Press Release – 23 December 2010

ZCV welcomes Dishonest Reporter award for Paul McGeough

The Zionist Council of Victoria has welcomed the announcement by Honest Reporting, an organisation dedicated to ensuring fair media coverage for Israel, that it has awarded its “Most Undeserving of Honour” award to Fairfax foreign correspondent Paul McGeough following the decision by the judges of this year’s Walkley awards to grant McGeough the 2010 Walkley for best print, wire service journalism in a News report to McGeough for his “personal account” of events on the lead Turkish flotilla “aid” ship to Gaza, the Mavi Marmara.

The Walkley judges praised McGeough “for his courageous journalism and writing excellence and commended the story for its newsworthiness and degree of difficulty.”  In fact he was nowhere near the action he supposedly witnessed on the Mavi Marmara and the boat he was on “Challenger One”, the smallest in the fleet, was arrested by Israeli forces without incident.  The fact that McGeough wrote most of his account by uncritical reference to stories told by those on board the Mavi Marmara further undercuts the basis of the award.

The Mavi Marmara was boarded by Israeli Navy Seals in May after it ignored repeated warnings and signalled its intent to enter the exclusion zone set up as part of Israel’s legitimate naval blockade of Gaza.  The militant thugs on the Mavi Marmara were filmed using improvised and stolen weapons and set upon the soldiers as they descended by rope from their helicopter.  Israeli soldiers were stabbed, beaten and thrown from the decks in the melee and ultimately had to use deadly force to protect themselves from the mob.  This resulted in the death of members of the Turkish IHH some of whom had left martyrdom videos behind as they sailed toward the confrontation.

So called “Aid” flotillas to Gaza lead by extremists seeking confrontation and martyrdom appear to be Hamas’ new method of attracting international media attention and the Mavi Marmara is a case study in how the media can distort the truth to fit the story they wish to tell. McGeough’s stories are full of examples of such distortion and a prime example is his failure to mention the weapons on board the Mavi Marmara in the articles prominently featured in the Fairfax media whose negative coverage of Israel continues unabated despite community representations to Age editor Paul Ramadge over many years.

Upon learning of the Walkley award new Zionist Council of Victoria president Sam Tatarka alerted Honest Reporting.  He wrote “In what could only be called blindness to the truth, the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzer (The Walkleys) has been awarded to Paul McGeough of the Sydney Morning Herald and Age newspapers.”

The letter to Honest Reporting continued “McGeough’s outrageous and sensationalist reporting of the Flotilla saga has been the subject of previous communiqués and is well worth revisiting in light of this award.  All the more so in light of the misguided citation which accompanied the award. The narrative that McGeough gave has been re-run several times and most recently in a long winded weekend magazine piece based on the women of “peace” who organised the flotilla.”

Honest Reporting responded with two analyses: 3 Reasons Why Paul McGeough’s Flotilla Coverage Doesn’t Deserve Prestigious Award, posted on HR’s Backspin weblog as well as Australians Reward Shoddy Journalism and has now placed McGeough in the pantheon of the worst of reporters and media organisations this year.

In addition to its regular media monitoring Honest Reporting conducts annual awards for the worst offenders in media bias.  Tatarka concluded his letter to Honest Reporting with a suggestion that McGeough be seriously considered for an “honour” in this year’s awards and the ZCV is gratified that the judges at Honest Reporting have agreed with its assessment of McGeough and the wrong headedness of the judges of the Walkley awards.

Ironically, the Walkley comes at the same time as Israel reports an escalation in terror attacks from Gaza. Approximately 100 terror-related incidents have taken place near the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip this year, an average of one incident every three days. The number of rockets and mortar shells Hamas and its minions has fired at Israel has also risen in recent weeks.  Just two days ago a Kassam rocket exploded near a kindergarten at Kibbutz Zikim in southern Israel as parents brought their children to school. A 14-year-old girl was wounded in the explosion.

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For more information contact:
Ginette Searle – Executive Director, Zionist Council of Victoria 9272 5544
Elly Shalev – Director Public Affairs, Zionist Council of Victoria 9272 5519

The Zionist Council of Victoria leads and encourages Jewish and Zionist activity and expression within Victoria, to represent the Jewish community, to promote and communicate Israel’s interests within the broader Victorian community and to promote Victoria’s relationship with Israel. For more information, visit the Zionist Council of Victoria website www.zionismvictoria.org.au