Freedoms and Limitations: Israel and the International Press
by Sam Nelson
On a hot summer's day at Hebrew University a panel of experts in the fields of communications, law, and international relations discussed Israel’s role in the media along with the ever-changing and continuously challenging social environment that surrounds the debate. Whether it is the growing influence of non-governmental organization or the lessened sum of content, the so-called “game” has certainly changed.
Due to social media popularity in addition to the digitization of the majority of popular news sources, reporting current events has been reduced to attempting to get attention-getting material out as quickly as possible. As a result, the depth and length of coverage has been reduced.
There are a myriad of complications that have arisen from this form of journalism. Often times, titles and indeed content are edited to attract readers to the article whether or not the report is exaggerated or focused on a singular detail of a much larger story. Buzzwords are thrown around and crucial information is left out.
Yifa Segal, director of the newly established international law fare NGO named “The International Legal Forum” (ILF), was the first panelist to speak. During her time, she focused on the effects of NGOs and postulated that such sources are not consistently reliable if at all.
One clear challenge she mentioned was the simple balance of advocacy. There are far more anti-Israel NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) providing information to more media sources than their opposition. What this means is that regardless of the event, there will be relatively one-sided coverage reaching most viewers.
Following this, a man by the name of Yisrael Medad spoke on “ethical codes of conduct” and the trends of modern media. Yisrael is currently Information Resources Director at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and co-writes a weekly column of media critique in the Jerusalem Post. Yisrael was concerned with the media bias as well and expressed that consumers openly accept mainstream media and do little to no outside research.
An example of reporting was given that fell short of what I would call trustworthy news. In 2008, a crazed man attacked and killed several Israeli citizens. Thankfully, the police eventually stopped the man, preventing further harm. However, one of the first publications to report on said event merely stated that an Israeli policeman had killed an Arab bulldozer driver. All of the facts were technically true, but the account given excluded the most integral piece of information.
It would be one thing if this type of sloppy journalism occurred sporadically, but this is not the case. The media is flooded with these types of articles; many times there is a provocative title that has little to no affiliation with the content of the article itself. Such practices exacerbate misrepresentation and misinformation, especially in a generation with increasingly lower attention spans and growing stimuli.
Next it was discussed by Aryeh Green, director ex officio of MediaCentral, a project of Honest Reporting, how misused terms carry subjective connotations along with them. He holds masters degrees in international relations (HU) and in business (BGU/BU), and is an expert in regional affairs, media issues, and Israel history. A leading advocate and activist for freedom and democracy in the area, Aryeh served as a senior advisor to minister Natan Sharansky in the Prime Minister's office and as an executive or consultant for some of Israel's leading companies.
Aryeh specified that many news sources continue to use terms with legal meaning inappropriately. In doing so, these sources of current information have created a skewed image. Furthermore, he postulated that many of the consumers of such media in turn misuse the same legal terminologies. Regular usage of these expressions is a partial explanation for the climate of the media.
Finally Michele Chabin, Israel correspondent for USA Today, Religion News Service and New York Jewish Week, addressed the blatant errs produced by many journalists in reporting the conflict in Israel. She mentions neglect of historical and surrounding circumstances that contribute to the problem. As a result, said journalists falsify the legality or lack thereof concerning certain situations in the area.
Overall, the panelists faced the challenging task of analyzing the media surrounding Israel without delving to deeply into the actual politics. Still, it is clearly observable that the transmission as well as the reception of news has transformed drastically. Those who cannot generate eye-catching articles quickly and incessantly become lost in the flood of information.
Most importantly, it was clear from the panel that it is the job of the reader to analyze and question sources. Such people have the potential to rationalize the argument if only they would be more outspoken. One should not sit idly by as false knowledge is spread to the masses
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