Knesset invites foreign journalists to explain their reporting

Members of Foreign Press Association angered over Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee invitation over biased reporting.

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Representatives from the foreign press services operating in Israel have been invited to a meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today (Tuesday) in order to explain how they have been reporting recent events.

While Israelis have been criticizing biased news reporting about terrorism for months, a recent CBS headline raised particular ire when it simplified three terrorists murdering one police officer and wounding a second as "3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on."

Before arriving at the Knesset, members of the Foreign Press Association received a questionnaire dealing with "biased coverage." Haaretz reports that members of the FPA initially expressed their hostility towards the invitation, but soon returned after speaking with Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), the head of the committee.

"A free press is the basis of a democratic society. A meeting of a parliamentary committee beginning with the point that foreign journalists are biased and prejudices resembles a witch hunt more than proper parliamentary procedure," the journalists wrote to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

The letter continued by claiming that "attempts to crucify the foreign media and attribute prejudice to it, to censor it, to detain journalists and more - resemble the authoritarian policies of Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia." It also claimed that such actions are not fitting for a country that considers itself "the only democracy in the Middle East."

The authors took particular issue with the Foreign Ministry. "While journalists and the foreign media treat representatives of the Israeli government and their inquiries very seriously, Israel's Foreign Ministry chose about a year ago to produce a video clip portraying foreign media personnel as biased, ignorant and stupid. Only after the Association appealed and presented the bias and prejudice in the video to members of the Foreign Ministry, was it taken down. You should learn that there is frequently a need for different points of view."

Later, the letter acknowledged that "indeed, in a few isolated incidents of reports about events only a few minutes after they took place, inaccurate reports were made. These reports were corrected as quickly as possible after various officials, including spokespeople for the State of Israel, brought them to the editors' attention."

After claiming that the mistakes were by chance and not prejudice, the authors further said that, "In a significant number of the cases, these mistakes appeared in the headline and not in the body, because while the text is passed on by writers in Israel, the headlines are put together by editors located around the world - in New York, London, and other places."

MK Livni told Haaretz that, "The discussion is intended to only deal with the issues and to focus on repeated incidents of false reports in foreign media during the recent wave of terror, which culminated in last week's CBS case. The discussion is not intended to bash or to declare decisions made earlier, but rather to hear the data that was collected and to see how Israel and the Foreign Ministry are handling the topic today."