Reuters journalist responds to criticism

Reuters reporter Jeffrey Heller has responded to HonestReporting’s critique of Heller’s recent articles. (Joining his parents, who also wrote us regarding it.)

Tue, 20 Apr 2004


Thank you for your comments on my Washington-datelined article.

I am sorry you misconstrued my use of the phrase “flaunt in the face of opponents”. I had no intention of portraying Prime Minister Sharon as a caricatured, vindictive figure, as you suggested. Remember the Brannif Airlines commercial of 1969 ? “If you’ve got it, flaunt it?” It was meant in that spirit, following what was hailed in Israel as a major diplomatic triumph by the Israeli leader. But it’s our job as journalists to keep it simple, and if you couldn’t understand it, then perhaps I could have said it better.


April 21, 2004 21:35 By Category : Backspin

CNN snoopers

JPost reports that a CNN camera crew went a little too far in culling material for a Vanunu story:

Police, acting on a tip from security sources, detained a CNN television crew Tuesday filming near the restricted Dimona reactor deep in the Negev.

The crew were taken to the Dimona police station and questioned why they had been filming in an area clearly marked was a military area and photography was forbidden. Police confiscated their video film and it was sent to security officials for examination. The CNN crew was then dismissed with their equipment.

This isn’t the first time:

CNN has a history of violating Israel censorship.

It was taken off the air temporarily during the 1991 Gulf War when it revealed the location of Scud rocket impacts, information that could help launchers adjust subsequent missile strikes.

April 21, 2004 12:30 By Category : Backspin

Culture of Terror

The NY Times reports on a Hezbollah TV game show, “The Mission,” which glorifies terror and is aired on Al-Manar. One US official dubs it “Name Your Favorite Terrorist.”

Speaking of the culture of terror, Reuters reports on a Palestinian DJ who spins tunes for Hamas rallies.

April 21, 2004 11:05 By Category : Backspin

BBC rents flat for Vanunu

The Israeli financial paper Globes is reporting (in Hebrew, req. reg.) that the BBC has rented a luxury apartment in Jaffa for Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli atomic spy who is due to be released from prison today. The rent: $4,750 per month. Paid for by British TV viewers.

Globes states:

At this point, it’s not clear what BBC is receiving in return for the payment of Vanunu’s apartment, but one could assume that BBC will receive a TV interview with him.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Globes is now reporting (at same link) that BBC intended to rent the place for Vanunu, but that Vanunu turned them down after the story hit the press. See BBC’s denial of the whole thing in comments below.

April 21, 2004 10:40 By Category : Backspin

Over-reporting of Israel, part 2

Here’s a cool page that represents in graphic format the content of the GoogleNews aggregator: NewsMap

The more stories about the given topic, the larger it appears on this page. Note the disproportionate prominence of Israel coverage. As of this posting, the topic ‘Sharon Vows to Continue Strikes’ simply dominates the world news.

In this post we noted a similar online project from a Harvard researcher, and offered some thoughts about what it means for Israel, and for anti-Israel media bias.

April 21, 2004 10:26 By Category : Backspin

BBC scare quotes

From BBC coverage of a Simon Wiesenthal Center report:

The net is being used by racist and “terrorist” groups trying to recruit new members and spread their message…

Jewish human rights group The Simon Wiesenthal Center monitors 4,000 websites used by racist, “terrorist” and other extremist organisations. It has been tracking such hate sites for about nine years.

The latest report shows how important the net has become to these extremists, which includes racists, “terrorist” groups and homophobic organisations, and details the way that the groups use websites to spread their messages.

William Sjostrom at Atlantic Blog asks:

Any speculation why terrorist is put in scare quotes, but not racist? I mean, if the terrorist apologists are allowed to say that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, then why aren’t the racists allowed to say that one man’s racist is another man’s anti-genetic modification campaigner? Does al-Qaeda have to blow up a BBC studio to end their ideological fantasies?

Why doesn’t the BBC put scare quotes around hate (one man’s hate is another man’s “expressive anger”) and homophobic (one man’s homophobe is another man’s “pro-Darwinian exponent”)? Is it which words elicit giggles at their cocktail parties? A pox on the BBC.

Comments to BBC:

April 21, 2004 9:51 By Category : Backspin

Thomas needs history lesson

Stefan Sharkansky takes syndicated columnist Helen Thomas to task for this statement in her column today:

If President Bush wants to give land away, there is always his 1,600-acre ranch at Crawford, Texas.

But he has no right to endorse the Israeli claim to the captured or settled property on the West Bank that belongs to the Palestinians.

Asks Sharkansky, ‘Where was Helen during the illegal occupation of the West Bank by Jordan?

‘And what would she have to say about this?’

April 20, 2004 23:55 By Category : Backspin

Hamas’ bloody record

While the Guardian extols the late Rantisi’s moderation, IMRA has compiled a list of the terror attacks Hamas perpetrated in the past 3 1/2 years: A Chronology of Terrorist Attacks Carried out by Hamas Since September 2000

April 20, 2004 12:02 By Category : Backspin

Rebuttal from Reuters journalist’s parents

The parents of Reuters journalist Jeffrey Heller sent HonestReporting a rebuttal of the HonestReporting critique of Heller’s recent dispatches.

UPDATE 4/21: Jeffrey Heller himself also wrote us a letter, which is reprinted here.

April 16, 2004


Dear Honest Reporting,

Let’s get right to it. We do have an agenda and a score to settle with you.

We advise you up front that we are the proud parents of Jeffrey Heller, the Reuters journalist, you so severely criticize in your Honest Reporting Communique dated 15 April, 2004. Your article was forwarded to us by some friends and relatives.

No less than you, we too are annoyed and disgusted by the bias and distortions displayed by Reuters, the BBC and other media on so many occasions. That being said , we’ll relate to your critique point by point, editorializing as you did, as we go along. Since we are not professional journalists we are permitted to do so.


April 20, 2004 0:23 By Category : Backspin

Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.
Jerusalem Post has an article that discusses ‘Holocaust inversion’ in the media — portrayal of Jews as Nazi-like persecutors of Palestinian Arabs:

The demonization of Jews has historically included accusations of deicide, religious infanticide, blood lust, and – post World War II – Nazi-like behavior. Some present-day cartoons reflect classic 21st-century caricatures of key anti-Semitic motifs.

The cartoons, appearing in mainstream papers in different European countries, also demonstrate how acceptable anti-Semitism has again become in European society.

Read the whole thing. The author ends with a call for greater understanding of the methodology of this phenomenon.

April 19, 2004 14:11 By Category : Backspin