Pervasive and Systematic Bias in Middle East News Coverage: Now We Know Why

It is hard to overstate the importance of what Little Green Footballs' site operator Charles Johnson learned from a clearly knowledgeable person in the news business, and revealed in a post yesterday morning. Anyone who attempts to understand events in the Middle East but is unaware of what Johnson has exposed is being shortchanged, and very likely misled.

It was only a week ago that Johnson originally caught the photoshopped "Beirut Burning" picture that sparked a blogswarm of investigations into additional photo doctoring, event staging, and other photojournalistic abuses, all of which added a new word, fauxtography, to the vocabularies of those who follow the news.

Now Johnson has expanded what began as a "narrow" photojournalism controversy into an expose of how, for decades, the news we receive from the most volatile region in the world has, in exchange for what looks an awful lot like bribery, been twisted and controlled to meet a pro-Arab, pro-terorist, anti-Israel agenda.

Johnson's reader provided him with an explanation of where the worldwide pictures and stories you ultimately see come from, and how they are "processed." Read the whole thing.

For the purposes of this post, suffice it to say that Arab states have for decades paid substantial sums for control over content and other news-management privileges that I daresay would be refused at any price (with the mere request being treated as an earth-shaking scandal) if asked for by representatives of any Western country. So-called journalists who supposedly worship at the altar of "objectivity" not only appear not to have had a problem with this, but they clearly haven't cared to tell us, their readers and viewers, how money has twisted and continues to twist the vast majority of news coverage originating from the Middle East.

Here are key excerpts from Johnson's post (but you MUST read it all to get the full distasteful flavor):

A Separate Service for Arab States

However, there is another significant part of their business model that affects the rest of the business. While most of the world takes news pictures with minimal interpretation beyond editing, the Arab Gulf States have asked for and receive a different and far more expensive service. These states pay for a complete news report service including full editing and voice overs from known journalists. The news organizations in the Arab countries don’t do anything (beyond verify that they are appropriate for local tastes) before broadcast.

What this means is that while there are around 50 people producing news pictures for the whole world working in Camden at any time, there are a further 50 Arabic speaking staff producing finished stories exclusively for the Arab states of the gulf. This has a tremendous effect on the whole feel of the building as these two teams feed pictures and people back and forth and sit in adjacent work areas. The slant of the stories required by the Gulf States has a definite effect on which footage is used and discarded. This affects both the Gulf newsroom and the main global newsroom.

This full service feed is much more expensive for the customers than the usual service, but it is also much higher margin for APTN (Associated Press Television News, "the largest television news gathering player" in the field, whose only "true competitor" is Reuters -- Ed.). This is partly because there is great commonality in what they can send to most of the Gulf States taking this service: stories are made once and used in a number of countries.

Disproportionately Negative Coverage of Israel

Anything involving Israel is a favorite with Gulf Arab states for showing to their viewers.

..... A significant twist to what is seen, concerns what is not seen. Footage such as the Palestinian mob joyfully lynching two Israeli reservists in Ramallah in October 2000 is held by APTN’s library: any attempt to license this film for reshow is carefully vetted. Requests for the use of “sensitive clips” are referred directly to the Library director. This is not the case with clips that paint Israel in a bad light. Likewise, the re-showing of Palestinian celebrations on 9/11 is considered “sensitive”.

..... You will never see what the editors at APTN see before they compile your evening news. What do you think is cut out?

The Wrap-Up

..... Without question APTN’s interesting business model represents a concrete example of an ongoing financial “contribution” to an important communication agency promoting a pro-Arab bias.

There you have it. It is the equivalent of former CNN exec Eason's Jordan's sellout of journalistic integrity in Iraq for over a decade (in the process he "systematically covered up stories of Iraqi atrocities") "to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open" (Jordan's words), this time writ large over his entire "profession" in the most volatile region in the entire world.

Guys and gals in the media -- How DARE you not inform us that you've been filtering and twisting Middle East news coverage all these years because the price has been right?

Just last night on Wide Awakes Radio with Matt and Mark of Weapons of Mass Discussion, and before seeing Johnson's post for the first time this afternoon, I said that it has become painfully obvious that you simply cannot take any news that comes out of Lebanon or "Palestine" at face value.

Make that the entire Middle East -- and now you know why.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.