The media blackout continues in Gaza and silence still emanates from the Rudd government and the opposition on the issue. Greens Senator Bob Brown originally raised concerns about the media blackout to the Senate in December and continues to be the lone political voice on this issue. In his blog on Friday, he continued to sound the alarm:
Journalists have a key responsibility to report the facts as they see them. This often attracts the ire of governments, but should never be used as justification for muzzling the media. Freedom of the press is fundamental to democracy and both the Australian government and opposition should stand up in support of this.
But at least one person is satisfied with the limited coverage coming out of the Gaza Strip. Danny Seaman, head of the Israeli government’s press office, who has in the past described foreign journalists as a “figleaf” for Hamas, told The Guardian over the weekend that the exclusion of reporters from Gaza has worked in Israel’s favour as it has forced a greater focus on Israel’s side of the story:
“When you have hundreds of journalists coming in, most haven’t the faintest idea about the war or the situation,” he said. “Take the UN school [where 42 people were killed by an Israeli shell] for example. There’s a lot of questions as to what actually happened. If the foreign media had been there it would have had much more of an impact on the conflict than it has at the moment. For the first time, when Israel raised questions, journalists had to address these issues and not get caught in feeding frenzy of reporting the story.”
As Brown writes on his blog, “conflicts such as this can only ever be solved by raising awareness and promoting greater understanding across borders, and there are so many on both sides of this conflict working hard towards this end.”
Most would consider reportage of the UN school bombings an essential piece of disclosure as part of the broader story that’s unfolding on the strip, rather than the “feeding frenzy” that PR flack Seaman candidly dubs it. But as politicians remain silent on the issue of press access to Gaza, it seems the Israel PR machine will continue to exploit the information vacuum.