Paul Martin, Hamas, and the hypocrisy of the media

Paul Martin?  Who he, you might well be asking.  Paul Martin is a British journalist with a great deal of experience reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He recently went on assignment to Gaza to investigate the actions of Hamas.  While there he was arrested and held for four weeks, spending a lot of that time in solitary confinement.  His alleged offence?

As Tom Gross reports on the National Review Online media blog, the Palestinian Maan news agency openly stated that Hamas detained Martin because he:

“sought to distort the image of Palestinians by going to tunnels, trying to prove that Hamas smuggles weapons, that we used children as human shields during the war.”

Despite this outrageous and unjustified behaviour by Hamas, there was barely a mention of Paul Martin’s plight in the media here in the UK.  The reports were sporadic and cursory.  This despite Martin having worked for the BBC and The Times.  The Media Backspin blog covered this and contrasted the absence of coverage about Martin with the wall to wall, 24×7 coverage and media campaign waged by the BBC to secure the release of another BBC man, journalist Alan Johnston.

Finally, after his extended detention, Paul Martin was freed by Hamas.  You missed the media furore over the safe recovery of one of their own?  Well actually no, you didn’t, because there wasn’t one.  A point well made by Melanie Phillips yesterday on her Spectator blog.

So what is special about this case?  It is the sickening hypocrisy of the media corps.  The Paul Martin case demonstrates that the media only selectively shrieks and wails about press freedom and the sacred status of journalists just doing their job when the journalist who has been detained is reporting an angle they all agree with.

The moment a journalist does what Paul Martin did, and decides to break away from the media consensus on Israeli-Palestinian issues and fairly report a side to the story that would expose sycophancy and bias of the worst kind in mainstream coverage, the media corps pays lip service to the welfare of their colleague and turns its back on him.

If you don’t believe that the media treats colleagues unequally if they seek to report facts that perhaps confirm some of what Israel claims Hamas is guilty of, or if you do not accept there is imbalance and bias in the reporting of Israeli-Palestinian issues, then consider the tone of these statements from the Foreign Press Association, the ‘Home on the Web for Middle East Correspondents’.  First:

The FPA strongly protests the imposition of closed military zones in large sections of southern Israel, which is occurring on top of the current ban on international journalists entering Gaza.
Taken together, the Gaza ban and the closed military zones amount to serious violations of press freedom. We note with grave concern today’s detention of a photographer working for an international news agency and the confiscation of his camera, in addition to an incident on Monday in which a photographer’s disk was forcibly erased. With these actions, Israel is seriously hindering the free flow of information on a news story that is of vital interest to readers and viewers around the world.
We note that the Israeli government has failed to honor a ruling from its own Supreme Court ordering access to the Gaza Strip for the international media. No good purpose can be served by these unconscionable infringements of basic democratic principles, and we urge the Israeli government to reconsider its stance immediately.

The Board of The Foreign Press Association
13th January 2009.

Notice the words used when addressing Israel, a democratic nation under constant attack from its neighbours… ‘We note with grave concern today’s detention of a photographer working for an international news agency and the confiscation of his camera, in addition to an incident on Monday in which a photographer’s disk was forcibly erased.’

Heavy stuff.  Now compare and contrast the FPA Board’s comments above with their statement about Paul Martin, addressed to the terrorist organisation Hamas (above right), which engages is suicide bombings, rocket attacks and other atrocities and it committed to the destruction of Israel and driving its citizens into the sea:

The Foreign Press Association is deeply concerned with the arrest of British filmmaker and journalist Paul Martin, in Gaza by Hamas authorities.
We expect the Hamas as we do all parties, to respect the rights of every journalist on assignment, to work without fear of being arrested.
The Foreign Press Association hereby requests the Palestinian Authorities in Gaza to immediatly release Paul Martin.

The Board of The Foreign Press Association
15th February 2010

How come a photographer being detained briefly in a war zone and his camera taken by the Israelis warrants ‘grave concern’ and is considered an ‘unconscionable infringement of basic democratic principles’, but a more serious detention of a journalist in supposed peace time by Hamas elicits only ‘deep concern’ and a ‘request’ that he be released immediately?

This is not just a whiff of media double standards.  This is the stench of rank hypocrisy.  It is one of the clearest examples of why we must always question the motives and veracity of what the media reports when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian matters.  The media cannot be trusted to report fairly, it does not serve us properly with impartial facts because it has an agenda and is utterly biased.

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