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Although Palestinian journalists said referring to a suicide bomber as a shahid [martyr] would continue, they told their Israeli counterparts at a joint conference that there has been a perceptible change in their coverage of attacks inside Israel that reflects a recognition of such acts as terrorism and illegitimate.
Meeting over the weekend at the Movenpick Hotel on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, 30 Israeli and Palestinian journalists discussed the role of the media in the conflict. The conference, which ended Monday, was sponsored by The Neveh Shalom School for Peace and funded by a grant from the European Community.
Representing print, television, and radio, the group discussed professional norms and shared personal stories about covering the conflict. In dialogue groups and over meals, the two sides discovered the differences and similarities between the roles they play in their respective societies.
When discussions touched on suicide bombings and their coverage, none of the Palestinian reporters expressed support and several freely condemned the practice.
A reporter from Hebron described how he now uses the term "explosive incident" to describe suicide bombings, which he said was a gradual but perceptible shift towards recognition of such acts as illegitimate.
The issue of balanced coverage also preoccupied the group. Titi said that many times during suicide bombers' funerals gunmen would put a rifle in the hands of the grief-stricken mother, thus creating a photo opportunity, but not necessarily representative one.
The conference concluded on a high note, with both sides saying they believed the conference would lead to more nuanced coverage of the conflict. Each side also expressed optimism at having found a "partner" for professional cooperation.