With Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig still being held hostage by Palestinian terrorists, the Western media has received a potent reminder that broadcasting certain truths from inside Arab territory can result in devastating consequences.
While it is not clear the kidnappers’ motivation—they have yet to state any demands—this is just the latest in a string of abductions, which is in and of itself only part of the arsenal of heavy-handed media intimidation present in the region.
Thuggery helps explain the obscenely low volume of negative press coverage of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others. But it doesn’t account for all, or even most, of the persistently slanted coverage.
As any veteran of Middle East media coverage knows, many Arab stringers and free-lancers—hired on the cheap by Western outlets, ostensibly because of their superior knowledge for local leaders and events—see it as their duty to demonize Israel, while exalting fellow Arabs or Muslims.
But while the widespread use of Arab locals in covering the Middle East and the frightening level of threatened and real violence are both deeply troubling, more concerning is that the Palestinian propaganda machine has enjoyed tremendous success over the years hoodwinking supposedly sophisticated Western journalists. And Hezbollah has done just that over the past month.
In short, almost nothing that is purported to happen in the Arab world can automatically be taken at face value. Not even if it’s captured in a photo.
Problems with “fixers”
When Reuters was forced to sever ties with freelance photographer Adnan Hajj and remove over 900 of his photos from its database earlier this month, long-whispered questions about the reliability of Arab stringers and freelancers came to the forefront.
Nowhere is the use of Arab “fixers” (as they are known) more common than in the Palestinian territories. And yet despite the extensive reliance on locals who presumably enjoy greater familiarity with the terrain and key players, negative press coverage of the Palestinian Authority or various Islamic terrorist organizations operating in the territories has long been scant.
This void in coverage is not because such evidence does not exist. The Palestinian Media Watch, a nonprofit that operates on a tight budget, has easily reported more on PA incitement and indoctrination, for example, than all Western media outlets combined.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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