Seventeen days into Operation Cast Lead,
The Israeli military spokesman recently called new media a “new war zone” in which the battle over public opinion is a crucial component of military operations.
With that in mind, the Israeli military blocked foreign journalists’ access to
Although web 2.0 and citizen journalism can help amplify aspects of a conflict that otherwise wouldn’t receive attention from the traditional press, the risk of biased or inaccurate information is also extremely high.
Already, video footage has been taken out of context. One video that has been widely circulated online and broadcast on
In a similar vein, the BBC has debunked a video from the IDF’s YouTube channel:
released video of an air attack on 28 December, which appeared to show rockets being loaded onto a lorry. The truck and those close to it were then destroyed by a missile. Israel
This was clear evidence, the Israelis said, of how accurate their strikes were and how well justified…
It turned out, however, that a 55-year-old
resident named Ahmed Sanur, or Samur, claimed that the truck was his and that he and members of his family and his workers were moving oxygen cylinders from his workshop. Gaza
But the misinformation, as well as emotion-filled if accurate accounts from bloggers, has effectively polarized the debate.
According to Dev Raj Dahel, head of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in
In a situation of ongoing conflict, media's role lies in debating impartially about the health of the country and citizens, framing conflicts in a rational manner, offering concrete options rather than just criticism of actors and furnishing practical initiatives to the conflicting parties to resolve the conflict of various kinds—direct, structural, perceptual and latent. Capacity building of journalists on conflict reporting, communication and peace education thus helps to identify and release deep-seated knowledge located within the various sub-systems and systems of society, weigh a range of alternatives and adopt multi-track measures to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts.
A recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review critiques the use of social media in the Gaza conflict, questioning in particular whether or not the use of Twitter by the Israeli Consulate is in fact an improvement over a traditional press conference:
…this angle emphasizes the mere fact of democratization over the more salient question of what, exactly, is being democratized… As long as the people answering questions have public relations, rather than public information, as their primary goal, throwing the doors to a press conference open to the general public won’t make the press conference any better. It’ll just make it more crowded.
Followers of the “propaganda war” being waged online may be led to believe that violence is the only option available-both to Palestinians and Israelis-in the debate over
What’s been called the “over-democratization” of conflict journalism may be making it more difficult to amplify the moderate voices within the Israeli-Palestinian debate that are calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The use of new media in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict encompasses a number of the ethical questions we often address on this blog:
It may also emphasize the responsibility of professional news outlets to maintain rigid standards despite an influx of information and amateur competitors. While new technology is making it easier and faster to get more news out to a wider audience, it's no less important for professionals to verify, edit, and contextualize citizen reports in a way that mediates, rather than sensationalizes, conflict.