A more discerning media

Following kidnapping of Fox newsmen, the media, which should have pressed PA, was astonishingly composed.

kidnapped fox journalist (photo credit: )
kidnapped fox journalist
(photo credit: )
On August 14 a Fox News satellite uplink truck marked "TV" was ambushed on Omar al-Mukhtar Street in the heart of Gaza. Correspondent Steve Centanni and freelance cameraman Olaf Wiig were abducted. Remarkably little attention was focused on the incident or the fate of the two newsmen until August 23, when a group calling itself the Holy Jihad Brigades released a 90-second video of the two and demanded the release of all Muslim prisoners in American hands. The international community conducted itself with astonishing composure. The fact that two working journalists could be held captive within the bailiwick of the Palestinian Authority - which demands international recognition as a responsible and respectable body deserving of independent statehood - should have exerted massive pressure on the PA. But nothing of the sort happened. Indeed the PA's obligatory denunciations of the kidnapping are taken at face value and the Palestinian Authority is absolved of any duty or culpability. This applies both to Hamas and Fatah. The latter is trying hard these days to concoct a coalition deal with Hamas, winner of this year's elections. The latest Fatah concession is reportedly the dropping of the prerequisite that Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist. The assumption is that Israel will have to negotiate with a group which denies the very legitimacy of its existence by virtue of its coalition with Fatah, which would confer upon Hamas the superficial trappings of propriety. Hamas and Fatah in fact collude in the very same sham. Hence neither PA President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah nor the government of Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh expended great effort to locate the journalists, much as they hadn't tried very hard to find Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier abducted from sovereign Israeli territory. The deception is obvious enough to the world's media and governments. Nevertheless, all choose to essentially keep silent rather than annoy Gaza's head honchos. Kidnap victims sometimes succumb to the Stockholm Syndrome, learning to love their captors. In this case, the international community and press seem to have developed this syndrome vis-a-vis the PA. No accountability or action are requested and no outrage is directed at the PA's blatant inaction. Contrast that with the venom spouted at Israel for bombing Hizbullah's al-Manar television facilities. One might suppose that it isn't a terrorist mouthpiece but the paradigm of journalistic integrity. The fact is that some of the world media practice disgraceful double standards. More often than not journalists who venture into terrorist fiefdoms - be they in Lebanon, Gaza or elsewhere - knowingly submit to terrorist dictates and underpin terrorist psychological warfare. Correspondents enter terror strongholds helmeted, wearing flak jackets and riding armored cars. Less-privileged freelancers and adventurers go in without even such protective gear to jeopardize their life for a career-making story or photo. An article in the International Press Institute's Global Journalist referred to them several years back as "latter-day gladiators." Both gladiators and their dispatchers need to ponder the issue of whether the questionable - indeed often skewed - coverage they produce is worth the risk. Hotshot correspondents and editors should ask themselves what would happen if they denied resonance services to the terrorists. The PA and Hizbullah both play to the camera and manipulate it. They lap up media attention and thrive on it. They need the foreign media no less than the latter need them. This isn't honorable or mutually beneficial symbiosis. Perhaps it's time for the world's news outlets to reassess the way they cover Hamas and Hizbullah. Hizbullah has a long history of kidnapping members of the press and this isn't a first for the Palestinians either, though on past occasions the victims weren't held long. Both groups, along with other fraternal terrorist organizations, would fade into oblivion without the magnification and amplification offered them by an often undiscerning and ratings-hungry media. The democratic governments which the terrorists despise and the free media they take advantage of must - first and foremost for their own sakes - lose their fear of burning their bridges with dubious "sources" and malevolent newsmakers.