Nir Boms and Elliot Chodoff (10/25/2007)
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? "Who watches the watchmen?" asked the Roman poet Juvenal, paraphrasing a central problem discussed by Plato in The Republic.
The pursuit of "Justice" is a tricky business in a complicated world demanding that we make judgments about critical issues beyond our immediate perception like global warming, foreign policy, peace and war.
Fortunately -at least in the democratic world – we have a tool meant to facilitate these difficult judgments: the media, a free and open marketplace of ideas; a platform for information and views helping formulate wise and fair judgments.
The media's role is to be the watchdog of democracy. But what happens when the watchdog falls into an unexpected trap? What happens when it is betrayed from within and maliciously manipulated in order to create a skewed picture of reality?
The media should be immune to such pitfalls. Ethics mandating honest reporting, due diligence and corroboration of facts should prevent facile manipulation attempts. Consequently, recent remarks of a France 3 TV journalist on the sidelines of a French lawsuit are cause for considerable concern.
French journalist Clement Weill Raynal's comments followed a defamation suit hearing in
defendant, Philippe Karasenty, argued that the infamous report aired by
Does Raynal's observation reflect the prevailing norm of French TV? Is this mainstream media's dirty little secret whose revelation France 2 and its reporter, Charles Enderlin, whose voiceover of the original news report blamed Israeli troops for targeting the boy - despite the fact that he was not present at the scene and considerable evidence to support its staging has emerged - seem
determined to quash in court?
Enderlin claimed that he deleted footage of the boy's death from his report because the death agonies were too painful to watch. This assertion is contradicted by the few outsiders permitted to see the raw footage (that
The truth about this incident is not merely a philosophical issue. These images inspired many revenge seekers, including Osama Bin Laden and the murderers of Daniel Pearl. Others were inspired as well. Two 14-year-old sisters were arrested for allegedly planning a terrorist attack in the Moroccan capital of
death, replayed endlessly on the Internet and Arab satellite channels.
Raynal's words must be considered in the context of other troubling examples of severe media manipulation in
Bloggers had a field day during the Israel-Hizbullah War of July-August 2006, criticizing the reporting from Kafr Kana, a South Lebanese village in which dozens of civilians were reported killed in a collapsed building. Image-hungry photographers devoured staged scenes of the same "casualties" being removed from the rubble as their bodies were recycled for late-arriving photographers by a would-be rescue worker.
Additional examples include Adnan Hajj, who was fired by Reuters after admitting that he altered photographs, published on the front page of the NY Times, to increase the perception of damage caused by an Israeli attack on
The conflict in the
Nir Boms is the vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East. Elliot Chodoff is a military and political analyst for MidEast-On Target.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.