UK media must achieve balanced coverage of Israel-Palestine, says Tatchell

19 January 2009

At a time when the UK public wants a fair and balanced picture of the conflict in Palestine, the British press is favouring the Israeli ambassador, said a leading Green Party spokesperson today.


Peter Tatchell, the party's spokesperson on human rights and its parliamentary candidate for Oxford East, says the Israeli ambassador in the UK has received 2,000% more press coverage than his Palestinian counterpart.


Mr Tatchell drew attention to the London-based press watchdog, Arab Media Watch (AMW), has produced research demonstrating that British press reporting of the Middle East conflict has massively favouredwhich  the Israeli ambassador to the almost complete exclusion of the Palestinian ambassador.


A statement released by Arab Media Watch “expresses concern at the frequent use by the British press of Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor, compared with the near-total absence of his Palestinian counterpart Manuel Hassassian.”


AMW’s claim of bias is supported by Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and spokesperson for the Green Party of England and Wales:


“This research shows that the Israeli Ambassador has received 2,000% more UK national press coverage than his Palestinian opposite number, ambassador Hassassian. Such bias does not give the British people a balanced perspective on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the tragic events in the Palestinian territories.


“The non-reportage of Mr Hassassian is particularly regrettable because he is a voice of Palestinian moderation, peace and constructive dialogue. By denying him coverage, the press is handing a propaganda victory to Israel and Hamas and allowing the hawks on both sides to dominate the public debate.


“This one-sided coverage of the Israeli ambassador to the exclusion of the Palestinian ambassador is evidence of partisanship, which does not assist balance, understanding or progress towards a solution to the Middle East conflict,” said Mr Tatchell.


According to AMW’s survey, from the time that Mr Prosor became Israeli ambassador to the UK at the end of 2007 until the end of 2008, there have been 40 items (news articles, commentaries, editorials and letters) either by him, quoting him or mentioning him in British national newspapers.


In contrast, during the same one-year period, Ambassador Hassassian has been mentioned only twice in the UK national press – both times in the Guardian, quoted in two articles by Middle East editor Ian Black. This is 20 times fewer mentions than Mr Prosor.


From late 2007 to the end of the 2008, Mr Prosor wrote six major comment pieces in the national press, where he was able to state, at great length, the Israeli government position without question or challenge, on his own terms. These articles were: three in the Telegraph, two in the Guardian and one in the Sun.

In contrast, Ambassador Hassassian did not get to write any articles to state the Palestinian government position.


“If the national press had given such one-sided platforms to the South African ambassador during the apartheid regime, and declined to publish the ANC viewpoint, I suspect that nearly everyone would have decried the unfairness and called for more balanced coverage,” added Mr Tatchell.


“This bias was in the year-long period prior to the current conflict in Gaza. The research is not a commentary on current reportage,” he said.

Mr Prosor was reported in the following newspapers from 2007 to 2008:

 

Newspaper                            No. of  items               % of items

 

Daily Telegraph                         16                                 40

The Times                                  6                                 15

The Guardian                              5                                 12.5

The Independent                        5                                  12.5

Daily Mail                                   3                                   7.5

The Sun                                     1                                   2.5

Daily Mirror                                 1                                   2.5

Daily Star                                   1                                   2.5

News of the World                        1                                   2.5

The Observer                              1                                   2.5


"For the sake of balance, this should be rectified, particularly given the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the frequency with which it is reported, and the regular use of Prosor," said AMW chairman Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi.


"Our findings call into question Prosor's complaint in the Telegraph that 'coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is routinely tainted with bias' against his country. Prosor's views are clearly and overwhelmingly more prevalent than his Palestinian counterpart."


Nashashibi added:


"Hassassian is an able and eloquent spokesman who is readily available to the media. Making use of him would contribute to a sense of even-handedness in British press coverage, which would benefit readers.


“AMW expresses particular concern over the coverage by the Telegraph, not just because of the frequent platform it provides Mr Prosor, but because AMW has been writing to the newspaper since July 2008 requesting an explanation for the total absence of Hassassian in its pages. We have yet to receive a reply, though we have been promised one three times.”


Arab Media Watch provided a breakdown of the national press coverage of the Israeli ambassador.


Mr Prosor has authored six commentaries:


- three in the Telegraph

- two in the Guardian

- one in the Sun


A further four commentaries quoted him:


- three in the Telegraph (two by Con Coughlin, one by David Hughes)

- one in the Times (Hugo Rifkind)


Mr Prosor was quoted in 18 news articles:


- six in the Telegraph (including by Martin Beckford, Tim Butcher, Duncan Gardham and Con Coughlin)

- four in the Times (James Hider and Richard Beeston)

- three in the Independent (two by Donald Macintyre, one by Ian Johnston)

- one each in the Mail (Liz Thomas), Guardian (Toni O'Loughlin), Daily Mirror (Andrew Gregory), Daily Star (anonymous) and Observer (David Hills)


He was mentioned in a further 10 news articles:


- two each in the Telegraph (Charlotte Bailey and Tom Peterkin), Mail (Alex Brummer and anonymous), Guardian (Rory McCarthy and Toni O'Loughlin) and Independent (Ian Herbert, Andy McSmith and Mark Hughes)

- once each in the Times (Ruth Gledhill) and News of the World (anonymous)


The Telegraph also published a letter by Prosor, and an editorial mentioning him.






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