WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: The Washington Post Misses Sharansky, Nearly Omits Syria

One of the world’s most influential political dissidents, Natan Sharanksy, spoke at Georgetown University, George Washington  University, and the University of Maryland on September 17.  Sharansky, imprisoned from 1977 to 1986 and now a member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), was a leader among Soviet Jewish “refuseniks.” He also helped energize the overall dissident movement that eventually weakened Kremlin authority. The Washington Post ignored his D.C.-area appearances, part of a week-long tour of 13 American and Canadian campuses.

 The Washington Times September 18, 2003 edition covered his talk in a page A-9 story, “Sharansky says Israel gets bad rights rap,” by staff reporter Julia Duin. “I am representing the country that is the real champion of human rights,” Sharansky told 150 students packed into the University of Maryland Hillel. Noting that many criticize Israel for alleged rights violations, he asserted that his country “demonstrates more sensitivity to human rights than any other democracy in the world.” Sharansky pointed out that of Middle Eastern countries, only in Israel do women exercise the same freedoms as men and are the rights of minorities – including Arabs – protected.

 Syria Almost Under the Radar

The Washington Post‘s September 17, 2003 edition covered Bush administration concerns about Syria in a four-sentence Associated Press brief on page A-28, the back of the section.

In contrast, its D.C. competitor, the Washington Times, ran a lengthy front-page piece on the subject. Likewise, the New York Times had also covered the story extensively, if not on the front page, on September 16 in a report by Weapons of Mass Destruction expert Judith Miller (“The Struggle for Iraq,  Senior U.S. Official to Level Weapons Charges Against Syria”).

The headline on the Washington Times report by Bill Gertz, the paper’s respected national security correspondent, read: “U.S. arms.” Gertz, like AP, covered congressional testimony by John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control. Bolton said that Syria is developing medium-range missiles with help from North Korea and Iran that could be fired in nerve gas attacks hundreds of miles from Syria’s borders. “Syria’s missiles are mobile and can reach much of Israel from positions near their peacetime garrison,” Bolton said.

In addition, the Washington Times noted that Syria continues to allow Arab volunteers to cross into Iraq to fight American troops, is expanding chemical, biological and perhaps nuclear weapons capabilities, and might have hidden Iraqi arms for Saddam Hussein. Bolton said Syria has one of the most advanced chemical weapons programs in the Arab world, according to the Washington Times.

No Details, No Devil

The Post‘s news-brief mentioned Bolton’s focus on Syria allowing what the paper called “militants” to cross into Iraq to attack Americans, Damascus’ continued support for Hezbollah, Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), and Islamic Jihad, and on continued development of weapons of mass destruction. But it provided none of the details reported by the Washington Times or the New York Times.

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