Caledoniyya

Gaza War Coverage: Gratuitous or Necessary?

As I type this, I am hoping, rather unusually, that this post has terrible timing, arriving as it does during a cease-fire in the Gaza-Israel conflict.

If, in five days time, you are rolling your eyes and cursing the out-of-dateness of my postings, then it is a good sign; if you nod sagely and agree while keeping one eye on the news channel, then it is bad, for the conflict will have restarted in earnest.

One of the things that has struck me about the coverage of conflicts is the varying degrees in which the devastation is presented.

Earlier this week, Lebanese journalists ‘Uqab Saqr and May Chidiac censured Arab media networks for airing graphic footage of the conflict.

On a personal level, the difference in visual footage between Italian and British news networks was tangible: whereas the British networks featured the injured staggering amidst detritus, Italian networks presented a horrifying and chillingly graphic insight.

We were not only told about the police cadets slaughtered – we saw them, their uniforms crushed and stained, their hands curled in death, and their families wailing over their prone bodies.

It was something from hell – no human being should be forced to cry that unearthly sound of devastation.

As viewers, the reportage struck like a ten tonne weight, achieving the journalistic feat of bringing the truth and horror into our living rooms.

Which raises, nevertheless, the tristram-esque quandary of whether too much is enough – is such graphic coverage gratuitous, necessary, or an obligation that our more conservative news networks are failing to meet?

For Chidiac, it is too much:

Personally, I don’t understand how they can show body parts and bits of flesh on TV.Β  Some may view this as a victory, but I consider it to be sacrificing our children. The question is why their blood is worth more than ours, and the answer, to be frank, is that they value human life more than we do. We have no respect for human life in our society – you see this in our jails, in the crimes we commit against one another.

Of course, this leads to questions of propaganda – the screening of such footage by Arab media networks serves to rally and stir viewers towards a cause.

It is impossible to view such material and not feel indignation and dismay for those affected.

However, more crucial is the role of the press: I believe it is the right of the press to show the full extent of the cost a conflict has placed on human life – whether it is Israeli or Palestinian.

The twin foundations of a free press should be truth and objectivity: by showing detritus and injured individuals, the magnitude of the event is concealed and the severity of the act dulled.

For those of us unexposed to war, it has arrived with clinical precision and for many, seeing the true face of a conflict is a profound shock that reels the mind and heart.

War then, should be presented in all its ignominy, and perhaps its coverage is one of the final bastions of censorship that has yet to fall.

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This entry was posted on January 19, 2009 by in Europe, Israel, Middle East, Palestine and tagged , , , , , , , .
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