2006-08-08

Manipulated reporting

I’m posting this belatedly...

The Jerusalem post ran an article a few days ago which relays the public admission by reporters that Hizbullah is actively manipulating reporting from Lebanon. That this sort of thing is occurring shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is highly unusual for reporters to admit it. This too should be unsurprising, since the original reporting was not qualified to reflect the manipulation, and a subsequent admission of manipulation could open the reporter to accusations of violating journalistic ethics. Consequently, it is especially pleasing to hear journalists stepping forward on this.
CNN "senior international correspondent" Nic Robertson admitted that his anti-Israel report from Beirut on July 18 about civilian casualties in Lebanon, was stage-managed from start to finish by Hizbullah. He revealed that his story was heavily influenced by Hizbullah's "press officer" and that Hizbullah has "very, very sophisticated and slick media operations."

When pressed a few days later about his reporting on the CNN program "Reliable Sources," Robertson acknowledged that Hizbullah militants had instructed the CNN camera team where and what to film. Hizbullah "had control of the situation," Robertson said. "They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn't have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath."

Robertson added that Hizbullah has "very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access into those areas. You don't get in there without their permission. We didn't have enough time to see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, a taxi driver by day, and a Hizbullah fighter by night."

Yet "Reliable Sources," presented by Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz, is broadcast only on the American version of CNN. So CNN International viewers around the world will not have had the opportunity to learn from CNN's correspondent that the pictures they saw from Beirut were carefully selected for them by Hizbullah.

Another journalist let the cat out of the bag last week. Writing on his blog while reporting from southern Lebanon, Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton, casually mentioned in the middle of a posting: "To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hizbullah is launching Katyushas, but I'm loathe to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist's passport, and they've already hassled a number of us and threatened one."

Robertson is not the only foreign journalist to have shown viewers Hizbullah-selected footage from Beirut. NBC's Richard Engel, CBS's Elizabeth Palmer, and a host of European and other networks, were also taken around the damaged areas by Hizbullah minders. Palmer commented on her report that "Hizbullah is also determined that outsiders will only see what it wants them to see."

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