Veteran JPost reporter wins award for 'media criticism'

Khaled Abu Toameh was honored for his reporting on Palestinian affairs; Caroline Glick receives award for Latma web site.

khaled award 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
khaled award 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh was awarded the 2011 Abramowitz Prize for Media Criticism at a festive event held by Israel’s Media Watch at the Beit Sokolow Journalists’ House in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
Abu Toameh is the Palestinian affairs reporter for the Post, and is also a reporter for US News and World Report and a producer for NBC News.
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The Post’s senior contributing editor Caroline Glick was also at the award ceremony, accepting a prize on behalf of the satirical website Latma, which she founded and where she serves as editor-in-chief.
The site achieved a great deal of publicity in 2010 when a satirical video they released in the wake of the Gaza flotilla, entitled “We con the World” racked up well over 3 million views.
The award comes with a $5,000 prize.
According to the IMW’s website, the organization’s goal is “strengthening and realizing Israel’s democracy by informing the Israeli public about Israel’s media, the extent to which they abide by the media codes of ethics, decency and objectivity in reporting.”
The award has been given out for the past 11 years, each time to two individuals or organizations that “made courageous, meaningful, and quality contributions to the criticism of the media in Israel.”
Unlike in previous years, this year one winner was decided by an online vote, in which 4,000 users voted. Of the candidates, Latma was far and away the largest vote-getter. Abu Toameh was chosen by a committee of judges appointed by the IMW.
Abu Toameh was presented with his award by former ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval, who said “Mr. Abu Toameh does not hesitate to tackle extremely sensitive subjects and exposed nerves within his journalistic realm. Indeed his life has been threatened.
In addition, he is sharply critical of fellow journalists who cover the Israeli-Arab conflict and write out of profound ignorance and even distort the facts.”
In his acceptance speech, Abu Toameh spoke of how, in his view, being a journalist has changed for Arab reporters.
“For more than 25 years I’ve worked in an environment where journalists like me have faced huge challenges. In this role, a journalist is supposed to be loyal to his or her peers more than the truth. A journalist who is not with us must be against us. This has been and remains the main thinking in our culture.
“But in recent years, we are beginning to see some positive changes in the Arab media and the attitude towards journalists.
A growing number of my Arab colleagues no longer see themselves as foot soldiers serving the revolution or presidents or kings, or governments. And a growing number of Arabs are finally beginning to realize the importance of a free media.”
Abu Toameh also spoke of how he hopes that the recent uprisings in the Arab world will change the position of media in the region, saying “as the current uprisings in a number of Arab countries show, the media can play a large role in promoting democracy and freedom.
“I’m happy to see that the Arabs who have taken to the streets of Cairo, Tunis, and other Arab capitals are not only demanding regime change, many are also demanding a free media, one that does not serve as a mouthpiece for dictators and ruling parties. Let’s hope they achieve this goal.”
He also lamented the lack of a free media in the Palestinian-controlled areas and called on the international community and western donors to pressure the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to allow greater media freedom and to stop harassing journalists working in areas under their jurisdiction.
The award ceremony also included the awarding of the Israeli Prize for Quality Economic Journalism to senior Haaretz reporter Nechemia Strassler. The prize committee noted Strassler’s “analytic insight and deep understanding of political economic issues. His writing is independent and original. He exposes, without fear, weaknesses of economic policy.”
Finally, the IMW Academic Prize was awarded to Bar-Ilan University student Maya Ben-Aharon, for her doctoral thesis entitled “Legitimizing the Use of Force in the First Lebanon War.”
The prize committee stated that Ben- Aharon won her award because “her work leads to a deeper understanding of the manipulation of the public discourse to further and justify the use of force.”