Searing indictment of Wash. Post news coverage on its own op-ed page
In its April 6 edition, the Washington Post features an op-ed column by David Keyes, executive director of Advancing Human Rights, on media silence about brutal crackdowns by Hamas in Gaza and by Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority in the West Bank on critics, dissidents and on-line activists ("Where's the outcry over Palestinian censorship?" page A15).
The Keyes piece amounts to a sharp indictment of the Post's own news pages for suppression of the news when it comes to intimidation and imprisonment of Palestinian journalists who deviate from the official line in areas under Hamas and PA control.
Keyes starts off by documenting the sad tale of university lecturer Islam Abdul-Khaleg, languishing in solitary confinement for advocating dismantling of the Palestinian Authority and for calling Abbas a "fascist."
Her case, he points out, is by no means an exception. Slander of high PA officials is punishable by up to two years in prison. In Gaza, Hamas has cracked down on journalists, banned a social media conference, and jailed several bloggers. "Under Abbas, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has replicated Hamas's brutality," Keyes adds.
There is George Canawati, director of Radio Bethlehem 2000, arrested for a Facebook post that criticized the city's health department. And Mandouh Hamamreh, an employee of al-Quds TV, arrested for a Facebook picture of Abbas standing next to a photo of an actor who plays a traitor on a Syrian soap opera. There is journalist Rami Samara, arrested for criticizing Palestinian leaders on Facebook. And Palestinian journalist Youssef al-Shareb jailed for allegedly defaming public officials by reporting corruption among Palestinian diplomats.
Having documented such widespread crackdowns against dissent, Keyes then gets to the nub of his report.
When Palestinian journalist Shareb went on a hunger strike in a Palestinian prison, he writes, there was virtual silence among Western media -- in sharp contrast to a hunger strike in an Israeli prison of an Islamic Jihad terrorist, Khadner Adnan, which received wide, sustained coverage. The contrast, the double standard are glaring and speak for themselves.
Ordinarily, the Washington Post and other mainstream media would not hesitate to go to bat for fellow journalists who are suppressed and intimidated under totalitarian regimes. But when Palestinian authorities resort to such method, Keyes observes, "the world's silence is deafening - and revealing."
Keyes' piece on the op-ed page is a searing indictment of the news pages of the Washington Post and its executive editor, Marcus Brauchli. While Brauchli runs the news sections and is directly responsible for not just their contents but also their omissions, a separate editorial authority runs the editorial and op-ed pages. And it is these editors, who generally offer readers a fairly balanced picture of what goes on in Israel and in the Palestinian territories, who effectively have laid down a journalistic gauntlet to Brauchli and his news staffs by running Keyes' column.
The question now is whether Brauchli is man enough to pick up their gauntlet and justify his unjustifiable stewardship of what passes for news in the Washington Post.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers