Sunday, January 3, 2010

Blink & You'd Have Missed It

You've heard of the Great Firewall of China, erected so that the Chinese can't access information relating to certain taboo subjects such as China's occupation and colonization of Tibet and East Turkistan? Well the latest brick in the wall has just been laid by Apple: "Chinese users of the iPhone are unable to download applications related to the Dalai Lama or to Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled Uighur leader, after Apple apparently blocked them from its iPhone app store in the country. The move suggests that Apple has followed Google in self-censoring content available in China, under pressure from the Government." (Dalai Lama blocked from download to iPhones in China, Guardian/SMH, 2/1/10)

The operative concept here is self-censorship, which the Western corporate media, in response to decades of sustained bullying by pro-Israel lobby groups, has been practising for yonks. An egregious case in point is the relative lack of media coverage of the Gaza Freedom March and the Gaza Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza.

One's astonishment at this was given eloquent voice by Ibrahim Hewitt of the UK charity Interpal: "At a time of year when editors are looking for news items to fill their pages and programmes, one story sticks out: an international aid convoy with 400 participants from Britain alone; 1.5 million people awaiting eagerly its arrival and the relief it will bring; a rogue foreign government hindering the relief effort; and friendly governments and their citizens who have given the convoy a heroic welcome as it passed through their countries, across Europe and what used to be called Asia Minor. Take some Brit heroes - men and women of all faiths and none - sacrificing their time over Christmas and probably the New Year to help people under siege in the land of Christ's birth, and throw in the anniversary of the war that compounded the hardship for good measure. All the ingredients of a major story, you may think, but that's where you'd be wrong. This is one story that the major newspapers and television news programmes in Britain and the USA are avoiding. Apart from two brief paragraphs on the BBC news website, you will be hard pushed to find anything. The Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza is a non-event as far as most of the media are concerned, which begs the obvious question; why? Is it less important than Britain's weather? Or the Queen's speech? Or Victoria Wood's midlife crisis? Or Manchester City's human resources skills? What is it about hundreds of people trying to take desperately-needed relief to millions of their fellow human beings at Christmas - a time of peace and goodwill to all, in case that's passed you by - that editors think is not newsworthy? Could it be because the man behind it is British MP George Galloway? Could it be because the rogue state is Egypt and we are trying to ingratiate ourselves with Hosni Mubarak (God forbid!)? Or could it be that too much coverage might upset the Israeli government whose blockade, imposed with the attendant threat of massive military force, has created the 'shattered society' (see Amnesty's latest report) that awaits the convoy's assistance? Any one of these would be shameful if it were true." (The missing story,, 28/12/09)

But what about the Australian media? Here's the scorecard:

News Limited: Not a whisper. No surprises there.

Fairfax: A short piece (Hunger strikers press Egypt on Gaza march) in the Sydney Morning Herald, courtesy of Agence France-Presse on 30/12/09. Another shortie (Jews, Arabs call to end blockade) on 2/1/10, courtesy of The New York Times' Ethan Bronner (say no more), which featured a photo of Israelis - Israelis!!! - daubed with Stars of David and holding Israeli flags. The caption: "Peace plea... Israelis rally a year after the war." The only decent Fairfax press coverage that I'm aware of was Andra Jackson's report (Australians' Gaza protest) in The Age of 1/1/10. And where was Fairfax Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis?

SBS Television: One brief, derogatory snippet on the 6.30 pm News, 31/12/09. (See my 1/1/10 post So-called SBS/ABC News) Blink, and you'd have missed it.

ABC: Despite the derogatory introduction by presenter Tony Eastley (see So-called SBS/ABC News), Anne Barker's story on the Gaza Freedom March on Radio National's AM program (International protest over Gaza blockade, 31/12/09) was commendable. But where were ABC Television's Middle East correspondents, Matt Brown and Ben Knight?

Well we know where the latter was, don't we? Knight was in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon, about as far as you could get from Gaza (in Israel), reporting on the woes of Israeli fish farmer Yigal Ben Tzvi. Alas, it seems the bottom has fallen out of Europe's caviar market (Middle East caviar producers hit hard times, 7 pm News, 2/1/10). All the piece wanted was the following surreal exchange:

Ben Knight (scratching head): I seem to recall hearing they haven't got enough to eat down in Gaza.
Ben Tzvi: Let them eat caviar!

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