It may be a cliché to say that “truth is the first casualty of war.” However, reporting on the war in Gaza exemplifies how aptly these words apply. Today, this deliberate distortion of facts is facilitated by the reality that social media is the media of choice for those engaged in the war of words. It is quite clear that given the history of the two states and the extreme imbalance of power, ‘objective’ reporting on Gaza is impossible.
Fake news and disinformation are so rampant that the European Commission sent a written complaint to Elon Musk, owner of X (previously Twitter). Even Joe Biden, the US President, claimed that Hamas had slaughtered Israeli babies – a deliberate piece of fake news crafted to fan fires against Hamas and the Palestinians. He later admitted that it was unconfirmed news. However, the bias of the western media has caused consternation not only among those hoping for more balanced reporting but among fair-minded journalists in the west.
Veteran BBC reporter, John Simpson, warned the BBC against the use of the word ‘terrorists’ to describe Hamas, pointing out that the media is not expected to pass judgement but to report the facts. Instead of appreciation, Simpson faced chastisement from a host of voices on social media. Guardian columnist, Owen Jones, has also faced harsh criticism for pointing out the stark discriminatory attitude of the Western leaders and the media towards Palestinians.
Whether pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, Gaza is an extremely dangerous place for journalists. Several have died in the line of duty. Even sympathetic BBC journalists reporting from Israel were assaulted and held at gunpoint by Israeli police (reported by the BBC itself). A reporter from Reuters also became a casualty of the Israeli Defence Forces. There are other repercussions for journalists seen as being pro-Palestine. MSNBC has suspended Mehdi Hasan and two others of Arab origin. There are also reports of an impending ban on Al-Jazeera in Israel.
Pakistan, as far as I know, has no correspondents on the ground in Gaza. The media here is dependent on foreign news agencies, selectively using items for local coverage. Considerable coverage is given to the massive protests in support of Palestine held across the world and in Pakistan as well as the suffering of the Palestinian people in the face of what is increasingly being described as a “genocide.” Both the images and the words coming out of Gaza are deeply disturbing.
Zohra Yusuf is Chief Creative Officer, Spectrum VMLY&R and former Chairperson, HRCP.