Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dishonest Reporter Award 2007

What a year of surprises.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip. Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas talked peace in the presence of Saudi and Syrian dignitaries. BBC journalist Alan Johnston was held hostage for nearly four months. When Israel struck an unidentified Syrian facility, the only significant protest came from North Korea.

And then came Farfur, the Hamas mouse.

Who would've thought?

Of course, there were other unsurprising developments. Qassam rockets continued to fall on Sderot. This year's three unfortunate fatalities: Oshri Oz, Shirel Friedman and Chai Shalom.

Israeli MIAs Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev ended the year in captivity, as did other Israeli MIAs.

The Israel Lobby was a top selling book while The Man From Plains documented Jimmy Carter's controversial book tour.

On with the awards . . .

Worst News Director: Larry Register, formerly of Al-Hurra TV

Thumbs up to Joel Mowbray for a series of articles exposing how US taxpayer-funded Al-Hurra TV twisted its mission to showcase American democracy. Under director Larry Register, Al-Hurra pandered to Arab sympathies and gave a soapbox to terror propaganda and Holocaust denial. Register identified himself with the likes of Yasser Arafat and Bashar Assad.

He resigned in June.

Worst Use of Taxpayer Money (UK): BBC

The BBC spent £200,000 in legal fees to cover up Malcolm Balen's 2004 internal report on the news service's Mideast coverage. So far as the publicly funded news service was concerned, the money was well spent; the Beeb fended off a legal challenge by London lawyer Steven Sugar, who sought a copy under the Freedom of Information Act.

Sugar's success in an earlier stage of legal proceedings led to an avalanche of similar FOI requests (including one from HonestReporting). All were turned down.

Most Ridiculous Campus Article: Linda Quiquivix, The Daily Tar Heel

U. of North Carolina student Linda Quiquivix, who broke up with her "Zionist" boyfriend during the Second Lebanon War, describes her quest for love to Daily Tar Heel readers. Boys, don't bother with diamonds or flowers.

Most Curious Caption: Associated Press

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) militants stage a protest near the Eiffel Tower in a show of solidarity with kidnapped British journalist Alan Johnston, in Paris, Wednesday, June 20, 2007. Intensive negotiations are underway toward freeing British Broadcasting Corp. journalist Alan Johnston, who was kidnapped three months ago in Gaza, a senior Hamas official said Tuesday. (AP PHOTO/Christopher Ena)

Stupidest Unstifled Debate: The Doha Debates

Oxford students hosting The Doha Debates in May shook off the dark powers of suppression and agreed, by an impressive two-thirds majority, on the following motion:

"This House believes the pro-Israeli lobby has successfully stifled Western debate about Israel's actions."

The sheer stupidity of the topic wasn't worth the effort of suppressing -- had the motion failed, it would've been better "proof" that the issue was true.

Worst Advertising Account: International Herald-Tribune

In April, the International Herald-Tribune made waves for advertising an Iranian tender to build two nuclear power plants. Ironically enough, the ad also appeared in Israel where Haaretz distributes an IHT supplement. The IHT is owned by the NY Times.

Special Achievement in Verbal Gymnastics: Jeremy Bowen

The BBC's Mideast Editor wins for this sentence:

"There is no dialogue with those murderous terrorists," Mr Abbas said, referring to Hamas militants.

Most Blatant Photo-Opportunism: Ismail Haniyeh

Not only were Gaza’s Christian leaders intimidated into attending a November speech by Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas honcho literally strong-armed Father Manuail Musalam into a photo-op brought to us by Reuters.

Dumbest Reaction to Alan Johnston’s Kidnapping: National Union of Journalists

After BBC reporter Alan Johnston was kidnapped by a Gaza clan linked to "The Army of Islam," Britain's National Union of Journalists sprang into action - by boycotting Israel. This NUJ statement explains why:

We work closely with the Palestinian union through the International Federation of Journalists and the boycott call was a gesture of support for the Palestinian people - notably those suffering in the siege of Gaza, the community Alan Johnston has been so keen to help through his reporting.

Worst Film Editor: Charles Enderlin

In his legal battle over the Mohammed al-Dura video, French media analyst Philippe Karsenty forced France 2 TV to publicly screen for the first time cameraman Talal Abu Rahma's raw, unedited footage.

When the judge asked correspondent Charles Enderlin why only 18 minutes of footage were submitted – instead of an expected 27 minutes – the veteran reporter told the court that when he transferred the images to DVD for the court, he had to manipulate some footage that wasn't relevant for that day. Although a final ruling isn't due till the end of February, the development and the footage discredited the myths of Mohammed al-Dura.

Worst Moral Equivalence: Ed O'Loughlin

The Sydney Morning Herald's Ed O'Loughlin wins for this oversimplified background information on Qassam rockets:

Since peace talks were abandoned in 2000, 12 Israelis, including three minors, have been killed by Palestinian missiles in a deadly game of tit for tat across the border between Israel and Gaza.

Hundreds of Palestinian civilians and militants, including five children in the past fortnight, have been killed by artillery, tank and air strikes, which Israel says target only terrorists.

According to an IDF study, an estimated 2380 rockets have been fired at the western Negev in the last six years, killing 10 people. In addition, 1,600 people have been treated for shock. Half the rockets landed in Sderot.

Worst Pundit: Abd Al-Bari Atwan

Bari Atwan, a regular commentator and analyst for BBC and Sky News, told ANB Lebanese television he'd dance in Trafalgar Square if Iranian nuclear missiles ever hit Israel. He’s still a talking head for both news services.

Best New Members of the Pro-Israel Cabal: Walt and Mearsheimer

We're not kidding about the people who brought you "The Israel Lobby". Here's why.

Worst Cartoon: Jonathan Shapiro a.k.a. Zapiro

For the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War, the South African cartoonist for the Mail & Guardian turned history on its head:

The Blog Post We Should've Taken Seriously: Fadi Abu Sada

After January's suicide bombing in Eilat, Palestinian journalist Fadi Abu Sada begged Israel to bomb Gaza. Why?

. . . it might be the only solution to stop the bloody fighting between brothers in the Gaza Strip.

Dishonest Reporter of the Year

This year's Dishonest Reporter voting marks a change for HonestReporting readers. Previous awards went to large, impersonal news services, but not so this year. One journalist made herself such a lightning rod in 2007 she easily defeated BBC and Reuters – the traditional disfavorites.

The results didn't surprise us, but the depth of anger and lingering resentment indicate that readers weren't just outraged by our winner's work; on some level, they were personally offended in a way far exceeding the rest of the MSM’s Mideast coverage this year. Which is why the 2007 Dishonest Reporting Award goes to Christiane Amanpour, for her in-depth, but tragically flawed CNN special series, God's Warriors.

The series sought to examine Jewish, Muslim and Christian extremism. It's not our intention to address God's Warriors yet again. However, reader criticism can be boiled down to four primary charges. In a nutshell, Amanpour's series:

  • Equated years-old isolated cases of Jewish extremism with Islamic terror that has killed thousands of people in New York, London, Madrid, Bali, Amman, etc.
  • Spuriously claimed that fringe elements of world Jewry succeeded in hijacking Israeli and American government policy.
  • Addressed radical Islam with kid gloves.
  • Belittled religious belief in general.

Religious extremism is a valid news story and an accurate, honest comparison of the three major monotheistic faiths would undoubtedly have a positive impact on public debate.

Unfortunately, the sense our readers and we have is that Amanpour didn't spend a year researching religious extremism, but rather reinforcing her own world views.

* * *

We covered a lot of ground in 2007.

And with help from readers, we'll continue to monitor and hold the media to account in 2008.

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