The Role of Journalism

Emanuele Ottolenghi has an amazing column in the JPost today, basically focused on the question of journalistic responsibility. As he writes,

WITH SO many journalists, one would expect the Middle East to be properly covered. Not so. Until recently, the Middle East was synonymous with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since the Iraqi crisis began, each newspaper or TV station sent an armored division to Baghdad, in addition to their Jerusalem contingent. Invariably, all you read is Iraq, or Israel and the Palestinians. Of other regional stories – Iran going nuclear, Egypt’s future succession, Saudi Arabia on the brink, Lebanon’s future presidential election – little is known. True, it’s hard to get a visa to Saudi Arabia and almost impossible in Iran to get real news without being expelled. The Sudanese-government-backed Janjaweed militia do not have English-speaking press officers to show you around burned villages and mass graves. If you get caught, your press card will not save you.
But isn’t that the challenge for good journalism, to get the difficult stories in the face of adversity?
Instead, journalists prefer to sit in Jerusalem’s American Colony Hotel, enjoying its excellent service, with Palestinian fixers ever present, ready to deliver “original stories” whenever they are needed. The intensity of their coverage persists, though the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lost most of its spill-over potential; it is low intensity and largely contained. Yet even when trouble brews elsewhere, the obsession with Israel continues.
Journalists bear no responsibility for Africa’s tragedies. But if large numbers of crews, cameras, and tape recorders were deployed on behalf of the press corps with the intensity with which they cover events in Israel, would the Sudanese government continue to do what it’s doing with impunity, in front of the watching world?

So true.

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