Australians Reward Shoddy Journalism

December 16, 2010 15:11 by

As demonization and delegitimization of Israel moves further into mainstream media and Western society, writing something negative about Israel, irrespective of its quality or credibility, can be enough to gather accolades.

In the latest example, Sydney Morning Herald correspondent Paul McGeough received the Walkley Award, Australia’s version of a Pulitzer Prize, for his coverage of the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara. The judging criteria states:

Judges are particularly looking for courageous journalism, as well as writing excellence, accuracy, storytelling, newsworthiness, ethics, research, impact and public benefit.

A look, however, at the Walkley summation is indicative of the bias that the judges evidently held when they decided to give McGeough the award (our emphasis added):

McGeough’s instinct that it would prove more than a quiet cruise proved tragically accurate when Israeli commandos attacked the six ships in the early hours of May 31, triggering a bloody assault aboard the Mavi Marmara. McGeough and Geraghty were taken to an Israeli prison, where McGeough interviewed dozens of activists about the attack and its aftermath. His reports took readers inside a crisis that might have been hidden from the world.

So, for the judging panel, an Israeli operation that was designed to be a peaceful boarding becomes an “attack” and a “bloody assault” despite the fact that it was the violent activists of the Turkish IHH organization that assaulted the Israeli soldiers with deliberately intent. Rather than spending time in jail, the activists on board the flotilla were taken to a holding area to be processed before being deported from Israel.

Implying that the entire incident would have been deliberately covered up by Israel flies in the face of the actual coverage and indeed, Israel’s transparent and open attitude towards this flotilla and others that have attempted to break the Gaza blockade.

The judges’ comments state:

Courageous journalism, writing excellence and newsworthiness are all profoundly evident. He put himself in harm’s way to tell of the drama that unfolded in international waters. The commitment to the process and the degree of difficulty made this entry a standout.

Yet, McGeough was in very little danger as despite claiming to be an “eyewitness”, he was not on board the Mavi Marmara but some 150m away on the Challenger One vessel.

The winning article itself from June 4, 2010, “Prayers, tear gas and terror“, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, reads like a propaganda piece. As the Zionist Council of Victoria noted:

He opens with: “The Israeli attack was timed for dawn prayers – when a large number of the men aboard the Mavi Marmara were praying on the aft of the deck of the Turkish passenger ferry.” There is no indication as to where his information about Israel’s timing came from. Has he spoken to the Israeli army to confirm that it timed the mission to coincide with the prayers or did he pluck that from the so called peace activists on the Mavi Marmara?

It would be much easier to tell his story and get away with it had we not already witnessed all the video footage of activists waiting for the Israelis with clubs, chains and metal slingshots in their hands. Even The Age’s accompanying photo does not show a group of men kneeling down to pray, but men ready to attack. …

As for McGeough, he proceeds to paint the activists on the Mavi Marmara as innocent do-gooders who even wanted to protect the Israeli soldiers from one or two people who may have become violent.

His pièce de résistance was this little gem: “Matthias Gardel, a leader of the Swedish Palestinian support group, confirmed that the soldiers had been beaten, but insisted that those involved were unarmed and that in keeping with the ship’s non-violent charter, the soldiers’ weapons were thrown overboard”. Thank you Matthias for clearing that up but these adherents to the non-violent charter of the ship also threw an unconscious Israeli soldier over the bows of the ship. Another slip up by McGeough and his confreres to go with the other little matter that he fails to enlighten us about and that was why so many weapons were found on board?

Having whitewashed the extremist background of the IHH, Paul McGeough even gave a speech some months later revealing how the convoy’s primary goal was to provoke Israel into a embarrassing situation, along with his role in helping shape a narrative:

In story-telling, words can be bullets. Sure, events happen and as Israelis are wont to say, facts are created on the ground. But the words chosen by participants and observers shape the narrative as it resonates in the region and around the world . . . .

One of the earliest stated objectives of the sending boats to Gaza came from Michael Shaik, the Australian activist who came up with the idea. As he explains it, he wanted to reveal the inherent violence of an Israeli occupation that all too often leaches from the conflict narrative because of foreign revulsion at the Palestinian resort to suicide and rocket attacks.

McGeough has revealed himself to be anything but a neutral and objective reporter of events and his shoddy and inaccurate account of the Mavi Marmara affair certainly does not deserve to win any prestigious journalism awards.

You can contact the Walkley Foundation and register your disapproval through its online contact form.

Further Resources

For more resources on Paul McGeough’s biased reporting on the Gaza flotilla, see the Zionist Council of Victoria’s analyses:

For more on the Gaza flotilla see HonestReporting’s resources see:

Category: Australia Featured Flotilla Media Critiques & Resources Sydney Morning Herald Tags:, , , , ,
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