Posted by: sean | July 23, 2007

Update on "Israeli hacks" in Lebanon

Charles Levinson adds his two cents on the “Israeli hacks” in Lebanon:

I do think it is a legitimate criticism that the safety of those interviewed could have been put in jeopardy. In Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere, the safety of sources is always a factor in your thinking. I think there is a fair argument here that perhaps that was neglected. Of course, the fact that a Lebanese citizen would have to fear for his safety for talking to an Israeli (who they clearly did not know was Israeli) doesn’t exactly reflect well on Hezbollah either.

[…]

As for the content of Rinat’s and Lisa’s reports, it was mostly harmless from what I’ve seen and read. I wasn’t a big fan of headlines like “An Israeli in Dahiya” which make the story seem like it’s all about the fact that an Israeli snuck into Lebanon. It’s sort of like taunting the Lebanese. The other marginally fair criticism I could find, was that Lisa does perhaps downplay the damage Israel caused the Dahiya and Lebanon in general. I was there in the midst of the war and Israeli bombs savaged a good chunk of that neighborhood. Rinat’s articles all in all seemed straight and fair to me.

Charles’s points seem fair to me. Of course the fact that those who spoke to the two Israelis were endangered by this exchange doesn’t bode well for Hezbollah, but that’s obviously not the point. Given the situation on the ground, it is a journalist’s responsibility to take these safety issues into consideration (sometimes the safety can be for someone’s livelihood rather than his life).

This reminds me of my time in Uzbekistan, perhaps one of the most repressive countries in the world. When I spoke to people, they knew that I was a foreigner and that I was with an international organization, and more importantly, they knew that when I was gone, the secret police would still be there. But they at least had an informed choice in the matter. They knew who I was and where I was from. To misrepresent yourself to local people, knowing fully well that there will be consequences when you’re gone, is at best irresponsible and at worst just plain cruel.

Finally, Charles hits on an interesting point with his comment that Rinat’s title of “An Israeli in Dahiya” is all about the fact that she’s Israeli. The only thing that makes these reports at all interesting is that they were done by Israelis. The actual content is uninteresting, and had these reports been done by someone from anywhere else, they would have passed by unnoticed, like so much second-rate reporting. At the end of the day, it’s sensationalism, pure and simple. And say what we will about sensationalist reporting, it’s certainly not worth jeopardizing anyone’s safety. 

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