Media Week – One-Way Traffic
Mar 22, 2013 | Allon Lee
It is one of the seminal images that appeared over and over again in the early stages of last November’s Second Gaza-Israel war.
Distraught Palestinian father Jihad Masharawi, holding the dead body of his 11-month-old son, Omar, who was reported to have been the victim of an Israeli rocket hitting the family home.
A one-line photo caption story appeared in the Australian, Courier Mail, Daily Telegraph, Age and Sydney Morning Herald, amongst others on Nov.16.
As the headline in the Age and Canberra Times newspapers above a comprehensive account of his tragic death put it succinctly on Nov. 17 – “‘What did my son do to deserve this?'” Indeed.
Except on March 6 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that its investigation into the circumstances of Omar’s death suggests he was most likely a victim of a rocket fired by Hamas or one of its affiliates that fell short.
So, yes, in a very real sense, Omar was a symbol – a tragic victim of the callous indifference of the so-called Palestinian resistance movement that is based in, and operates from, built up civilian areas in Gaza.
Regrettably, this confirmation that a Palestinian rocket precipitated Masharawi’s death has not appeared in a hardcopy edition of any Australian newspaper. However, at least it garnered widespread online coverage.
Websites that noted the development included the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, Australian, Adelaide Advertiser, Geelong Advertiser, Northern Territory News, NineMSN.com, and even SBS TV.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the Sydney Morning Herald, Age or Canberra Times websites, let alone the newspapers, saw fit to run even so much as a brief on the UN finding.
Certainly Fairfax Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard knew of this finding, tweeting on March 11 a link to the BBC‘s report on the UN clarification.
Indeed, Pollard was intimately aware of the tragic death of Masharawi having re-tweeted on Nov. 15 BBC foreign editor Jon Williams’ Tweet: “Heartbreaking: our BBC colleague Jihad Misharawi weeping for 11 month old Omar on front page of WaPo”.
On Nov. 16, Pollard made reference to Masharawi in one of her articles that appeared online, writing: “The devastated family of the BBC journalist Jihad Misharawi mourned the death of his 11-month-old son Omar, killed along with his sister-in-law when an Israeli mortar shell crashed through their house as the attacks escalated on Thursday.”
On Nov 26, Pollard re-tweeted BBC Middle East Bureau Chief Paul Danahar’s Tweet that Jihad’s brother “whose baby boy was killed when a shell hit his house in Gaza, died of his severe burn injuries today”.
But as of Friday March 15, no story has appeared under her by-line – online or in print – mentioning the UN finding on this case.
This story seems yet another case of media one-way traffic – where negative claims or accusations against Israel garner major news coverage, but when they are subsequently shown to be false, this information is only made available to readers who specifically look for it, if at all.