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Middle East Issues





Reporters without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists Undermine Free Press


Reporters without Borders claims to support and promote freedom of information and of the press. Yet it does not seem to draw borders between the press and information imposters.

The Committee to Protect Journalists appears to have the same problem—some of the “journalists” it would protect work for the enemies of a free press.

Reporters without Borders 2013 World Press Freedom Index ranks 179 countries according to the putative level of press freedom in each. In determining press freedom, Reporters without Borders holds that anyone and any organization can be referred to as part of the journalistic craft:

 “[The index] reflects the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations and netizens [bloggers, etc.] enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom”

But the report counts as journalists those working as propagandists for dictatorial regimes and terrorist organizations, as well as genuine news people. This failure to discriminate between press and propagandist undermines Reporters without Border’ examination, if that’s the word, of press of freedom in Israel.
 
Israel 'deliberately targets journalists'

The organization’s “World Press Freedom Index” 2013 states that “journalists in Israel [ranked 112] enjoy real freedom of expression despite the existence of military censorship but the country fell in the index because…. During Operation ‘Pillar of Defense’ in November 2012, [the Israel Defense Forces] deliberately targeted journalists and buildings housing media that are affiliated to Hamas or support it. And the arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinian journalists is still commonplace.”

Hamas, of course, is not a journalistic outfit. It’s a Muslim Brotherhood spin-off dedicated to the destruction of Israel and genocide of the Jews. It has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, Canada, Japan and other countries. “Journalists” and “media” affiliated with it are by their affiliation and work, racist propagandists.

Yet Reporters without Borders holds otherwise, even though according to the Israel-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center the “French government instructed its broadcasting authority to take Hamas’ Al Aqsa TV off the air…. The channel repeatedly violated European laws by showing programs which incited hatred or violence for reasons of religion or nationality, mostly against Israel and Judaism (“The French government is Banning Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV for Inciting Hatred and Encouraging Terrorism,” Nov. 7, 2010).”

The parent of Al Aqsa TV, Hamas itself, has murdered hundreds of Israelis—Jews and Arabs—and foreign visitors, in terrorist attacks, including many suicide bombings. Hamas also has used “human shield” tactics—hiding behind Palestinian non-combatants or in civilian areas—in fighting Israel, as noted by CAMERA-affiliated BBC Watch. Reporters without Borders seems to ignore if not legitimize that tactic, a war crime under international law, with its contention that Israel targeted journalists when it attacked “buildings harboring media affiliated to Hamas or supporting it”

The report’s methodology, ambiguous if not self-contradictory, creates more misperceptions than clarity. For example, it labels the same geographic area by three different names: 1) the West Bank and Gaza Strip; 2) Palestinian Territories (when in relation to Israel) and 3) “Palestine.”
 
Political, not journalistic definitions

When attempting to justify Israel’s “20 point drop” in the index, Reporters without Borders refers to “actions in the Palestinian territories.” At other points, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are categorized as “Palestine” and ranked independently in the index.

Reporters without Borders’ classifications seem primarily political, not journalistic. In reality, there is no sovereign country of “Palestine.” One might result from Arab-Israeli negotiations according to U.N. Security council Resolutions 242 and 338, and subsequent initiatives such as the 1993 Oslo accords and 2003 international “road map,” but actual journalists would wait on such a reality before reporting it.

Meanwhile, administrative authority over the Gaza Strip and Arabs of the West Bank is divided between rivals Hamas in the former and Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the latter.

Reporters without Borders basically admits to its bias: “This year, there has been a major change in the method used to complete the index, including the use of a new questionnaire. Quantitative questions about the number violations of different kinds are now handled by our staff. They include the number of journalists, media assistants and netizens who were jailed or killed in the connection with their activities…. In the event of a military occupation of one or more territories, any violations by representatives of the occupying force are treated as violations of the right to information in foreign territory and are incorporated into the score of the occupying force’s country” (2013 World Press Freedom Index – Methodology).

But the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not “foreign territory” as far as Israel is concerned. Nor are they the sovereign soil of any one state. They are the disputed remnant of British Mandatory Palestine, to which Jews and Arabs have claims, whose disposition remains to be determined and which Israel captured in a war of self-defense.

As such, Israel is the legitimate, indeed obligatory military occupational authority. One of its obligations is to ensure law and order for residents, Arabs and Jews. Israeli action against Hamas, Fatah or other groups’ incitement to hatred and murder, rather than violating Reporters without Borders “right to information in foreign territory,” may help to prevent the antithesis of journalism—the intentional transmission of falsehoods, in this case with the purpose of fomenting violence.  

Reporters or distorters?
 
Reporters without Borders not only admits to holding Israel to a different standard, the group also disregards substantial violations of press freedom: Qatar, ranked 110, epitomizes state-run TV, its deep pockets funding Al-Jazeera; and Lebanon, 101, held hostage by the terror organization Hezbollah, its sectarian press often intimidated, reporters and editors in the recent past sometimes assassinated, somehow ranked much higher than Israel, with its free-wheeling press.

Reporters without Borders appears to have decided to target the IDF. For example, in a previous Web page post, it supported Charles Enderlin and his false reporting of the Mohammed al-Dura controversy, which helped fuel the second Palestinian intifada between 2000 and 2005 (“Unsuported Accusations against French TC Correspondent over Coverage of Palestinian Teenager’s Shooting,” May 22, 2013). CAMERA’s “Mohammed Al Dura: Anatomy of a French Media Scandal,” published in 2005 and updated this year, exposed the errors, omissions and misleading nature of Enderlin’s coverage, journalism Reporters without Borders would better have identified as fraudulent.

The IDF also made Reporters without Borders’ “Predators of Press Freedom” list. The group’s rationale: “Although the army does carry out some investigations, troops are seldom prosecuted for the abuses they commit.”

Among the accusations on the Web site are the firing (“a rubber-coated steel bullet”) at a Palestinian News Network photographer, and at Palestinian photojournalist Mohamed Othman during clashes at a checkpoint. These incidents occurred in Gaza Strip and the West Bank, respectively. There is little evidence Reporters without Borders recognizes the chronic attempts to launch anti-Israeli attacks from these territories or the Palestinian tactic of staging confrontations precisely for the news coverage such events generate.
Meanwhile, the group deleted Hamas and the Palestinian Authority security forces from its “Predators of Press Freedom” list last year. Never mind that both routinely intimidate members of the other’s press/propaganda operations as a tactic to maintain their anti-democratic, one-party rule.

Committee to protect whoever
 
As for the Committee to Protect Journalists, it does not always appear to be aware of, or perhaps care about the character of those whom it would protect. CPJ’s website says the organization was established “in 1981 by a group of U.S. correspondents who realized they could not ignore the plight of colleagues whose reporting put them in peril on a daily basis…. Since then, CPJ’s mission involves not only journalists but anyone who cherishes the value of information for a free society” (CPJ, “Our History”  Nov. 25, 2013).
 
CPJ’s list of reporters killed in the line of duty covering Syria’s civil war casts doubt on how the group understands “cherishing the value of information for a free society.”

The committee’s list includes at least nine people who were working for state-run or state- and/org terrorist-affiliated communications organizations, including one employed by the Iranian regime’s English-language propaganda arm, Press TV. These organizations these particular “fallen journalists” worked for neither were involved in journalism nor, more broadly, supporting free societies. Rather, they were propaganda agencies of dictatorial regimes that not only do not “cherish the value of information for a free society,” but also actively and often viciously suppress journalists and free journalism.

CPJ says it “defines journalists as people who cover news or comment on public affairs in print, in photographs, on radio, on television, or online. Writers, editors, publisher, producers, technicians, photographers, camera operators, and directors of news organizations are all included” (“FAQ’s: How does CPJ investigate and classify attacks on the press?” Nov. 25, 2013) 

This definition rests on technique, not substance. As a Fascist Party leader, future Italian dictator Benito Mussolini wrote newspaper editorials and otherwise “commented on public affairs in print.” Nazi Party chief propagandist Josef Goebbels did likewise. Many subsequent totalitarians and would-be dictators have adopted and expanded their model—one that nevertheless fits CPJ’s diluted, deluded definition of journalist. 

By “all included,” CPJ implicitly acknowledges it does not differentiate between individuals and organizations that use communications media for disinformation, incitement and social control and journalists in search of accurate information for truthful accounts of newsworthy events.

CPJ’s refusal to discriminate between journalists and propagandists undermines journalism and potentially discredits its practitioners.  When Washington, D.C.’s journalism museum, the Newseum, announced it would be adding representatives of Syrian state media, Iran’s Press TV, of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas media operations and other propagandists to its memorial for fallen journalists, it was relying on CPJ’s list of journalists killed in action. CAMERA pointed out the inherent contradiction (“Newseum Discredits itself by Honoring Terrorists,” May 12, 2013, Washington Examiner).

If the Committee to Protect Journalists is to retain credibility for those in fact committed to accurate, truthful reporting of dangerous subjects from conflict zones, it cannot avoid distinguishing between journalists and propagandists. The spirit of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth animates state-affiliated media and propaganda wings of terrorist organizations. Journalists, on the other hand— to borrow from the Associated Press’ “News Values and Principles”—strive to report news quickly, accurately and honestly.

Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists undermine news people and freedom of the press everywhere by including those who subvert and repress accurate, honest reporting under their definitions of journalists.

by Lee Golan Fischgrund, CAMERA’s Washington research intern. Edited by Eric Rozenman, CAMERA’s Washington director.


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