In comparison with other areas on the globe, the West Bank and Gaza might seem to many to be “flooded” with media. This is true in a sense, but it also misses a point. Traditional media, including local outlets, tend to go to the most expected places, and film the familiar shots over and over again. Both Israelis and Palestinians are tired of hearing the same news, and media outlets are less inclined to send crews to film an “occupation.” This leaves a great deal of space for citizen journalists, and the West Bank contains many of them.
Our model of citizen journalism is based on working with the “regular” local population, rather than with activists, and many of the videos we publish are filmed from windows, balconies and roofs rather than by someone involved in the incidents. This, I think, gives the videos a special quality, and helps the Israeli audience see the reality from the eyes, or camera lenses, of ordinary Palestinians. It is also important in terms of access, and allows us to monitor and document incidents that occur daily in Palestinian streets and fields.
We’re changing the name ‘Palestinian Territories’ to ‘Palestine’ across our products. We consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries. In this case, we are following the lead of the UN, ICANN, ISO and other international organizations
NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin said it’s a “completely different dynamic” reporting from Gaza now than it was four years ago, given both the unrestricted access for journalists and widespread use of social media.
In late 2008, Mohyeldin was based in Gaza City, when the Israel Defense Forces launched a three-week aerial bombardment and ground invasion that killed 1,400 Palestinians. At the time, the Israeli military restricted foreign journalists from entering Gaza, leaving Mohyeldin and his Al Jazeera English colleague Sherine Tadros to cover the war with little competition.
While the pair received high marks at the time for their coverage, Mohyeldin, speaking by phone Monday from Gaza City, said “there was a dearth of information and pictures” as a result of so few journalists on the ground. “We couldn’t be everywhere at the same time,” he said.
Four years later, that’s not the case. News organizations have flooded Gaza over the past six days of a conflict that has killed 104 Palestinians and three Israelis, along with wounding 860 Palestinians and 68 Israelis, according to CNN.
“I think it’s a testament to how important journalism still is in having real journalists on the ground in Gaza,” Mohyeldin said.
Widespread social media use is the other significant change in Gaza coverage from winter 2008-2009, with citizens uploading their own videos and journalists engaging over Twitter, Reddit and Google+.
In covering the war in Syria, news organizations have often relied on raw footage from areas where no journalists were present. It’s a different situation now in Gaza, where numerous journalists are reporting each major strike throughout the day in real time on Twitter, often adding context and details as soon as they are available.
Take Monday’s strike on a media center in Gaza City, an event quickly covered on Twitter.
BBC Middle East bureau chief Paul Danahar tweeted around 8:30 a.m. EST that Israel struck a building used by some outlets. “I’m standing in front of it,” Danahar tweeted. “It’s on fire. Smoke billowing out.”
There is something grotesque and disturbing about two parties with a long history of conflict live-narrating the launching of bombs that kill civilians and destroy communities.
The Israeli military and Hamas are livetweeting their war, including images of killed and wounded children. This certainly raises some questions, including for the companies whose platforms they’re using.
(The linked articles notes that the Israeli army’s Twitter account was briefly suspended. However, this is based on a report in the Daily Dot that does not cite sources for its claim, so I would treat it with caution.)
The Washington Post has more, including on a Youtube video from the Israeli military that was briefly taken down but has been reinstated.
FJP: Agreeing with the next sentence: “There is no empowerment or revolution here: just a dark, sinking feeling as we watch the bloodshed unfold in real time.”
And in the things they didn’t teach you in school department, to delete the content or suspend the accounts “is not a decision a couple of hundred engineers in North California want to be making.”
Jessica Roy, BetaBeat. Social Media Companies Have Absolutely No Idea How to Handle the Gaza Conflict.
Much of the criticism of the American media during the height of the Iraq War focused on its role repeating White House talking points and propaganda. But using the tools of social media, as Israel is doing, reveals there’s no longer a need to rely a media middleman, or to filter the raw feed of war through an “embedded” — and, military officials hope, captured — journalist’s mouth or keyboard. The military can broadcast exactly what it wants to, directly to its citizens, allies, and enemies. The IDF even appropriates the language of news, prefacing several tweets with “BREAKING” — and native social media, at one point saying “in case you missed it” before pointing to a YouTube video of it killing Ahmed Jabari in a missile strike. And unlike any propaganda machine before it, it’s inherently viral. It’s designed to spread. So the IDF spokesperson provides posters and YouTube videos and a constantly updated Flickr account; they’re more shareable than plain text. Its tweets are a mixture of documentation, saber rattling, sober reminders of the reality of war, and upbeat updates on the advanced state of its technology. All delivered direct to you. Please RT…
…Most importantly, though, consider this: A country can declare that it is at war with Twitter. If that doesn’t make the internet real, I don’t know what does.