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Bombs a blow to information

With tensions rising daily in the Middle East and casualty numbers going up just as quickly, there is cause for genuine concern about the flow of accurate information from the conflict. I use the word accurate very loosely.

There are claims and counterclaims on all sides wanting to register atrocities, damage, deaths, and more recently, minor victories. It has become impossible to know where to go for fact-based reporting on what’s going on. As the days turn into weeks and in all likelihood months, it seems the best way to begin trying to understand the situation is to look to more than just one conduit of information.

Here in the South Pacific, we are far removed from the arena of the conflict, but that only makes it harder to get relevant updates. We are, as is often the case, dependent on foreign news outlets for something that resembles fact, and what we do see, read or hear is filtered through at least one lens before it reaches us. Do you know the newseditor at CNN? Neither do I.

Generally, responsible and reliable media rely on first-hand accounts from verifiable witnesses to put together their reports. There is often no better source than an experienced reporter to describe events which they themselves have witnessed. The next best source would be interviewing a trustworthy and reliable person close to what is unfolding.

Unfortunately, it appears the flow of information from Israel and Gaza is being tightly controlled.

This means journalists there are only able to describe what they are seeing or being told, and very few are actually in Gaza, unsurprisingly. One fact, if I dare describe at such, is that apart from the horrifying events on October 7, almost all of the conflict is now taking place in the Gaza Strip – the narrow piece of land bordered mostly by Israel, with one very important border crossing into Egypt.

Apart from traditional cable TV channels and online news outlets, more people are getting ‘news’ from social media. While this means citizen journalists and others in the thick of the conflict can post videos and comments online, it’s impossibly hard to assess its accuracy.

It is now up to international agency spokespeople to report what is happening. We are hearing from Red Crescent across the region about an aid crisis, hospitals running short of supplies, and worse. The United Nations chief described humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza as “completely inadequate” amid deteriorating conditions there.

In a recent statement, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said the humanitarian need in Gaza far outpaces existing levels of assistance. Internet and phone connectivity is constantly interrupted and then reconnected, making it even more difficult to get information in or out.

Reporters are putting their lives on the line, with just one credible news outlet, Doha-based Al Jazeera, maintaining reporters in Gaza. CNN reported last week that an Israeli air strike had killed the family of the Al Jazeera Gaza bureau chief, Wael Al-Dahdouh — something he learned about while reporting on the war live on-air. A Reuters reporter in Lebanon was killed last week.

We should all be concerned about the impact of this war on information because, more than anything, it can alter the shape of things to come.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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