Reuter’s Israel bureau chief, Luke Baker, is apparently disturbed about the Quartet’s latest report on Israel and the Palestinians. Bemoaning the fact that the report was not sufficiently condemnatory toward Israel, he fills in himself, using what has become a favored, if dishonest, ploy whereby partisan journalists pass off opinion as “news”: Baker cites anonymous “diplomats” who “privately” shared with him their condemnation of Israel:
Privately, diplomats raise a host of concerns about Israel’s actions: its restrictions on Palestinian movement, security clampdowns they say amount to collective punishment, the demolition of attackers’ homes, the blockade on Gaza, and settlements.
Similarly, he cites anonymous diplomats to present their opinion that all settlements are “illegal” and that Israel “consistently” violates “international law” as if this were a universally accepted truth:
The United States, the European Union and the United Nations were fed up with Israel’s consistent violation of international law, which views all settlements on occupied land as illegal, diplomats said.
With language unbefitting a journalist, the bureau chief suggests that “Israel was set for a serious ticking off.” But what foiled the condemnation, according to the reporter, citing more anonymous “officials”, is that Netanyahu was “determined to talk the Quartet down” and so he met with Russian President Putin, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
“Israel is effective at pulling the strings,” Baker quotes yet another anonymous official as saying, as if to imply that Israel should have and would have been condemned were it not for its leader’s wheeling and dealing.
“In the end, after weeks of delay,” Baker laments, “the report was mild in the extreme. Israeli settlement-building was criticized but not called illegal. The prime focus was on Palestinian incitement.”
Aside from cherry-picking statements by anonymous officials and diplomats to reflect Baker’s own apparent negative views of Israel, the only named people he quotes are Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Nikolay Mladenov, both of whom are partisan players.
Erekat is quoted to express “outrage” about the report, as Baker puts it, while Mladenov is quoted “to express frustration that the Quartet’s report had not been harder hitting.” The reporter bolsters the Palestinian politician’s view by suggesting “there is a fair degree of sympathy” for it. Among whom? Baker does not specify.
The reporter ends by complaining that “Mladenov’s passionately argued piece” criticizing Israel did not receive enough attention. Baker’s article was presumably meant to remedy that.
The Reuters article, “Diplomatic ties help Israel defang international criticism,”provides a clear example of how a partisan journalist, as Baker has demonstrated himself, can spin what should have been an objective news account of a newly-released international report into a propaganda piece promoting one side’s position in a conflict.
Reuters’ Handbook of Journalism notes that “Anonymous sources are the weakest sources” and advises its journalists to avoid anonymous sourcing. Among its listed “10 Absolutes of Reuters Journalism” are:
Always hold accuracy sancrosanct — specifying that journalists “use named sources wherever possible because they are responsible for the information they provide,” and that they “talk to sources on all sides of a deal, dispute, negotiation or conflict.”
Always strive for balance and freedom from bias — specifying that journalists “take no side, tell all sides.”
- Always guard against putting their opinion in a news story — advising that journalists not “express their own opinions in news stories.”
Baker is clearly flouting his employer’s guidelines. The question is why such a journalist continues to serve as Reuters bureau chief in the region.
Updated July 7, 2016 to include Reuters’ guidelines for journalists.