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February 08, 2008

Prestigious Award for Tendentious Spread

Journalism associations exist, cynics have observed, to award prizes to their members. A generalization, but yet ….

The White House News Photographers Award for Photographer of the Year goes to The Washington Post’s Jahi Chikwendiu. One of the projects that helped Chikwendiu win was “‘Continuous War’: Cluster bombs in South Lebanon.” According to The Post (“Honors,” February 1) the photographer “spent more than two weeks with Rasha Zayoun, a 17-year-old Lebanese girl who lost a leg to an Israeli-dropped cluster bomb. ‘It was an important story for me because of her strength to carry on even though she had been wounded so bad by something that wasn’t her conflict; it was Israel and Hezbollah’s conflict,’ Chikwendiu said.”

Not exactly. The tragedy imposed on Zayoun resulted from Hezbollah’s conflict with not only Israel but also Lebanon. Iranian-inspired, funded and trained, and Syrian-armed, Hezbollah is at war with the possibility of a religiously pluralistic, politically democratic, Western-oriented Lebanon. Its war with Israel is connected. In that Hezbollah-created context, Israeli munitions, including cluster bombs, killed or wounded Lebanese civilians, including Zayoun.

Chikwendiu’s photo spread and accompanying blurb of copy, ignore that, just as The Post in general largely ignores Israeli casualties of Arab aggression. After the November 25 feature appeared, CAMERA said:

“Six black-and-white photographs, including one as a ‘teaser’ from the section's front page, and four paragraphs of text … document Zayoun's suffering. They also amount to a one-sided advocacy piece.

Washington Post photo spread served as an unacknowledged editorial

“The only quoted source besides Zayoun ... is Marc Garlasco” of Human Right's Watch. “Garlasco's self-contradictory and perhaps unobjective views were on display in the 2006 case in which seven members of a Gaza family were killed by an explosion of uncertain origin …. He backtracked on, then reasserted claims” that Israeli shelling had caused the civilian deaths; Israeli analysts said Palestinian terrorist munitions more likely were to blame …. Chikwendiu takes Garlasco at face value.

“The text cites U.N. estimates ‘that the Israeli military dropped 1.2 million to 4 million cluster bomblets on southern Lebanon’ …. It is silent on the fact that Hezbollah terrorists often based themselves [illegally] in southern Lebanese villages like Zayoun's, and that they fired many of the more than 1,000 rockets launched at Israel (primarily at civilians) from positions close if not adjacent to Lebanese non-combatant locations ….

“The piece seemed to have been timed to advance” HRW's anti-cluster bomb agenda .... If The Post wanted to use Zayoun's case to support an editorial against cluster bombs -- it posted the feature and more photos and audio on its Web site -- Chikwendiu's work should have appeared on the editorial page.” In essence, it was “tendentious commentary.”

Posted by ER at February 8, 2008 02:28 PM

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