Tariq Shadid: Yahoo News and Suggestive Journalism

By Tariq Shadid
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

Yahoo is one of the world’s largest internet corporations, and plays an important role in providing handy web portals that offer a variety of services. While informing the web user about things like the weather, traffic, and job opportunities, and providing access to various forms of entertainment, it also offers Yahoo news, a very practical and smoothly operating collection of news links on any development in the world.

There is also a handy feature on the Yahoo pages, which features certain words in a bold, clickable type, and offers immediate news searches on those topics. This, of course, is sheer luxury for the majority of users, who can not all be expected to be as well-informed about every issue that pops up in world news. All they have to do is click on these highlighted words, and a search page is opened with the first results, Names of companies and organizations, as well as those of politically significant and famous people, often are featured in this searchable format.

There is however also a downside to this practice. It enables the news source to select which information is to be made easily searchable for extra information, and which isn’t. But more importantly, it also predefines the search string that is used, and this is where in at least one instance, Yahoo is making a grave mistake.

In the news reporting concerning the fighting in Lebanon in and around the refugee camp of Nahr el Bared, an obscure, never heard of before but allegedly Palestinian group called ‘Fatah al Islam’, is said to be the cause of the violence. Strangely enough, there were also reports in the beginning that the fighters of this group who were killed in the gunbattles were of many nationalities, but none Palestinian. Also, this group is rumoured to be connected to Al Qaeda.

A visitor to Yahoo however, who reads the news about this issue, will inadvertently click on this search feature, and find all kinds of information about Fatah – not ‘Fatah al Islam’. For those who are well-informed about the Palestinian cause, Fatah is known as the oldest and most renowned Palestinian resistance organization, and has a decades-long history of struggle against the Israeli occupation. Fatah has, however, no links whatsoever to Al Qaeda, or to the fighting that is going on in Lebanon, it being involved itself in an ugly battle with Hamas in Gaza.

The average internet reader will fail to see this difference, and will likely associate the group in Lebanon with Fatah, based on the information Yahoo news is providing.

It is possible that this is simply a mistake – the website code just picks up ‘Fatah’ from the words ‘Fatah al Islam’ and highlights it automatically, leading to the wrong internet search. This could mean that the term ‘Fatah al Islam’ needs to be added by the administrator, in order to improve the accuracy of the news service. But what does this tell you about the accuracy as it is, and the level of attention that Yahoo is giving to the quality of the news it claims to provide?

However, the possibility of this being a mistake is made more doubtful by yet another, often unnoticed fact in Yahoo news, namely its standard practice to start all news casts from Israel by ‘Jerusalem’. Of course, Yahoo adopts this falsification straight from news agencies like Reuters, AP, AFP and such, but it remains a fact, that the most basic of facts are being distorted.

Jerusalem is illegally occupied territory, both in international law and in standard dealings in the United Nations, and is not internationally recognized as the capital of Israel. It seems that Yahoo (and, if you watch closely, a majority of Western news sources) is helping Israeli pre-empt this notion, namely by priming everyone’s mind with the idea that Jerusalem being the capital of Israel is the most natural, logical situation possible. In reality, it is an unacceptable violation of international law.
As long as your news sources continue to engage in these dubious practices, it is upon you, dear reader, to remain critical about every word you read, be it on the internet or in your printed newspaper. This little sample of suggestive journalism is just the tip of the iceberg, and in this 21st century information age, you can only get near the truth by questioning, thorough research, and a high index of suspicion.

-Tariq Shadid is an outspoken advocate for the Palestinian cause, and board member of the Palestinian Community in the Netherlands. He regularly writes articles for the Palestine Chronicle. He is a surgeon by profession, and also founder of the web project ‘The Musical Intifadah’ at www.docjazz.com.

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