The media is important, and often the only, source of information for citizens of any country. Consequently, it plays an important role in shaping social influence and creating social pressure on any issue. The media has a great potential to exaggerate information and shape social views according to its own needs or to achieve certain goals. The media could overstate an issue or downplay it, depending on the desired consequence. As a result, there is a great need to evaluate media coverage on any social issue vis-a-vis how various social movements cover the same issue, and appropriate action can be taken when it is deemed that the media's misrepresentation of the issue causes adverse concerns.
This article will focus on the Gaza crisis, its representation by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and its representation by international media. The article will focus on whether or not there are any disparities in the way these two entities represent this information and the possible reasons why it does so. Finally, the article will evaluate the consequence of such disparities, if there are any.
Social Organizations vs Media in the Gaza Conflict
The Gaza crisis denotes the armed conflict between Palestinian Militants and Israel over the alleged smuggling of weapons into Palestine through the Gaza Strip. The Ruling political party in Palestine is Hamas, which the rest of the world does not view as a political party but as a terrorist organization. The crisis began with the Gaza blockade, and since then there has been the armed conflict between Israel soldiers and the Militants in Palestine.
There is no denying that many civilians have been killed in the armed conflict between the Israeli soldiers and the Palestinian troops. Unfortunately, most of the war has been in Gaza, meaning that most of the civilians who have been killed are Gaza residents. Unfortunately, coverage of the crisis by media has mostly depicted a situation where the casualties are soldiers and not civilians, as is the case. Civil rights groups have tried effortlessly to bring it to the attention of the international community that the Gaza blockade is immoral because the casualties have mostly been citizens. This begs the question: does media help their cause or does it frustrate it?
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is a human rights organization based in Palestine to promote issues dealing with human rights and democracy. The movement has been on the forefront in championing the rights of Palestinian citizens who have fallen casualty to the Gaza conflict. The movement aims to bring to the attention the sufferings of the Palestinian citizens living in Gaza in the hands of Israeli soldiers so as to provoke action, and possibly the lifting of the blockade on Gaza due to international pressure.
The main problem that the PCHR faces is the murder of civilians that continues at Gaza in the full glare of the media and the international community. The two opposing sides are mostly to blame for these issues, but the whistle-blowers, who are the media, also do not seem to have played their role satisfactorily. The fourth estate seems to feed the public with half-baked information concerning the casualties who suffer during attacks by Israeli forces. Consequently, the organization has taken it upon itself to carry out its own investigations, seek out the truth about civilian casualties who suffer in the Israeli attacks and give the public up-to-the-mark information concerning the crisis.
The possibilities of success are high since the movement has its own team of investigators that enable it to conduct competent investigations. Moreover, the movement is linked to ECOSOC and the United Nations, and this boosts the credibility of information that it unleashes into the public domain. However, without sufficient public confidence in the information that the organization releases, no action would be taken to stop the senseless civilian murders that continue to be performed in the hands of the Israeli soldiers. In order to stop senseless civilian murders that continue to be perpetrated in Gaza, the movement needs the unwavering support of the United Nations and the United States and the entire international community as a whole, but first, they need to have the facts. The media would play an important role by ensuring that it transmits accurate information, depicting the actual number of civilian casualties that result from Israeli attacks so that it may prove action by the international community.
A number of instances have proved this. A case in point is when the PCHR released a press statement condemning attacks by Israeli forces in Gaza fishermen. According to the PCHR, it had conducted investigations to ascertain that Israeli forces had, on 29th of May, unduly attacked Palestinian fishermen. The Al-Jazeera on the other hand downplayed this information by reporting that Palestinian sources had reported the kidnapping of 5 fishermen (Al-Jazeerah). What the news agency did not cover, according to the information provided by the PCHR, was that the fishermen had actually been unreasonably shot at and injured! This pours cold water on the severity of the situation.
Another instance is when the PCHR released a press statement on 31st March 2012
condemning the murder of a Palestinian civilian during demonstrations during the commemoration of Land Day (Palestinian Center for Human Rights). By comparison, Al-Jazeera only mentioned that police fired rubber bullets and tear-gas cannons at crowds that were demonstrating during the commemoration of Land Day. It made no mention of anyone that was killed (AL-Jazeera). Once more, this was a case where the media downplay information that is vital for social action.
In yet another press statement, the PCHR condemned the Israeli invasion of Gaza, which, according to its own statistics, had seen up to 58 civilians dead. This information was represented by the Guardian as "48 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, have been killed..." (Sherwood, Harriet; Beaumont, Peter).
Clearly, although the guardian attempted to depict the information as best it could, its tone was obviously not stimulating and lackluster. This is the problem that the PCHR faces day in day out.
While the PCHR has made it its business to find out what goes on in Gaza and feed the public with as much information as it can, the fourth estate, which the world takes to be the most reliable source of information, waters down this news and makes it seem less serious, when many people are suffering.
While the PCHR goes down on the ground, conducts investigations and provides believable information, most news agencies rely on heresy and unconfirmed reports. This has the potential of distorting information beyond any repair. The consequence is that the international community remains reluctant to act, and it presides over the death of many innocent people.
In contrast to the PCHR, media downsizes the numbers of civilians killed. In some cases, it does not even mention the word civilians, or, worse still, it may even fail to mention whether or not any deaths have been reported. This inspires reluctance on the part of the international community to act, and this frustrates the efforts of the PCHR.
In a nutshell, the PCHR is an organization committed to ensuring that the tenets of human rights, democracy and even human life are respected in the Gaza region. To achieve this, it conducts investigations and releases press statements to make its findings public, and to condemn, where it must, senseless murders of Gaza residents by Israeli forces. However, the media misrepresents this information. This, in effect, frustrates the efforts of the PCHR to get the attention of the international community to enable it to stop the senseless murders that continue to be perpetrated by Israeli forces in Gaza.