Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Toward objective journalism

It seems that every other day I'm reading overtly biased reporting in Canadian newspapers (e.g., coverage of Fredericton MP Andy Scott's resignation and our work in Afghanistan). However, the subject interview gives me some hope for the future, as Jooneed Khan has been writing about the facts for about as long as I've been breathing. Of course, you could look at it as a last bastion, but I'm feeling optimistic today. Here are some highlights from the interview (the emphasis is mine):
My concern has always been that before one can form an opinion, one needs facts--as wide a spectrum of facts as possible. I’ve found that mainstream media selects the facts to bring people to think and look in a certain way; and that was not only incomplete, but a disservice to the reader... I’ve tried to bring those facts which were selected out, and put them together in a coherent way...

[A] very recent example is Lebanon. The hue and cry in the western media... that Hezbollah is radical, that it’s a proxy for Syria and Iran, that it’s threatening Israel, threatening Lebanese democracy. The statements that I’ve heard out of the White House, from Ottawa and Paris constantly reiterate democracy, democracy. I thought, this is a totally artificial debate, which can have dangerous consequences, so I did a piece last week, called the “Democractic Deficit in Lebanon.” I just brought the facts to show that when you have a dictated arrangement--dictated by the US and Saudi Arabia--on the Tyre Agreement, where they have allotted 64 seats to Muslims, 64 seats to Christians on a sectarian basis and you haven’t had a census in the country for 75 years... [E]veryone who has done estimates based on the official figures has come to the conclusion that the Christians today are about 35 per cent of the population. Even the sectarian democracy that they’ve imposed does not reflect the true sectarian makeup of the society...

I wrote about Palestinian rights and Palestinian suffering at the same time as I wrote about South African [a]partheid, and the legitimate rights of the South African majority. I suppose the South African consulate in those days did call my editors once in a while, but since I could not be silenced on my facts, what the paper did was allow colleagues of mine to peddle the official line. So on one page--mostly in the business section--articles [there] were praising the [apartheid] system as a free economy and a bulwark against Communism and an outpost of the free world[, while] I was writing about the Freedom Charter... about exclusion, which was also part of the reality. So you had in the same paper... two views. And I appreciate that. I think newspapers in a free society should reflect the diversity of views.

His anecdote about reporting from Iraq is less hopeful, but doesn't take away from the fact that La Presse's policies do more to promote objective journalism than any other paper's that I've read about.

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