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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why the NUJ boycott of Israel is not completely unexpected: the journalism of Robert Fisk

My last entry concerned the NUJ decision to boycott Israel, a subject that has stirred some passionate debate.

The majority of journalists, and members of the NUJ, whose blogs I have seen disagree with the decision on a number of points including:
  • The arbitrary decision to boycott Israel and not apply the same "principles" to other countries of which there are many that are more deserving of a boycott: China, Russia, Sudan, North Korea to name a few.
  • The ineffectual nature of the resolution.
  • The NUJ should concentrate on the key issues, supporting journalists and their concerns and not be deflected from achieving these aims.
  • The democratic nature of the decision; voted by a small number of delegates and not holding a vote of its 40,000 members to truly reflect the union's beliefs on a point where many members would like a say.
Toby Harnden offers a brilliant critique of the vote in the context of recent events in the Israel and Lebanon. His experience of the region gives him a more balanced and objective view, something you would expect from any journalist worth their salt.

However, he states that the language used by the NUJ was, " tendentious and politically-loaded propaganda that would be rightly edited out of any news story written in a newspaper that had any pretensions of fairness."

That is true but there are newspapers such as The Independent that exactly use that type of language. One proponent is Independent journalist Robert Fisk. His coverage of the Israel Lebanon war was, to say it mildly, partisan. On October 28th 2006 he strongly suggested that Israel had used uranium based shells while the UN report was in still in progress. In fact in seemed at a matter of time before it was proven. Fisk's story made the front page of the Independent.

On the 8th November, not even a fortnight later, the UN concluded no uranium was used although I don't think the updated article made the lead somehow.

Robert Fisk is no stranger to controversy and even has his own term named after him; the term fisking, a point by point rebuttal that highlights factual errors and analysis in an article.

Robert Fisk's book on the middle eastern history had such factual errors as getting the birthplace of Jesus wrong to being a couple of years out on the date of the assassination of Anwar Sadat.

What am I trying to prove? If a mainstream daily such as The Independent, which purports to be well independent and fair, is so biased then it is hardly surprising that such boycotts seem perfectly reasonable to so many.


Blogger Jim Symcox said...

Journalists are a bit torn though aren't they Rob?

On the one hand they need to report facts. On the other they know the opinions and political slant of their readers. Fisk-type reporters are giving their papers stories that encourage their readership to continue to buy.

Similarly with blogs. Bloggers have their own views on life and that is often reflected on the way they report "facts".

Look at the recent college shooting where bloggers named two different people as the shooter. Neither of which was correct and one of whom ended up with a short-term Wikipedia page on him.


11:34 PM

Anonymous Rob Artisan said...


objective reporting is not simply possible; what is objective to us might be highly subjective to someone else and likewise.

However, it strikes me that Robert Fisk has an agenda and the facts are used to meet his aims; if they do not they are simply bypassed.

Some journalism becomes so skewered in pursuit of a political goal it becomes a worthless source, except to indicate the visceral feelings of its author and readers. Unfortunately, it can still have the desired effect.

The media is a dangerous weapon and has to be used with some fairness and responsibility.


12:28 PM


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