Self-protection and survival are natural instincts. Faced with danger, the red
panda usually flees and a rhinoceros will charge. Bureaucracies
A 1944 US Office of Strategic Services manual on sabotage
suggested the following gems on how to interfere with organizational operations:
never permit shortcuts, refer all matters to committees and bring up irrelevant
All of these strategies and more are staples of the media
One outstanding strategy used to deflect criticism of the media
coming from NGOs such as Israel’s Media Watch who monitor it daily, keep audio
and visual records and produce research reports, is that this activity is done
This allows the media to portray media critics as
ignorant or worse, antagonists whose sole purpose is to oppose democracy and
undermine the democratic task and role the media plays in our
The media demands that there be no interference in its
professional work. They are the Fourth Estate, separate and above the political
fray and no one has the right to check and balance their
Branding opponents is one of the more benign methods. The
media does not hesitate to use the democratic process for its own
It demands protection from politicians in the form of specialized
laws such as protecting journalists from having to reveal their
At the same time, though, the media seeks to control those who
could potentially cause it damage.
One well-known ploy is the threat to
withhold air/screen time. A politician or any other public figure will early on
in their career realize that exerting pressure on the media will lead to the
stifling of their connection with the electorate.
The media uses its
power to distort and even mute the figure’s public agenda. The public will not
be allowed to become intimate with her or his positions and
If this does not work, the next step is to turn the media
critic into an object of ridicule. The media will depict itself as a heroic
crusader and those with criticism as villains.
Dr Jacinta Maweu from the
University of Nairobi, Kenya, is a lecturer in media studies.
August 2013 article, he dealt with the effect of increasing commercialism on
what he defines as media benchmarks: professionalism, truth, accuracy,
reliability, impartiality, respect for humanity and the promotion of public
He pointed out that “the success of any democracy depends upon
the combined efforts of professional journalists, concerned citizens and
responsible media institutions that can balance between public and commercial
interest. And without such, citizens only fool themselves when they claim they
are informed and self-governing.”
Sadly, too often, academia in Israel,
instead of being the leaders they should be in pointing out the emperor has no
clothes, do the exact opposite. More often than not, Israeli academics prefer to
remain naked, becoming over-friendly with the media.
This week, the
University of Haifa’s Department of Communication, together with Sonara and the
Nazereth Academic Institute, are holding a conference entitled “Religion, Peace
and Media Coverage.”
Sonara is an Arab news website. Reviewing it, we
note that it broadcasts Valley of the Wolves, an anti-Israel, and indeed, an
anti-Semitic Turkish television production.
Perhaps the need for funding
caused the organizers at Haifa U. to overlook this inconvenient
The schedule provides insight into how the media will violate
the fundamental professional demands of balance and pluralism.
Friday, Dr. Hannah Kehat of Kolech will be the sole presenter at the session
devoted to “The New Field of Power in the Struggle of Religious
We know of exciting developments in feminism within the
national religious camp which deviate from the radical concepts of
Dr. Kehath. Why are they not part of this conference? Are the organizers
seeking to marginalize elements in Israel’s society who do not toe the reformist
liberal media line? Later that morning, the participants in a discussion of
“Peace in the Media” are Prof. Akiba Cohen, Ilil Shahar of Galatz, Hussein
Sweti, a Sonara journalist, Peace Now’s Yariv Oppenheimer and Dr. Ghazi
Abu-Raya, spokesperson for Sakhnin and the director of the far-left Givat Haviva
Center branch there.
Cohen is arguably the force behind the latest ethics
changes in the IBA which allow journalists to use the public airwaves to promote
their own agendas.
Shahar was exposed by IMW as accepting a paid
invitation from the Geneva Initiative groups to fly to Europe and cover their
activities. The lack of balance in the panel is all too evident.
other panels are not much better. Today, Thursday, the main panel will have
Michele Rosenfeld of Haifa U., Yair Sheleg of Makor Rishon and the
Israel Democracy Institute, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Chacour, the
Reform Movement’s Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Sharia Judge Iyad Zahalka and Sheikh Nemer
Chacour, a Melkite from Biram, is engaged in “reconciliation
work.” In his book We Belong to the Land he writes: “We as Palestinians had not
been responsible for the suffering of the Jews in Europe, yet we were the ones
who were chased out of our land and made to suffer so the world could soothe its
conscience and pretend to repair the evil done against the
Kippa-wearing Sheleg is ideologically left-of-center in his
political outlook and close to Kehat in his religious views. Kariv defines
himself as a progressive.
Was the editor of Besheva, Emmanuel Shiloh,
also a kippa-wearing Jew, asked to participate? The answer is no, for we asked
There are several haredi newspapers, radio stations and news
websites. Do they have nothing to contribute to the topic? There are National
Religious rabbis who appear regularly in the mainstream media interview shows.
Not one of them could be persuaded to attend? Was Dr. Yoel Cohen of Ariel
University, an expert and author of books and articles on the subject, invited?
In answer to our questioning, he confirmed that he was not.
“academic” conference is a classic example of the friends of the media
restricting the “public space” of possible critics while rewarding those who do
attend with recognition and perhaps a report in the media on their
It highlights the media’s success in protecting itself
from criticism and opposing points of view. It also reveals the unethical
actions certain elements in society are willing to engage in to assure that
their political and cultural bias is entrenched.
satirist Karl Kraus famously quipped, “No ideas and the ability to express them
– that’s a journalist.”
Let us not be misunderstood: a free media is a
sine qua non for a free, democratic and informed society. But if the media and
its academic supporters insist on managing the news, distancing outsiders while
enlisting insiders as allies, they only invite increased mistrust from the
There are many reasons why the media must be monitored and
studied. One good explanation is this excerpt from Franz Kafka’s short story,
“At Night”: “Why are you watching? Someone must watch, it is
said. Someone must be there.”The authors are respectively vice
chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il)