WESTERN MEDIA IN THE LATEST ISRAEL/PALESTINE CONFLICT: PARROTING INFORMATION VERSUS NEWS GATHERING.

Many media outlets at the moment are accusing the Israeli military of manipulating them.

On 14th May, Israeli Forces’ spokes people told the International media that their forces had already began a ground operation inside Gaza.

Without fact checking, much of the media immediately reported the story, only to have to retract it a few hours later when they found that they had been duped.

Being first to report the story isn’t the same as being accurate with the story…I’d rather see accuracy every time.

This happens way too often today with the media. Much easier to report on a talking head spokes person’s spin, than roll up one’s sleeves, get dusty and muddy, and seek some hard earned news gathering like the old days.

The Israelis were extremely savvy here…however, sadly some of the media weren’t.

The Israelis had closed the Gaza border on the Israeli side I believe from the 12th. So they knew that there weren’t any Western journalists inside Gaza…only local hires or non Western individuals from the region. Therefore the Western journalists were cap in hand to the Israelis for latest updates…not good for news gathering.

There isn’t a military in the world that would tell the media what they are about to do before a major operation…not even the Americans to their own press, unless they have an ulterior motive. It’s completely “un military” and completely stupid anyway to let your enemy know what you are about to do…it goes without saying. However, just maybe over a period of time, elements of the International media have got just a wee bit too sweet and too comfortable with their Israeli military press people…just maybe. Because, for the life of me, I can’t think why the Western media in particular wouldn’t already have Western journalists inside Gaza well ahead of Israeli military massing on the border.

In my view, the rouse by the Israelis was a great move for them. It put the Hamas numbers on the ground that would respond to an Israeli ground attack into the bunkers, tunnels and other known reactive locations just like the Israelis wanted. Then they began with a mass of air strikes, followed up by indirect fire from the sea and land.

Thank you media said the Israelis, you played your part perfectly…I’m sure of that.

For two weeks now, I’m seeing many of my media friends news gathering in the West Bank, and news gathering in Israel…but not one from Gaza…that’s a first as far as I believe in over 20 years of being part of news gathering as an “on the ground security adviser,” and or being an avid news junky.

Turning to places like Afghanistan, a 20 year war now, I’ve watched the media once again carrying out interviews of generals commanding NATO, and “only playing” at holding their feet to the fire. The odd “tough” (but not really) question with very little follow up to their answers. It’s frustrating for me for many reasons. One, the people back home deserve better news quality along with holding truth to power. Secondly, if the generals are forced to admit their failings early with clever questions and follow up, then the truth gets home, and in turn with political pressure from the tax paying voters…the troops get home earlier too. In cases like the Israel/Palestine conflicts pressure is put onto those who head up both sides.

But no, the generals get away with their spin, as they are all media trained…and of course so are the other military and government spokes people in these modern times.

So, at the end of the day…just like 20 years ago in Gaza during the Intifada, that lasted way longer than just a few weeks…journalists rolled their sleeves up, got dirty and news gathered constantly whilst witnessing the messy truths from all sides.

The way to ensure Western journalists report from Gaza in my view, is to have a pool of journalists from all major outlets reporting from an International bureau constantly. It’s not like there are no daily stories to do from Gaza…there are literally thousands. The Western media can rotate that pool ensuring that no one leaves until physically replaced on the ground. That way, there will always be Western journalists present in Gaza. There is more than one way to get into and out of Gaza…and of course there is access from the Egyptian side as well as the Israeli side.

Instead of piling the blame in this case on the Israeli military, I feel that the Western media that were caught out, need to firstly wise up, look at just how they can become easy targets in a dupe…take this latest one firmly on the chin…and start working together to ensure news gathering best practice for the next punch up. Because yes, until the world’s powers look at the symptoms of this dreadful mess and address them, there WILL be a next one.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit www.bobshepherdauthor.com

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