Perilous Journalism in the Persian Gulf

Strait of Hormuz incident's uncritical coverage

HMS Middleton in the Straight of Hormuz--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Defence Images

Given that one of the stated goals of George W. Bush's January 8-16 Mideast trip was to "remind" allies in the Persian Gulf that "Iran is a threat'' (New York Times, 1/9/08), it should have at least struck journalists as a strange coincidence when a January 6 encounter between the U.S. Navy and five small Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Persian Gulf, was characterized by the Pentagon as "evidence that Iran is unpredictable and remains a threat" (CNN, 1/7/08). Yet several news media outlets swallowed the White House's alarmist account of the incident hook, […]


Coverage of Syria Airstrike Strikingly Familiar

When an apparent airstrike by Israel against Syria on September 6 was eventually linked to accusations of a secret Syrian nuclear program, the striking thing about the often muddled reporting was how much the credulous reaction to unsubstantiated claims resembled the similarly uncritical reporting about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. When the airstrike was first disclosed, the New York Times (9/12/07) quoted an unnamed U.S. military official saying “it was still unclear exactly what the jets hit.” The best guess from other unnamed officials was that the building housed “weapons caches” of arms from Iran, ultimately destined for Hezbollah […]


CounterSpin Interview: Ali Abunimah on Gaza

'It's the exact opposite of a coup'

In November 2004, a New York Times article on Palestinian elections (11/14/04) stated, “The post-Arafat era will be the latest test of a quintessentially American article of faith: that elections provide legitimacy even to the frailest institutions.” The "faith" that elites in the press and in government have in such elections is tested when the results cut against U.S. wishes, as happened when Hamas prevailed over Fatah in Palestinian elections in 2006. As a result, the White House pursued a policy of punishing Palestinians for their disobedience by attempting to prevent Hamas from participating in the Palestinian government. That only […]


As`ad AbuKhalil on Mideast democracy, Laurie Garrett on exit memo

Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Was the Bush administration right all along? That's the question the media are asking nowadays, with democratic uprisings happening across the Middle East that many say are all thanks to the White House. Much of the coverage focuses on Lebanon; but what's really happening there? We'll ask As`ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. Also this week: Folks concerned about the future of journalism are discussing why a veteran journalist left their post this week. No, it's not Dan Rather. Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Laurie Garrett said she won't be going […]


Ali Abunimah on Yaser Arafat, Michael Ratner on Alberto Gonzales

Download MP3 The death of Yaser Arafat was seen by many in the media as a new opportunity for peace in the Middle East. But many outlets took the news as a chance to recycle some very old and discredited charges. What else was notable about the coverage of Arafat's death? We'll ask Ali Abunimah of the website Electronic Intifada. Also this week: News reports about Alberto Gonzales's nomination as the next U.S. Attorney General have concentrated more on Gonzales’s ethnicity and his friendship with Bush than on his radical views on civil rights, human rights and international law. This […]


Network of Insiders

TV news relies mainly on officials to discuss policy

The crisis of September 11 touched on issues from Middle Eastern politics to skyscraper architecture, Islamic theology to the threat of unconventional weapons. It was a story, in other words, that most ordinary Americans could not easily interpret without help. FAIR has conducted a study to find out which experts the three major television news outlets--NBC, ABC and CBS--sought out to help explain these and other issues in the days following the September 11 attacks. A total of 189 expert guests were invited by the networks to appear in on-camera interview segments during the period from September 12 to September […]


Retaliating in Advance

U.S. reports reverse chronology of Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon

On June 24, Israeli air raids on Lebanon killed at least nine Lebanese civilians and destroyed major bridges and power plants, plunging much of the country into darkness. In retaliatory strikes by the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah against northern Israel, two Israeli civilians were also killed. This was by far the most intense violence between Israel and Lebanon since 1996. Coverage of these events in the American media avoided the main issues defining the conflict, distorted the facts and focused almost exclusively on the suffering and anxiety of Israelis. Even the most minimal context for this extraordinary bout of violence […]


'Arabs Stone Jewish Worshippers'...or Did They?

"Stones fell on Jews who...were simply praying peacefully at the Western Wall," reported Dean Reynolds on Nightline (10/9/90). His version coincided with nearly all accounts of the Oct. 8 killing of some 17 Palestinians outside the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. CBS Evening News showed stones, thrown by Palestinians, flying over the Wailing Wall. What they failed to show, and what few journalists reported, is that the plaza below was virtually empty. Investigative reporter Michael Emery (Village Voice, (11/13/90) analyzed three separate videotapes of the massacre to show that Israeli forces fired into the crowd before any rocks were thrown […]