Schalit release heavily covered in foreign media

Most major international news networks screened almost-uninterrupted coverage of the historic Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap.

By NADAV SHEMER
October 18, 2011 16:48
2 minute read.
Gilad Schalit in IDF uniform after release

Schalit in IDF uniform 311. (photo credit: IDF spokesperson)

 
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From the moment Gilad Schalit crossed the border from Gaza into Egypt and until after he was reunited with his parents at Tel Nof Air Force Base several hours later, most major international news networks screened almost-uninterrupted coverage of Tuesday’s historic Israeli- Palestinian prisoner swap.

France 24’s English-language channel devoted full attention to the release of the man its news anchor called the “Franco-Israeli soldier,” even though it meant putting aside discussions of renewed European debt troubles and warnings over a possible downgrading of France’s credit rating.

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Footage of Schalit’s return and the simultaneous release of Palestinian prisoners to Gaza were screened throughout the morning and early afternoon, interspersed with commentary and interviews – a large portion of them with Israeli officials.

Al Jazeera’s English-language channel, on the other hand, focused more on the arrival of freed Palestinian prisoners to Gaza than it did on the Israeli side of the story. In Rafah, a reporter interviewed former prisoners as they stepped off the buses, while pre-recorded features showed Palestinians families awaiting their loved ones.

When the Qatar-based network did interview Israeli officials, it was fraught with controversy. Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev’s appearance was highlighted by his insistence that the anchorman correct an earlier guest’s use of the term “political prisoners” to describe the released Palestinians.

The news anchor told Regev he didn’t want to argue about semantics, saying, “It’s obviously the subject of a debate we can’t have now.”



The BBC and CNN both broadcast non-stop footage from Israel and Gaza, although Fox News did not, mixing its coverage of Schalit with domestic American news.

All said, this was one of the biggest Israeli news events in years. According to Jerusalem Capital Studios, a private company that hosts foreign news broadcasters at its facilities, the Schalit release received more international attention than any other single event in Israel since the Turkish flotilla incident in June 2010.

Newspapers around the world also made Schalit the day’s number one story. The New York Times’ website led with the headline “Hamas frees Israeli soldier as prisoner swap begins,” and ran photos at the top of its front page of both the Schalit and Palestinian prisoner releases.

Surprisingly, leading French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro relegated Schalit below articles about national spy chief Bernard Squarcini, who was charged on Monday with violating confidential correspondence, and newly-elected Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande.

However Schalit dominated coverage in other European countries.

Spanish national daily El País led its site with the headline “Deal for soldier Schalit,” and mass-selling German daily Bild accompanied a picture of Gilad and Noam Schalit with the words “Gilad Schalit embraces his father.”


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