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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Associated Press’

Former AP Reporter: I Didn’t Leave Journalism, It Left Me

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

A journalist for more than 40 years, Mark Lavie was based in Jerusalem for most of them and then in Cairo for two – during the “Egyptian Revolution.”

Lavie is no longer a journalist.

But he didn’t leave the profession, “it left me,” Lavie says.

Now Lavie is speaking out in as many fora as possible. He seeks to alert the public about the dramatic difference between what journalism used to be – and still pretends to be – and what it actually is.

Lavie’s conclusions shouldn’t surprise many readers of The Jewish Press. But those conclusions, and the detail Lavie provides as someone who lived for so long within the belly of the beast, provides a stunning rebuke – especially to the Associated Press, where Lavie worked for fifteen years. AP has long been criticized as biased against Israel. Lavie provides eye-witness testimony that:

A recent account by another former AP reporter, Matti Friedman, indicting AP editor Steve Gutkin for killing a story about a 2008 peace proposal advanced by Israel, drew a sharp and categorical denial by the AP director of press relations and the now ex-editor Gutkin. They asserted flatly that Friedman was wrong and that what he said happened didn’t happen. But now Lavie weighs in: “I was there,” he told The Jewish Press. “Gutkin said to can” that article.

More broadly and more deeply, Lavie is profoundly pessimistic about the quality of the work put out by AP and most sources of mainstream journalism today. Driven as they are by the Internet’s insatiable appetite for the latest flash, people who call themselves reporters are interested, he says, primarily if not exclusively in speed, not substance.

Perhaps even worse, Lavie provides direct testimony that journalists no longer even pretend that their job is to report facts. Instead, he’s been told by former colleagues, the job of the media is to advocate for those actors on the world stage that the journalists feel deserve support – to “speak truth to power.”

“But that isn’t the job journalists are supposed to do!” Lavie cries. “The job of journalists is to take a significant story and make it interesting, by explaining it and putting it in context.”

Lavie had a front row seat to the seismic changes in the Middle East, including every major outbreak of fighting, terrorist attack and peace negotiation efforts over the past nearly half a century. He also was ringside in Cairo when the “Arab Spring” was revealed to him as a “Broken Spring,” instead. That is also the name of his recently updated book and his blog.

Lavie severed his relationship with AP and, in the past few months, has been sharing some inconvenient truths about how journalism has changed including at AP, and especially in the Middle East.

Outsiders have long believed that the mainstream media is consistently and intentionally biased against Israel. Lavie confirms that view, and he does so with the credentials garnered by enduring a long-term sojourn in the belly of the beast. Lavie is also center-left, a supporter of the Geneva Initiative, a committed Two-Stater.

Given Lavie’s experience, his politics and his ringside seat, his message deserves as broad an audience as possible. That message is: virtually all reporting about the Middle East is sifted so that only one side comes out. And some critical information never even makes it into the sifter at all.

First, Lavie has a lot to say about the general state of journalism throughout the world and how the social media revolution has led to catastrophic consequences.

The rise of social media as a delivery service for news is the equivalent of the bubonic plague. The consequences are many and nearly all destructive. The reduction in reportorial and editorial budgets has meant that fewer reporters are in the field, and those fewer are required not just to get there and get it out first, but also to tweet and to blog while reporting and to “own” each breaking story. The frenzied pace leaves little time or energy for fact-checking or deep-sourcing.

NGO Monitor Responds to AP Ban on NGO Monitor and Professor Steinberg

Monday, December 1st, 2014

The following statement was released by NGO Monitor in response to the report by Matti Friedman that AP censored and banned NGO Monitor:

In a November 30 article published in The Atlantic (What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel), former AP journalist Matti Friedman states that, during his time at the AP Jerusalem bureau, reporters had explicit orders “to never quote [NGO Monitor] or its director… Gerald Steinberg. In my time as an AP writer moving through the local conflict, with its myriad lunatics, bigots, and killers, the only person I ever saw subjected to an interview ban was this professor.”

“Matti Friedman’s revelations regarding the efforts to censor NGO Monitor and me as its president are not entirely surprising,” said Professor Gerald Steinberg, president and founder of NGO Monitor. “Based on our experience in publishing detailed research on over 150 NGOs claiming to promote human rights and humanitarian objectives, we are aware of the intense efforts to maintain the NGO ‘halo effect’ and prevent critical debate. While the AP censorship was explicit, we have experienced similar silencing from other media platforms.”

Friedman also highlights the “ethical gray zone of ties between reporters and NGOs” in Israel, where journalists socializing in the same circles as NGO officials, seek employment with NGOs, and adapt to a journalistic culture in which NGOs “are to be quoted, not covered.”

This absence of critical analysis of political NGOs reinforces their biases and the lack of professional methodology. Friedman rightly criticizes, “one of the strangest aspects of coverage…namely, that while international organizations are among the most powerful actors in the Israel story, they are almost never reported on.”

Professor Steinberg continued: “When NGO Monitor was founded following the 2001 NGO Forum of the UN Durban conference, our primary objective was to open debate and provide accountability where none existed, develop systematic checks and balances, and ‘speak truth to NGO power.’ The importance of this mission has grown since then, as has the political influence of NGOs, as well as their funding and media impact, particularly in the Israeli context.”

AP Banned Interviews with Non-Anti-Israel Professor

Monday, December 1st, 2014

In a wide-ranging piece that covers mostly old ground in a new way and for a new audience, former Associated Press journalist Matti Friedman reveals one astonishing fact: the AP banned interviews of a well-informed, Jerusalem-based professor, Gerald Steinberg, and his monitoring organization, NGO-Monitor.

Professor Gerald Steinberg and his organization NGO-Monitor – work to expose the ideological bias and political agendas of the anti-Israel NGOs in Israel and the role they play in the conflict – the same anti-Israel NGOs that international reporters rely on for their news reporting.

From the NGO-Monitor website:

NGO Monitor’s objective is to end the practice used by certain self-declared ‘humanitarian NGOs’ of exploiting the label ‘universal human rights values’ to promote politically and ideologically motivated agendas.

Steinberg and NGO-Monitor are the only ones in a region crawling with confirmed liars and terrorists whose views were verboten to the AP, Friedman wrote.

The gist of Friedman’s new piece in The Atlantic is that news about Israel is largely written through a specific, largely unstated but nearly inviolable prism of “blame Israel” and ignore Arab wrongdoing.

The Arab Israeli reporter Khaled abu Toameh has been writing and speaking about the problem for at least a decade. It was also the subject of Stephanie Gutmann’s The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy (Encounter, 2005).

But Friedman’s Nov. 30 article is important both because it was written by someone from within the mainstream media – it doesn’t get much more mainstream than the Associated Press – and because of the startling revelation regarding the absolute ban on AP reporting including information from or about either Gerald Steinberg or the organization he heads, NGO-Monitor.

Friedman covered the 2008-09 winter conflict in Gaza dubbed “Operation Cast Lead.”  He was struck by the fact that articles condemning Israeli in the harshest terms continued to circulate months after the conflict, and based upon statements made by human rights organizations. He wrote an article about that point, but AP editors killed it.

At the time, NGO-Monitor was seeking to counter information provided by what it presented as false claims that Israel had committed “war crimes.” Friedman was unable to make use of NGO-Monitor’s information. Why? He writes:

the bureau’s explicit orders to reporters were to never quote the group or its director, an American-born professor named Gerald Steinberg. In my time as an AP writer moving through the local conflict, with its myriad lunatics, bigots, and killers, the only person I ever saw subjected to an interview ban was this professor.

Steinberg is a professor of political science at Israel’s Bar Ilan University. Educated at Cornell University, UCBerkeley and MIT, Steinberg is the founder and president of NGO-Monitor. He is the author of numerous books and dozens of other publications.

The AP is the feeder for much of the world’s media about so much that happens across the globe. This is so because AP has a phalanx of reporters in 280 locations worldwide. It operates as the news distributor of the articles written by their reporters. Those articles are then run by media sites – up to 1,400 U.S. daily newspapers – which don’t have their own reporters in those regions.

If, as Friedman charges based upon first hand observation, AP story lines are predetermined and “news” articles are created around its central, agreed-upon premise, then virtually all news about every flash point across the globe becomes suspect. It also means that the AP, at least in its Jerusalem bureau, violated its own “AP News Values and Principles.”

The AP needs to answer the specific charge of whether its Jerusalem bureau staff was barred from speaking with NGO-Monitor’s Steinberg. If such a ban was in place and unless the AP can produce a reasonable explanation, then all media outlets which continue to rely on AP services come under its same dark cloud of suspicion.

Yes, There Is an Anti-Israel Media Cabal and They All Meet on Facebook

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Writing in Foreign Policy Magazine last April, Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, related a touching story about the bond that’s been forged among the exclusive group of foreign correspondents, who are also war correspondents.

I could poke fun at the name droppage and elaborate sense of John Le Carre mystique infusing paragraphs like:

In war, we have to be able to rely on each other. We meet on the outskirts of the world, where the messiest of conflicts are underway, places like Chechnya, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The journalist I’m sharing a drink with in the evening may be the one applying a tourniquet to a potentially fatal wound if I am hurt tomorrow. It is not just the danger that draws us close, but also our time together and the experiences we share.

Now, that’s a pickup line!

Bouckaert writes that he and his fisherman-vested buddies are “members of a close-knit, but informal brotherhood – I half-jokingly call us the Vulture Club, as we usually convene only when the blood is flowing. Bonds forged in war run deep.”

This reporter did his service in the 1970s as correspondence for an IDF magazine (after a stint as standup comic, don’t ask, war is hell), so I earned the right to declare that this romantic war bonding garbage makes me gag. Just an opinion.

But, as is so often the case, it now turns out that if a foreign corespondent is a self-centered, name dropping blowhard, he is also likely to be an Israel hater. It’s how God made the world.

And, as The Washington Free Beacon’s Alana Goodman reveals, Bouckaert’s Vulture Club meets regularly on Facebook to trash Israel, the IDF and the Jews’ sinister plans not to be annihilated.

According to Goodman, the closed Facebook page on Tuesday “quickly devolved into an anti-Israel hate-fest,” in response to the newly released Israeli government report clearing the IDF of wrongdoing in the 2000 death of a 12-year-old boy from Gaza (Israel Explodes the ‘Big Lie’ – Gaza Al Dura Boy Wasn’t Killed).

The Vulture Club journalists and activists mocked the IDF report, attacked the IDF, and claimed pro-Israel lobbyists were influencing the media coverage.

In other words, an admitted, 3,500-member media cabal is accusing the Jews of controlling the media.

And our romantic friend, Belgian-born Peter Bouckaert, quickly dismissed the Israeli report as “typical IDF lies.”

Mind you, Bouckaert boasts membership in a slew of investigation teams on behalf of Human Rights Watch: he is “a veteran of fact-finding missions to Lebanon, Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Macedonia, Indonesia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and many other war zones,” as his official HRW profile boats (incidentally, I hate—and erase in our own publication—the “many other” reference. It suggests the list is too long to include all of the items in this context, but, in reality, it’s an empty bragging. If you’ve been there—mention it by name, otherwise shut the heck up – can you tell I’m angry?)

“As usual, it takes them a long time to really build up the falsehood,” Bouckaert shared with his brave buddies on Facebook. He also blasted the New York Times for its coverage of the report: “It really isn’t good journalism to write this up as if these are credible allegations when it is a pack of lies,” he wrote.

Maybe the NY Times should have added that they fact checked the Israeli report in a bar in bombed out Aleppo, against a stunning Mediterranean sunset—that would have made it much better journalism.

And then, Goodman reports, correspondents from numerous outlets, including the Associated Press and the Agence France-Presse, also piled on.

“[T]he lobby uses all its strength and is able to push anything in majors [sic] English newspapers or in the NYT[imes],” wrote El Mundo reporter Javier Espinosa. “Israeli embassies call their contacts in all those newspapers and they agree to publish that information.”

OMG – that’s like an expose of a crime in progress. You mean to say those Israeli bastards have PR people, special PR experts, and they, like, call newspapers and push their point of view? And the special court at the Hague is keeping quiet?

Who is an ‘Islamist’ and Why it Matters

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

The Associated Press has decided that the word “Islamist” may not be used to describe anything objectionable.  The Jewish Press’s Lori Lowenthal Marcus calls out the relevant passage from the news service’s newly revised stylebook:

[An Islamist is] an advocate of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.  Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.

Hmmm.  It’s an interesting question who will be called an Islamist by A.P. writers, given this definition.

Who is an Islamist?

Presumably, Mohammed Morsi could be called an Islamist by the A.P. – unless the second sentence above cancels out the first, making it impossible to call anyone an “Islamist.” And maybe that’s the case; if so, defining “Islamist” is an exercise in futility for the A.P.

But will Morsi be called an Islamist?  By the letter of the A.P. definition, being labeled an Islamist would put Morsi in company with Hamas, the Iranian clerical council, and the Taliban.  He belongs there, of course, but will that association be considered politically correct, given that the U.S. government is committed to Morsi’s success, and continues to deliver arms to him?

Hamas and the Taliban are terrorist organizations, but are or have been government authorities as well (the latter aspiring to be one again), reordering government and society precisely in accordance with laws they deem to be prescribed by Islam.  Iran’s leaders sponsor terrorism, as well as doing the reordering thing in the name of Islam.

In fact, Hizballah fits the bill as well, being a terrorist organization which currently governs Lebanon.  Among this terrorist-governing group, Hizballah may have made the least effort to reorder government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.  But then, Hizballah governs a tiny, fractious, all-but-ungovernable nation with mostly porous borders, and in that role has been more concerned since January 2011 with holding power than with remaking society.  Does that mean there is some meaningful sense in which Hezbollah is not “Islamist” – even though it proclaims sharia and holds its political goals in common with Hamas and Iran (and has considerable overlap with Morsi in Egypt)?

Perhaps the seemingly narrow A.P. definition of “Islamist” is meant to ensure that only those who advocate Islamism from the more consensual environment of Western liberal societies will meet it.  This proposition will run into its own set of troubles, however, partly because radicals like Britain’s Anjem Choudary, who have been, so to speak, the face of Islamism in the West, might be considered ineligible for the title due to their explosively radical demeanor.  If Choudary isn’t an Islamist, who is?

That remains a good question, considering that other, more mainstream Western organizations may have ties through their leadership, like CAIR’s, to the Muslim Brotherhood and even terrorist groups, but they do not overtly propose to reorder government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.  Does that mean they are not Islamist?  And if not, what does that mean?

At present, CAIR’s efforts are not focused directly on reordering government and society, but rather on undermining one of the essential pillars of Western civilization: unfettered pursuit of the truth – about radical Islam as about anything else.  Government agencies, with their top-down institutional pieties, are an easy target for outright censorship in this regard.

The A.P. Stylebook revision is something different, and perhaps more insidious.  Presumably, an A.P. writer would not refer to CAIR’s involvement in redefining “Islamist” as a method of Islamism, although it is one.  And, in fairness, there is a good case to be made that rewriting definitions for political reasons is something the Western left requires no prompting to do.  Need it be “Islamist” to define categories prejudicially?  It certainly doesn’t have to be “Islamist” to label anyone whose arguments you don’t like a “racist.”  The Western left thought that one up all on its own.

The lack of firm ground to stand on in this analysis is quintessential in the propositions of radicals.  Corruption and politicization of the language are common radical tactics.  Whom, exactly, can an A.P. writer call an Islamist, given all these factors?  The antiseptic definition of Islamism approved by CAIR might apply only to Islamic theoreticians who never actually engage in political advocacy – if there are any.

Stop Labeling Judea and Samaria Residents ‘Illegal’

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

The Associated Press, one of the largest news agencies in the world, will no longer use the term “illegal immigrant” to describe those who migrate to a country in violation of their immigration laws, their Executive Vice President announced on Tuesday.

Their style guide will no longer permit the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person.  It will now only use of the word “illegal” to describe an action, such as “living in or migrating to a country illegally.”

It is believed that most of the 1400 U.S. newspapers which use A.P. will likely follow their decision on the use of such a loaded term and will, for instance, stop referring to the millions of unauthorized Latino migrants to the U.S. as “illegal”.

ABC reported the following:

…most of America’s top college newspapers and major TV networks, including ABC, NBC and CNN, have vowed to stop using the term. Nearly half of Latino voters polled last year in a Fox News Latino survey said that they find the term “illegal immigrant” offensive. A coalition of linguists also came together last year to pressure media companies to drop “illegal immigrant,” calling it “neither neutral nor accurate.”

Whilst many Americans are applauding the decision by A.P. as a victory for accuracy and diversity, we can only wonder whether serious news organizations – and the Guardian – will similarly drop the loaded and value-laden term “illegal settler” to characterize Jews who, consistent with the parameters of the Mandate for Palestine, live beyond the 1949 armistice lines (in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem).

A quick search of the Guardian’s site shows a few references to such ‘illegal’ Israelis.Guardian film critic Philip French wrote the following in his Oct. 21, 2012 review of the documentary ’5 Broken Cameras’:

Behind this pair, but no less endangered, is Emad, recording some of the fiercest footage of assaults and atrocities on the West Bank that I’ve ever seen, as well as the arson wreaked on Palestinian olive groves by illegal Jewish settlers.

A July 24, 2012 story by Phoebe Greenwood on Palestinians facing eviction from ‘unauthorized’ homes in the southern Hebron hills included this variation of the charge:

Hila Gurani, the state’s attorney, wrote that the second intifada and the second Lebanon war exposed gaps in IDF preparation that requires more extensive training in firing zones, which the illegal Hebron residents are preventing

And, a report by Nicholas Watt about the call by some within the U.K. Labor Party to label products which are produced in Judea and Samaria included this passage:

Labour is opposed to boycotting Israeli goods but [Yvette] Cooper believes consumers should be informed whether products are produced by illegal settlers.

Moreover, a Google search using the words “illegal Israeli settlers” turns up 727,000 hits, and included references to the proscribed Jew in many “mainstream” publications. (Obviously, another variation of these specific words, in a different order, would likely produce further examples).

The greater implications of the A.P.’s decision are even more fascinating. If, for instance, we use A.P.’s logic as a guide, and only use the term “illegal” to describe an action, shouldn’t the Guardian and other sites stop referring to Jewish communities and homes in places like Ariel, Ma’ale Adumim and eastern Jerusalem as “illegal”?  If so, we might one day look back at the ubiquitous use of such subjective terminology (there were more than 5,000 references to “illegal settlements” at the Guardian’s site) as an embarrassing chapter in their paper’s history.

Whatever the Guardian editorial position on the desirability of a future Palestinian state which may include most of Judea and Samaria, we can hope that they’ll catch up with the times, heed their liberal calling and stop labeling – in one manner or another – hundreds of thousands of Jews residing within the boundaries of their historic homeland as “illegal.”

Visit CifWatch.com.

AP’s Obama, Netanyahu ‘Bad Blood’ Hardly Supported by Facts

Monday, January 14th, 2013

If you plug the names “Obama” or “Netanyahu” or even the words “Jewish” or “Israel” in Google News today, you’ll get a hundred versions of the same Associated Press story: “Obama, Netanyahu: Bad blood between key allies.” It’s a pre-inauguration, pre-election special, intended to forge a consensus in the U.S. public opinion about President Obama’s next four years: he’s going to have trouble from the Republican Congress and he’s going to clash with the Israeli prime minister to be:

“President Barack Obama heads into his second term weighed down by an American government snarled in partisan gridlock, but also by an unproductive relationship with the leader of Israel, the bedrock U.S. ally in the tumultuous Middle East.”

“It’s the greatest dysfunction between leaders that I’ve seen in my 40 years in watching and participating,” Aaron David Miller, who served under six secretaries of state in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and was “deeply involved in negotiations involving Israel, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinians,” told the AP.

“I don’t think we are headed for a showdown,” Miller added, “but the relationship will continue to be dysfunctional.”

Just the other day, writing for the LA Times, Miller said the Jewish attacks on Sen. Chuck Hagel, Obama’s man for Defense, lacked credibility. He wrote:

“Jews worry for a living. Their dark history and, in the case of American Jews, their legitimate concerns about the security of the State of Israel impel them to do so. But sometimes those concerns are overblown and reflect a kind of collective cosmic oy vey that gets in the way of sound and rational judgment.”

Then he says that, despite serious disagreements between the White House and Israel on the Palestinians and on Iran, “chances are if the Obama administration wants to manage the Iranian nuclear issue and the peace process too, it’s going to find a way to work with — not run over — the next Israeli government.”

He’s right, of course, and what he describes is anything but the dysfunctional relationship he talked about to the AP. In his own op-ed, Miller describes two heads of state who strongly disagree on two key points, but he, Miller, has no doubt they would find a modus vivendi.

So where’s the “bad blood”?

Netanyahu likely will win re-election on Jan. 22, two days after Obama is sworn in for a second term, goes the AP story.

Then: “Netanyahu is a hardliner on making peace with the Palestinians, a goal that Obama said was foremost on his foreign policy agenda at the beginning of his first term.”

With which Palestinians? President Abbas who has been refusing to attend negotiations with Israel even during the period of settlement freeze, early in the Netanyahu term? Or the Hamas, which has been actively murdering Israelis, and swearing to some day take back the entire country?

How, out of everyone involved, did Netanyahu end up with the “hardliner” branding?

Then there’s that annoying thing Netanyahu has been doing, “pressing Washington to adopt policy specifics that would trigger a military strike if Iran does not pull back on its nuclear program – widely believed to be aimed at building an atomic bomb.”

And Sen. Chuck Hagel. Although Netanyahu’s office refused comment on Hagel when contacted by The Associated Press in Jerusalem. But Reuven Rivlin, parliament speaker and member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, told AP that Israelis are worried because of Hagel’s “statements in the past, and his stance toward Israel.”

And that constitutes “bad blood”?

When in doubt, Ori Nir, a spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, was at the ready to refute the “talk of anti-Semitism,” which in Hagel’s case, he said, “is unjust and over-the-top.”

Possibly. And a long lineup of mainstream Jewish leaders have said just that throughout last week. Didn’t need to bring Peace Now in as an authority on these things…

The bad blood between Obama and Netanyahu began early, continues the AP story:

“In their first public appearance together at the White House in 2009, Netanyahu pointedly rebuffed Obama’s call for Israel to stop building Jewish housing on land the Palestinians want in a future state.” Obama dropped the issue after it became obvious that it was a waste of political capital at home and that Netanyahu would not budge.

Here’s a link to the Obama/Netanyahu press conference of May 18, 2009. Do find the part where Netanyahu pointedly rebuffs the president. It’s a very long and, generally friendly discourse, so take your time. Somewhere in the middle, Netanyahu says:

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: We’ve had extraordinarily friendly and constructive talks here today, and I’m very grateful to the President for that. We want to move peace forward, and we want to ward off the great threats.

But the AP is still searching for bad blood, and so they extended the paragraph above with: “Netanyahu’s government has continued to announce plans for new settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/ap-calls-bad-blood-bet-obama-and-netanyahu-but-claim-hardly-supported-by-facts/2013/01/14/

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