish population
the network refused to correct the error. "The false allegation fit the
propagandistic depiction of Israel as a callous overlord driving out the Arabs.
The fact that Arab communities have actually grown and prospered runs counter
to CNN prejudices."
"Crucial information is regularly distorted or omitted," said
Levin. The Israelis, for example, frequently protest anti-Israel and
anti-Semitic incitement by the Palestinian Authority. Incendiary statements by
PA officials, including Yasir Arafat, are clearly contrary to the Oslo Accords
and newsworthy. But CNN is all but silent about such threats of violence and
expressions of hatred.
In particular, Levin pointed to the lack of coverage of inflammatory
television programs aired by the Palestinian Broadcast Corporation. "The
Children's Club," a popular Sesame Street style series for Palestinian
children regularly inculcates in young viewers lessons of violence and
self-destruction. The series extols suicide bombers and calls for war. But CNN
Levin said the network's distorted coverage of the Middle East has been a
major concern of the organization because of CNN's global reach. She also said
the severity of the anti- Israel bias had begun to raise questions concerning
the network's ambitions for corporate expansion in the Arab world and potential
conflicts of interest when reporting or failing to report stories
unflattering to Arab states.
"If you want to open a bureau in Damascus, can you report candidly and
openly on the Arab world? Can you be tough on Hafez al-Assad? Will you sacrifice
access and opportunity by telling it like it is about Palestinian violations of
Oslo, for example, or broadcasting an accurate picture of Assad's regime? It
looks to us as though CNN routinely pulls its punches."
In this regard Levin noted that CAMERA had also protested pervasive
distortion and inaccuracy on CNN's Website, including a whitewashed "Newsmaker
Profile" of Assad that omitted any mention of the authoritarian nature of
his government. The profile instead cast Assad as a benevolent, if stern, ruler
seeking to improve trade and to democratize Syrian politics.
CNN relies heavily on Current Biography for information regarding
the many world leaders profiled on its Website. When CAMERA pointed out to CNN
that many of the erroneous and distorted statements on Assad are taken from an
early, 1975 edition of the series, and that the recent 1992 edition contains
more accurate data, CNN pulled the Assad biography off its site entirely.
Mentioning Assad's links to terrorism, his police-state rule and his killing of
tens of thousands of Syrians in the city of Hama in 1982 might not ingratiate
the network to the dictator.
CNN's Website profile of Arafat similarly deviates from candor and fact.
Only after considerable public protest have there been some modifications, but
serious distortions remain. His terrorist record is minimized and obscured and
his recent lauding of suicide bombers and calls for Jihad are ignored entirely.
Levin said the Sarin nerve gas story, with its strong undercurrent of
hostility toward America and the American military, reveals a corporate culture
at CNN that warrants public concern. She stressed that the same kind of
hostility toward Israel produces a continuous stream of biased reporting on that