Media Gets Dirty Down Under – Part 1

O’Loughlin was always a numbers man. Even in the age of the suicide bomber and of terrorists who disembowelled Israeli mothers before the eyes of their children, somehow the Palestinian case automatically assumed the moral high ground if it produced a greater number of victims. Never mind that the other side was defending itself against groups whose written down charters swore to obliterate Israel and the Jews from the face of the earth, O’Loughlin had to trot out a scoreboard of the victim numbers. His crowning glory was a Dishonest Reporting award in 2007 for “Worst Moral Equivalence”.

When asked why he thought his swan-song had been left out of the Herald, O’Loughlin went on record to state “There has been an intensive lobbying effort to skew the Herald and the Age to a pro-Israeli position and I’ve had nothing but support until now. That’s why I’m surprised that they pulled my final piece” (see more).

O’Loughlin’s replacement Jason Koutsoukis was quoted by the Australian Jewish News prior to taking up his post as saying that “there’s two sides to every story and I think we’ve got to tell both sides. Perhaps we’ve only been telling one side.” To be fair, it was reported later in the Australian newspaper that “I was not quoted accurately… and it does not reflect my views”. Later still, at its November, 2010 Annual General Meeting, Fairfax Media Chairman Roger Corbett responded to questions from concerned shareholders that his “journalists and those that manage them do their very best to bring a balanced point of view” on the Israel/Arab conflict. Based on the output of his newspapers, the shareholders were entitled to remain sceptical.

Koutsoukis took little time to follow in O’Loughlin’s footsteps. It was soon obvious that he was only filing two kinds of stories; those that portrayed Israel in a negative light and some completely ridiculous fluff pieces that had no relevance to the issues at hand (see more here, here and here). Whether or not he did promise to tell both sides of the story, he only delivered one of them.

An example of Koutsoukis’ sleight of hand in reporting was his coverage in December 2010 of anti-Arab riots in Safed where a mob of 60 ultra-orthodox Jews intimidated an Israeli Arab chanting ”kill the Arabs” outside his apartment. This came after an Ultra Orthodox rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu had issued a declaration, later supported by some other rabbis, suggesting that Jews should be given preference over gentiles when seeking to rent land. Koutsoukis quoted Israeli MP Ahmed Tibi who claimed that ”Fascism has raised its head in Israeli society (see more)”.

What Koutsoukis didn’t deign to tell his readers in this report was that this disgusting declaration was condemned in the strongest terms by most segments of Israeli society from the Prime Minister down and by concealing this, he altered the entire context of a story on the nature of Israeli society. And he remained reticent about the daily spewing of hate speech against Jews in the PA and Hamas controlled media and from religious leaders in mosques in Gaza and the West Bank, details of which are freely accessible to the media from sites such as MEMRI. So much for balance!

Unlike his predecessor Koutsoukis never won an esteemed Dishonest Reporting award, but a quick search through the HonestReporting archives is proof enough of his form. Well after his departure from the post, he produced a piece which contained one Israeli’s reference to Israel as an Apartheid state. There are many who would disagree with that including former slave and South Sudanese human rights activist Simon Deng who writes, “Is Israel a racist state? To my people, the people who know racism – the answer is absolutely not. Israel is a state of people who are the colors of the rainbow. Jews themselves come in all colors, even black. I met with Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Beautiful black Jews (see more)”.

As if that wasn’t enough, during this time, Fairfax Media also employed a special correspondent, Paul McGeough, who brought anti-Israel reporting to a whole new level when he travelled on the ill-fated May 2010 flotilla and produced an “eye-witness” piece about what happened on the Mavi Marmara even though he was nowhere near the ship when the fatal incident occurred. His so-called “eye-witnesses” were other participants and they were not exactly impartial observers but McGeough continued to roll out their lies even after a plethora of video and other contradictory evidence became available. His efforts somehow managed to win him the prestigious Walkley Award (Fairfax Media is a sponsor) in late 2010 but at least this was matched just a few weeks later with a Dishonest Reporting Award for the “Most Undeserving of Honour”.

Emily Gian is the Israel Advocacy Analyst for the Zionist Council of Victoria in Australia and is a PhD Candidate in Israeli Literature.

Click here to read Part 2

Image: CC BY-SA, flickr/puuikibeach, flickr/Rennett Stowe.