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August 12, 1988 - Image 120

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-08-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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120

FRIDAY, AUGUST 12, 1988

Government And The Media
Increasingly At Odds In Israel

GARY ROSENBLATT

Editor

T

he Palestinian upris-
ing has resulted in
tension between the
government and the media in
Israel, with authorities
limiting freedom of the press,
according to a Jerusalem Post
reporter.
Joel Greenberg, writing in
the July-August issue of the
Columbia Journalism Review
asserts that "tolerance and
openness have been replaced
by hostility and increasing
press restrictions, as local and
foreign journalists have dug
up unsavory details of the ug-
ly war between Israeli troops
and Palestinians."
Greenberg says the limits
on the press have been in-
cremental, with official cen-
sors expanding the definition
of "security reasons" — the
only ones for which the
military censor may delete
news copy — as the uprising
wears on. News stories view-
ed as harmful to the morale
of Israeli troops have been
censored, for example.
Certain trouble spots on the
West Bank have been closed
to the press for periods of
time, prompting some jour-
nalists to sneak in on their
own to observe and report on
conditions in those areas.
Greenberg visited the town of
Kabatiya in mid-March when
it was under army siege and
found that the army had cut
off electricity, water and
cooking-fuel supplies. His
subsequent reports, describ-
ing primitive living condi-
tions, brought attention to
the siege which was lifted
soon after.
Praised for their accuracy
in the past, army press of-
ficials' reports have become
"increasingly incomplete and
laconic," according to Green-
berg, who adds that some-
times "they are downright
wrong." With tension build-
ing, the public has become in-
creasingly anti-press, and
there have been numerous
complaints of soldiers
physcially attacking jour-
nalists.
The only bright spots men-
tioned by Greenberg are two
incidents where television
crews stepped in and helped
— an NBC crew rescued
several children during the
April 6 Beita incident where
a Jewish teenager died, and a
film of soldiers beating a
Palestinian prisoner was
made available to authorities

The intifada has seen growing friction between officials and the press.

by CBS so the soldiers could
be identified and punished.
"Such contributions, prop-
erly publicized, may help
journalists avoid accusations
of partisanship in the highly
charged atmosphere of the
Palestinian uprising," Green-
berg concludes.

Reichmanns Stir
Libel Chill

Another article in the same
issue of the Journalism
Review reports on a con-
troversial 40,000 word piece,
published in Toronto Life
magazine on "The
Mysterious Reichmanns," and
the "string of libel suits it has
spawned."
The original article, by
Elaine Dewar, focused on one
of Canada's wealthiest
families, the billionaire
developers who have real
estate interests all over the
world and are reportedly
Manhattan's largest com-
merical landlord. The article
went to great lengths to ex-
plore the history of the low-
profile Orthodox Jewish
family. According to the
report in the Journalism
Review, Dewar speculated
that the father may have
made money during World
War II through questionable
currency dealings and used

the profits to rescue Jews
from the Nazis.
Soon after the Toronto Life
article appeared, the (
Reichmanns sued the maga-
zine for $82 million, charging
that the report was false and
damaging to their reputation.
Two newspapers that reported
on the incidents were also
sued. And when Toronto Life
entered the article in the Na-
tional Business Writing
Awards competition, spon-
sored by the Royal Bank of
Canada and the Toronto Press
Club, the chief judge decided
not to accept it for fear that
the panel could be sued as
well.
This led to an uproar in the
Canadian press, with more
than half of the articles in the
competition being withdrawn
in protest. Journalists call the
case a classic example of
"libel chill," the fear of
publishing a story and being
sued.
In Canada, unlike the U.S.,
the burden of proof in a libel
case is on the press. In
American law, the plaintiff
must prove that he has been
defamed.
The Columbia Journalism
Review report noted, though,
that the Toronto Life article
did win several top prizes, in-
cluding the Canadian Na-
tional Magazine Awards, and
Elaine Dewar is now convert-
ing her article into a book.

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