Omissions are arguably more damaging than outright errors in skewing news reports in a particular political direction.
Whereas outright errors of fact can often be easily spotted and challenged, the mere absence of information vital to accurately contextualize a story is not always as easy to catch, and even harder to correct. Such omissions – most of which just so happen to reinforce the desired media narrative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – greatly impact news consumers’ understanding of Israel and the wider region.
A report published at the Independent yesterday (Facebook ‘blocks’ accounts of seven Palestinian journalists, Sept. 26) falls into this category.
First, a brief note on the photo Indy editors chose for the tweet and the full article. The ‘menacing’ Israeli soldier and the pleading Palestinian women may be evocative, but (as you’ll see) it has little to do with the story.
Facebook has 'blocked' the accounts of seven Palestinian journalists https://t.co/8Wnafs1soB
— The Independent (@Independent) September 27, 2016
Now, here are the first five (and most relevant) paragraphs of the article, written by Bethan McKernan. (McKernan is a Middle East reporter for the Indy.)
Journalists and editors at two Palestinian news outlets say their Facebook accounts have been suspended as the result of a new agreement between the social media company and the Israeli government.
Four editors at the West Bank’s Shehab News Agency, which reaches 6.3 million people through its Facebook page, and three journalists from Quds News Network, which reaches 5.1 million people, reported that their personal accounts were suspended last week, leaving them unable to update their professional pages.
Both outlets cover breaking news in the Palestinian Territories and Israel, as well as entertainment news and features.
Nisreen al-Khatib, a translator and journalist at Quds News Network, told Al Jazeera that the organisation believes the suspensions happened because of a meeting between Facebook representatives and Israeli government ministers earlier this month to discuss how to tackle posts on the platform that incite violence.
Israel had begun drafting legislation to compel the company to delete inflammatory content which it says has fuelled a spate of high-profile Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians in the past year.
However, McKernan fails to include vital information regarding the two ‘news outlets’. According to multiple reports (including at Associated Press), Quds News Network is believed to be affiliated with Islamic Jihad, and Shehab News Agency is said to be affiliated with Hamas. Indeed, both media outlets are known for articles and posts on their social media sites encouraging violence and promoting antisemitism.
In Nov., 2014, Palestinian Media Watch reported that the Facebook page of Quds published a ‘music video’ urging Palestinians to use cars to commit terror attacks against Israelis. That same month, after two Palestinian terrorists launched a deadly attack on worshipers in a Jerusalem synagogue, Shehab News Agency’s Facebook page posted photos of Muslim children with letters of support “for the heroic Jerusalem operation.”
Additionally, the Indy reporter fails to note another extremely important element of the story. According to other reports on the incident, six out of the seven “journalists” had their Facebook accounts reinstated within a day of the original suspension – a fact acknowledged by Al Jazeera in their report on the row. AJ reported that a Facebook spokesperson apologized, saying the suspension[s] had been “accidental”.
Remarkably, even Electronic Intifada, in a post on Sept. 24th, two days before the Indy published their story, noted that the Facebook pages were restored shortly after the suspension.
These inconvenient facts not reported by the Independent, regarding both the terror-affiliation of the ‘media outlets’ and the reinstatement of the Facebook accounts, of course undermine the desired narrative of the article: that due to Israeli collusion with Facebook, the pages of seven Palestinian “journalists” were suspended.
Once again, the Indy has shown its propensity – at least regarding their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – to favor propaganda over professional journalism.