CNN Finally Gets the Message

Dear Honest Reporting Member,

We’re happy to report a “double-success.” First, after months of efforts by HonestReporting members, CNN has finally stopped referring to Gilo as a “settlement.”

The second success is that veteran Israel-basher Robert Fisk, correspondent for The Independent (UK), wrote a column on September 3 complaining about the impact HonestReporting is having on CNN’s coverage from Israel. Fisk bemoans:

“[CNN] has instructed its journalists to stop referring to Gilo as a ‘Jewish settlement’… This extraordinary climbdown in favour of the Israelis follows months of internal debate in CNN, which has been constantly criticised by CNN Watch, and other pro-Israeli pressure groups.”

We present here the entire text of Fisk’s latest whining, “CNN caves in to Israel.” HonestReporting has previously done a full treatment of Fisk’s anti-Israel bias, in our communique entitled, “Robert Fisk’s Orwellian Newspeak”:

If you find Fisk’s column biased, please write your own letter to:

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias. We are having an impact!

* * *



Just as the BBC last month ordered its reporters to use the phrase “targeted killings” for Israel’s assassination of Palestinians, CNN — under constant attack from right-wing Jewish pro-settler lobby groups — has instructed its journalists to stop referring to Gilo as a “Jewish settlement.” Instead, they must call the settlement, built illegally on occupied Arab land outside Jerusalem, “a Jewish neighbourhood.”

Arabs have long protested over CNN’s reporting of the Middle East — especially its pejorative use of the word “terrorist” — but they are likely to be outraged by this latest “softening” of the station’s reporting in Israel’s favour. Some of the land on which Gilo is built was taken from the Palestinians of Beit Jala — Gilo is Hebrew for Jala — but no hint of this historical background will be permitted on CNN. Israeli soldiers in Gilo have been involved in nightly battles with Palestinian gunmen in Beit Jala.

The instruction from CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta is straightforward. “We refer to Gilo as ‘a Jewish neighbourhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem, built on land occupied by Israel in 1967’,” the order states. “We don’t refer to it as a settlement.”

This extraordinary climbdown in favour of the Israelis follows months of internal debate in CNN, which has been constantly criticised by CNN Watch, and other pro-Israeli pressure groups in the United States which monitor all its reports on the Middle East.

Many journalists at CNN headquarters are angered by the new instruction. “There’s a feeling by some people here that what we are doing is searching for euphemisms for what is really happening,” one of them told The Independent yesterday. “We’ve managed to eliminate the word ‘terrorism’ — we now talk about ‘militants’ — because we know that the word ‘terrorist’ is used by one side or another to damage the other side. But now there’s pressure on us not to use the word ‘settler’ in any context — but to just refer to the settlers as ‘Israelis’.”

In the past, CNN used “terrorist” only about Arabs — the Israeli settler who murdered 29 Palestinians in a Hebron mosque in 1994 was always called an “extremist” on CNN — and at one point described Arab protests at the illegal settlements built by Jews on Palestinian land as “conflicting heritage” claims.

However, by censoring the word “settlement” for Gilo, CNN is perpetrating a lie. Gilo was illegally annexed by Israel after the 1967 war — not just “occupied” as CNN wishes its viewers to believe — and far from being a “neighbourhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem,” it was built on land which Israel — again illegally — used to extend the boundaries of Jerusalem.

“There has been an intense internal debate over the use of words,” the CNN reporter said. “And sometimes we still do use the word ‘settlement’ about Gilo. In fact, we don’t necessarily say all that stuff about ‘occupied by Israel in 1967.’ But we’re having problems. There are many small pro-settler Jewish groups who’re trying to win the war of words.”

A CNN spokesman in Atlanta said last night: “We have no response to make to you. We don’t want to get into a discussion on this… In fact we’d rather not say anything about this at all.”



On August 20, HonestReporting issued a communique, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” – The communique criticized an article by Kathryn Kingsbury, “Brutal Israeli terrorism subsidized by U.S.,” published in the Madison (Wisconsin) Capital Times.

In response, Kingsbury wrote a message to HonestReporting members. While we maintain our objections to the horrendous content of Kingsbury’s original article, she does offer some general points to consider when responding to future examples of media bias.

> From: Kathryn Kingsbury – The Capital Times

Please inform subscribers to the HonestReporting listserv that they should read articles before they write complaints about them. The Capital Times received several intelligent, well thought-out letters presenting different perspectives than the piece I wrote for August 14. But an even larger number came from people who obviously hadn’t taken time to read my article…

Your readers may not agree that “Middle East terrorism goes both ways,” but the fact that I wrote that statement would lead any reasonable person to the conclusion that I believe that Palestinians, as one of the parties in the conflict, have been guilty of terrorist actions. When your readers choose not to actually read the pieces they are responding to, or when they read the pieces but ignore the points they don’t like rather than engaging with them, they discredit their own efforts.

Your readers will do much better in promoting their beliefs and getting them published if they take more care in writing them down. My editor told me she ended up deleting most of the e-mails that referred to HonestReporting in their header without reading them, because the first few that she read accused me of saying things I had never said. I think it’s important for all perspectives on this issue to be aired, so I do hope that your readers will take such considerations to heart the next time they respond to articles deemed anti-Israel
by HonestReporting.

Kathryn Kingsbury
The Capital Times


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