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August 17, 2006

And You Thought They Were Reporters

Are some Western journalists actually Palestinian partisans, subconsciously if not consciously? Do some, perhaps, expect sympathetic coverage to earn them the equivalent of "safe conduct passes" from terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

Consider "Newsman's Wife Makes Plea to Gaza Kidnappers," an Associated Press dispatch by Diaa Hadid, published in the August 17, edition of The Washington Post and datelined Gaza City. Beginning with the lede, here are the relevant paragraphs:

"The wife of a kidnapped Fox News cameraman made a public plea Wednesday [August 16] to his kidnappers to release him and a fellow journalist. Palestinian officials said they had no firm leads on where the two men are being held.

"The cameraman, Olaf Wiig, 36, of New Zealand, and American reporter Steve Centanni, 60, were taken Monday from their TV van near the Palestinian security services headquarters ....

"Wiig's wife, Anita McNaught, appealed to the kidnappers to free her husband and Centanni.

"'The bottom line is, there is no good reason for these two men to be held,' said McNaught, a freelance television journalist. 'They are friends of the Palestinians. They are here telling the Palestinian story for weeks now, when the rest of the world's media has not been here [but, presumably, covering the Hezbollah-Israeli war in Lebanon]'" — apparently leaving the Palestinian Arabs out of their accustomed place in the spotlght.

Taking into account that Anita McNaught is distraught over the seizure of her husband, it's still worth noting that A) she herself is a "television journalist"; B) she describes her husband and Centanni not as fair, uncompromised reporters but as "friends of the Palestinians"; C) says not that "they are honest, objective correspondents" but "they are here telling the Palestinian story ...." and D) therefore, "there is not good reason" to kidnap them.

If so, who is "telling the whole story," including not just Palestinian spin but also "the Israeli story" and the facts themselves, in context, without favor, and friendship notwithstanding?

Certainly, Ms. McNaught wants her husband freed. Meanwhile, though, her summary of what he and his partner have been doing --- and her own role as a reporter — suggests half-a-dozen violations of the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. Fairness, objectivity, thoroughness, independence, avoidance of even the appearance of conflict of interest — they're all in the code, if not in Ms. McNaught's perspective. If the reporters were "telling the Israeli story," would that be "a good reason" to kidnap them?

Fox may or may not have a credibility problem regarding Wiig and Centanni, but employers of Anita McNaught now definitely do.

Posted by ER at August 17, 2006 12:22 PM


This is an interesting comment.

and D) therefore, "there is not good reason" to kidnap them.

It implies that sometimes there is a good reason to kidnap someone.


Posted by: Stan at August 18, 2006 03:27 AM

While it is very important to shed light on this dynamic in which journalists are intimidated by the extremists and terrorists, I think you're being unfair in criticizing Anita McNaught, at least at this time. I think most people would say just about anything publicly to get a loved one released from kidnappers. If this is truly her perspective, it just isn't the time to highlight it. Rather, the dynamic itself, and her recognition of it with this plea to the kidnappers, is what should be highlighted.

Posted by: Lil at August 18, 2006 11:01 PM

You are right. My comment was inappropriate given the current circumstances.


Posted by: Stan at August 19, 2006 02:55 PM

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