press reporting during the intifada:(by an arab)

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    Mohammed Dajani
    Palestine Israel Journal, Volume 10, No. 2, June 2003

    The last issue of the "Palestine Israel Journal" was devoted to Palestinian and Israeli media coverage of the second Intifada. An article written by Professor Mohammed Dajani (please see below), presents a self-critical appraisal of the Palestinian media's biased reporting, and focuses on the way the fighting in Jenin was reported. Professor Mohammed Dajani, a specialist in communications, is Director of the American Studies Institute at Al Quds University in Jerusalem.

    …In the post-Oslo, pre-Al-Aqsa Intifada days (September 1993-September 2000), news coverage…not only failed to prevent fighting from breaking out but may have accelerated it by widening the gap between the two peoples. Peace news is not exciting; conflict, violence and tragic news have the drama that attracts attention and interest… Reporting was systematically biased against the Oslo peace process. Rarely were stories presented in a "point/counterpoint" format in which the two opposing points of view (Palestinian versus Israeli) were presented… Sensitive issues were avoided, rather than confronted, and tension continued to mount until Ariel Sharon's visit to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount sparked the second Intifada.

    In the post-Al-Aqsa Intifada days (September 2000-present), the "conflict approach" to news coverage gave prominence to spreading violence. Violent news became "headline news" while "conciliation news" became "no news". Palestinian press…offered emotional reporting. This is in line with a culture that exhibits little tolerance for the views of others and has a tradition of monopolizing the truth. As the conflict with Israel continued to worsen, the two main newspapers distributed in the Palestinian Territories, Al-Quds, published in Jerusalem, and Al-Ayyam, published in Ramallah, became a valuable resource for Palestinians thirsty for news…

    …In general, Palestinian news coverage of the Israeli incursion of Jenin in April 2002 has been





    sloppy, and


    This was not deliberate or malicious but rather was due to the lack of professional, well-trained, qualified reporters… Covering the news from Jenin camp, the Palestinian media reported what people suspected and feared, not what was actually happening.

    Palestinian news coverage of what happened in Jenin was influenced by a number of different events:

    1. Israeli reluctance to allow news teams access to the camp… The Israeli army forbade journalists, reporters and cameramen from approaching the camp for the first 10 days. They neither allowed nor facilitated the presence of media reporters (foreign, Israeli, or Palestinian) to Jenin refugee camp. A spokesman for the Israeli army stated that reporters were not allowed in the area for their own safety…

    2. Palestinian Authority eagerness to turn Jenin into an "Alamo episode." Here the press was a willing partner; they aspired to make Jenin a symbol of resistance for the Palestinians.

    3. Editors reluctance to report unfavorable information, data, or photos. The Israeli press reported that the Israeli army tried to help civilians by: (a) distributing food supplies; (b) providing oxygen and an Israeli electric generator to a Palestinian hospital; [and] (c) transferring 83 sick and wounded people to hospitals in Israel.

    No such news items were reported in the Palestinian press. Were they untrue? The Palestinian press portrayed the Israeli army as going out of its way to inflict as much senseless harm, injury [and] humiliation as possible.

    4. Editors' reluctance to show photos of Israeli victims, since the public may interpret this as sympathy for the Israelis… There was no single picture of a mourning Israeli parent or child published in the Palestinian press following a violent attack on civilians… The images Palestinians saw of suicide attacks on Israeli civilian targets were highly dehumanized--remains of the destroyed bus or rubble of the building bombed…

    5. Reporters' willingness to use unreliable sources... They initially reported an exaggerated number of victims in Jenin, quoting an official Palestinian source…. The number of Palestinians killed in Jenin refugee camp dropped from 5,000 to 3,000 to 500 to 300 to 100 and, eventually, to 52, nearly half of whom were military fighters.

    Qualitative Coverage

    …1. Use of Numbers for Victims. Palestinian newspapers gave an exaggerated and vague number of victims. For example, they said tens or hundreds, rather than using exact figures. This led to…rumors about a new "holocaust" taking place in the Palestinian territories.

    2. Use of Humanitarian Stories. In describing Palestinian suffering, Palestinian newspapers used highly emotional humanitarian stories describing the victimization of families to draw world sympathy to their cause.

    3. Use of Photos. Palestinian newspapers used…photos of children, women and old men suffering and in pain. In contrast, not one single photo was printed…of an Israeli victim of Palestinian violence.

    4. Use of Comparative Descriptions. [T]he sight of the Jenin camp was compared to "Berlin in 1945."

    5. Use of Nationalistic Slogans. The Palestinian press highlighted Palestinian military resistance against the invading Israeli army as something patriotic; they described events in heroic terms…

    …The domination of the Palestinian media by a few individuals means that:

    (a) citizens do not have access to multiple points of views; and

    (b) the quality of news coverage is reduced.

    These problems are compounded by a culture, as well as a political and educational system, that does not encourage citizens to think critically, and does not tolerate citizens who publicly voice opposing views or constructive criticisms. This has caused many Palestinians to be concerned about the future of democracy in the future State of Palestine.
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