By Iqbal Jassat
Renowned journalist John Pilger recounts that during 2003 following the invasion of Iraq, he interviewed Charles Lewis, a fellow distinguished American investigative journalist. The question he put to him was, “What if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and investigated their claims, instead of channelling what turned out to be crude propaganda?”
He replied that if journalists had done their job, there was a good chance that “…We would not have gone to war in Iraq.”
Pilger’s recollection is a stark reminder of the onerous responsibility media institutions have to report truthfully and fearlessly. The courage required to do so obviously comes at a huge price. More so in an environment where control of media outlets, especially those owned by huge corporations, deny spaces to independent voices.
You either toe the line or face the door.
Dilemmas such as these have come to the fore in the ongoing carnage unleashed by the world’s last remaining colonial-apartheid regime Israel. As images of the bloodbath in Gaza are beamed across the world, journalists assigned to the crime scenes have a distinct responsibility to ensure that the commentary they provide does not allow Israeli perpetrators to escape accountability.
Call a spade a spade.
Language thus becomes the means to either camouflage the horrendous consequences of Israel’s barbaric bombings or to spark global outrage against it.
The false narrative used to justify the war on Iraq that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, is no different to the deception spawned today by Israel to justify it’s evil inhumane madness in Gaza. It is that “Hamas is a terrorist organization allied to a global jihadist movement” and that unless Israel does the job to bomb it to smithereens, the world will not be safe.
Do you as a media practitioner accept such rubbish by wittingly function as an echo chamber of Benjamin Netanyahu’s crude propaganda, or do you interrogate and test the allegations before filing your report?
The leveling of residential buildings by US-sponsored sophisticated bombs and missiles under the guise of attacking and destroying Hamas has become a routine military practice. Yet being dug up from beneath the bloodstrewn rubble are infants and babies.
The scale of devastation is beyond the limited screengrabs of gruesome images the world is exposed to. And to keep harping about rockets fired by Hamas without qualifying that the deliberately discriminatory attack on Gaza is in effect an attempt to liquidate an occupied people by the occupier, would be a disservice to media ethics.
Reporting Israel’s belligerent military crimes in SheikhJarrah, Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Masjid Al Aqsa, necessarily imposes the need to chronicle seven decades of persecution. The ethnic cleansing which preceded the illegal dispossession of over 700,000 Palestinians, known as the Nakba, hasn’t ended.
Today in 2021 as death and destruction rain upon the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the 1948 population of Palestine, the media has to confront the question: what has changed?
That the political ideology of racist Zionism has been declared a system of apartheid, by none other than the Human Rights Watch, it behooves the international community and its wide array of media platforms to agitate against it.
At the same time, it is also incumbent on journalists to adopt a critical approach to the hypocritical role of the Biden administration in the UN Security Council. Mouthing “hope” for a ceasefire but in the same breath agreeing to provide millions of dollars worth of new military hardware which by any logic is understood to enable Israel’s incremental genocide, is immoral and deceptive.
Blocking the majority of UNSC members’ resolution calling on Israel to halt its barbaric bombings, lays bare the vile abuse of power by the US. Bizarre thus to observe levels of tyranny at the highest institution of international conventions set up to enjoin peace and justice.
Palestine’s freedom struggle epitomized by the current waves of #Resistance from sustained rocket fire into the heartland of apartheid Israel to barechested rebellion by unarmed youth against Occupation and ethnic cleansing, has recast a new frame of reference to the global media.
Changes are imminent as the revolutionary spirit of Palestinians is embraced by millions around the world. Indeed, media are not an exception. Journalists have risen to the challenge of changing the old lazy paradigms coated with undisguised levels of propaganda. And daring too. Unafraid of being cast aside as antisemites!
– Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com