April 13: Trial by media

Whatever happened to "presumed innocent until found guilty"?

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April 12, 2008 23:27
4 minute read.
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Trial by media Sir, - Whatever happened to "presumed innocent until found guilty"? First the furies were incensed because Moshe Katsav copped a plea bargain; now they are equally incensed because he has decided, and rightly so, to defend his honor in a court of law. Not that it now matters what a court of law says. Katsav has been tried, found guilty and sentenced by the media. So instead of the usual children's program last week, toddlers were treated to the edifying spectacle of Gila Katsav being jostled and hassled, with microphones thrust in her face, while a pack of screaming harpies chanted outside the court demanding "justice." Let us not forget that the various "Alephs," who are supposedly traumatized, have lost little time describing to the press what they allege to have taken place. Aleph's lawyer has changed her status from unknown to TV presenter - a star, no less. One has to ask who the loser in this whole tawdry business is, and the reply has to be Moshe Katsav, his devoted wife, Gila, and the country. The other losers, whom the chanting women claim to represent, are the genuinely traumatized victims of less prominent men. Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz should at least make sure that the trial of Moshe Katsav happens speedily and is fairly judged, and that Katsav and his lawyers have access to all the evidence in order to prepare their defense ("'Beit Hanassi Aleph' wants in on new Katsav indictment," April 10). YEHUDIT COLLINS Jerusalem Ad nauseam. Enough invasion of privacy Sir, - When my son, Moshe, worked with "street kids," he would look at me tellingly and say that no sector of the population was exempt from child abuse and runaways. That was as close as he ever got to revealing the identity of the youths he treated. And that's exactly as it should be. When I was trained as a social worker in the US, I was taught that the number one rule of the profession was to respect the privacy of the individual under treatment. It was, therefore, shocking to see a social worker appear on a political talk show last week and describe the abuse suffered by the many children of a religious woman - who has already become a familiar figure on news broadcasts. He even had the audacity to say how long it took him to gain the confidence of the children. Then he turned around and blabbed about his findings over national TV. Does anyone seriously think this family has remained anonymous? Whose purpose is being served by the extensive coverage? Certainly not the children's. We all know that child abuse is a heinous act. Now it is time to admit that the media attention to this case borders on voyeurism and has become part and parcel of the abuse these children have suffered. Enough already! ("Key suspect in Jerusalem child abuse case arrested," April 10.) LINDA WOLFF Sha'are Tikva Fixation. Obsession Sir, - Following WW2, the victors - huge countries - gobbled up large territories from the vanquished, and the world permitted it. Yet following tiny Israel's victory in its defensive war of 1967, the world fixated on counting each and every hectare of land it has settled and every building built on territories won. Similarly, since 1945 there have been wars between first-world and third-world countries, for example, Americans fighting in Vietnam and Iraq, and the French in Algeria. While the world knows the exact numbers of American and French combatants killed, it has been indifferent to the numbers of dead non-Westerners, and has only vague estimates. Yet in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, also between first-world and third-world peoples, the world is obsessed with pointing out the exact number of Palestinian victims. Here's another outrageous hypocrisy. The world demands that Jerusalem, Israel's holiest city, be shared with the Palestinians, even though it is only the third-holiest city for Muslims, after Mecca and Medina. Hebron is Judaism's second-holiest city, as David Wilder noted in "Why can't Jews buy homes in Hebron?" (April 8). Yet the world orders its total return to the Palestinians. JACOB MENDLOVIC Toronto First freedom Sir, - Further to "Freedom Olympics" (Letters, April 10): I commend the Dalai Lama and Olympic protesters for their peaceful condemnation of China's communist government and its efforts to suppress religious autonomy. China's Marxist government falsely presents itself as the authentic spokesman for the aspirations of the people, and claims to be able, though by recourse to violent means, to bring about the radical changes that will put an end to the oppression and misery of people. Marxist communism is characterized by the "class struggle," which implies that society is founded on violence. Within this perspective, any reference to ethical requirements calling for courageous and radical institutional and structural reforms makes no sense. In this system, every affirmation of faith or of theology is subordinated to a political criterion, which in turn depends on the class struggle, the driving force of history. Participation in the class struggle is presented as a requirement of charity itself. The desire to love everyone here and now, despite his class, and to go out to meet him with the non-violent means of dialogue and persuasion, is denounced as counter-productive. The Tibetan cause is a reminder that religious freedom is a fundamental right that precedes the state and that cannot be severely curtailed or denied by it. Put more broadly, and as Pope John Paul II put it, religious freedom is the "first freedom." It is "the premise and guarantee of all freedoms that ensure the common good." PAUL KOKOSKI Hamilton, Ontario

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