No doubt the control of information–a critical tool in psychological warfare–is part of any combatant’s war arsenal. But when a July 22 ABC “World News Saturday” report on the Israeli bombing of television transmitters accuses Israel of controlling information “to sway public opinion,” it is ABC which is controlling – and withholding – information. ABC’s David Wright reports:
Today, north of Beirut, a troubling new target for Israel’s bombs–television transmitters situated in the city’s wealthiest suburb. No bombs fell on this Christian neighborhood until today. The transmitters Israel struck do not belong to Hezbollah’s TV station. It was two other channels, critical of Hezbollah–LBC, Lebanese Broadcasting Company, owned by Maronite Christians and Future TV, owned by the Hariri family who are closely allied with America. Today we sat down with Future TV’s news anchor to ask why Israel would target them.
Ghada Issa, the Future TV anchor, avers that the bombing of the transmitters is “to make it impossible for the Lebanese and for the whole world to see the picture.”
Wright accepts this explanation, and elaborates:
Pictures like these. Images of roads and buildings destroyed and civilian casualties, some of the pictures broadcast on American networks come from them. Televised images of destruction have a capacity to sway public opinion. And in fact, in a 1996 conflict between Israel and Lebanon, television helped bring about a cease-fire.
It is perfectly reasonable of Wright to ask Future TV representatives why they think their transmitters were targeted. But, it is irresponsible that ABC never “sat down with [Israeli Defense Forces officials] to ask why Israel would target” the communications infrastructure. Had Wright done so, he would have learned that Future TV and LBC share transmission towers with Hezbollah’s station, as well as cell phone towers which allow Hezbollah members to communicate.
In a balanced report, Associated Press stated also on July 22:
Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. TV appeared to have gotten caught in Israel’s campaign to prevent Hezbollah from communicating among its fighters and spreading its word . . . .
Another airstrike crippled a transmission tower at Terbol in northern Lebanon, where relay stations for LBC, Future TV and Hezbollah’s Al-Manar as well as cell phone towers are located.
Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman, said the target of the strikes was Al-Manar and Al-Nour, Hezbollah’s radio station. He told the Associated Press that five of those station’s antennas were hit.
“It’s important to understand why the attack was carried out. This will disrupt their ability to communicate,” he said, adding that cell phones were a “key communication link” for the guerillas.
An Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Al-Manar and LBC may have been sharing an antenna. (Sam F. Ghattas, “In a highly televised war, missiles hit a Lebanese station hard”)
Likewise, NBC’s Kerry Sanders, reporting from Beirut on MSNBC, that day provided a balanced report on the bombing of the transmission towers:
The taking out of those towers does two things. It effectively cuts off television transmissions and it severely hampers telephone communications and being able to communicate of course is what a military needs. In this particular case, Hezbollah, which is a loose knit military operation, has to be able to communicate. They even have Hezbollah has their own television station, so they do a lot of communications. They have been knocked off the air and of course cell phones are quite frankly an easy way for people to communicate, even for the military. We think of the United States with its own radios and our military with its own frequencies, but in a situation like this, it’s any way that people can communicate. So when the Israelis can take out those towers they are effectively cutting off the command and control of the Hezbollah military as it were.
Anchorwoman Alex Witt adds: “And [the Israelis are] setting the stage for being able to get into the region with their ground forces more safely.”
But ABC’s Wright neglects to share this vital information with viewers, himself becoming guilty of “controlling information,” an act for which he unfairly castigates Israel.