Written by: Michael Kravshik.
Reporting on facts can be an amazingly subjective activity. As contradictory as this statement seems, its veracity seems hardly arguable to anyone who follows the news on a consistent basis. Unsurprisingly, this is especially prevalent when reporting on conflicts, and even more so when ethnic, religious, or other ‘sensitivities’ are being considered. Although I have noticed countless instances of the trend, I recently came across such an outrageous example of this that I felt the need to share it.
This example exists in the context of the tribulations of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt. The extent of discrimination they face is well reported on, including by me personally; but every once in a while the coverage of this issue from supposedly ‘credible’ or ‘reputable’ sources still manages to surprise me. Not so for Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East specialist and Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum. Mr. Ibrahim has written at length (including in his upcoming book) on the subject of Christian persecution in the Middle East, and the western media’s propensity to downplay its egregiousness. It was Mr. Ibrahim who originally brought this issue to my attention, but it did not take long for me to corroborate it.
This most recent example comes courtesy of both Foreign Policy Magazine and the Associated Press, two sources that are expected uphold objective integrity when reporting on straight facts. Foreign Policy Magazine’s opinion pieces are exceptions to this rule, but this example comes not from an op-ed, but from its ‘Morning Brief’ which is intended to report on facts, not opinion. These briefs are part of my usual morning routine of keeping up with current events, but on March 1, 2013 I was greeted with the following (link to the brief here): “Muslim-Chritian fighting has reportedly broken out in a town in Southern Egypt.” (spelling error on the word Christian from original source).
Following the link to the AP report that this headline was sourced from leads to an article entitled, “Christian-Muslim tension flares in southern Egypt.” The actual facts of the situation are presented quite clearly in the first paragraph:
“Dozens of Muslim residents threw firebombs and rocks at police on Friday as they tried to storm a church in southern Egypt in search of a woman suspected of converting to Christianity, security officials said.” You can find more specifics in the body of the article.
The report refers to the event in a number of ways:
1) “Christian-Muslim tension flares…” (in the title)
2) “Clashes between Copts and Muslims…”
3) “Violence between Egypt’s Christians and Muslims…”
4) “The fighting…”
Tensions, clashes, violence and fighting. By reading the actual details of the event, it is clear that none of these phrases adequately describe what is quite obviously an assault on a besieged Egyptian minority. All of these phrases – especially clashes, and fighting – including the Foreign Policy headline imply the culpability of both parties, which in this case is far from the truth. Regardless of whether the intention to deceive exists, deception has certainly occurred; especially if a reader decided take Foreign Policy’s brief at its word without looking into the details (something everyone is guilty of from time to time). The phrasing used leaves readers with a thoroughly false perception of the actual events. Whether by intentional deception or just plain old poor reporting, the damage has been done.
Thus the power of subtlety; something not limited to the case of Coptic Christians. Intentional or not in this case, in other cases it certainly has been. Either way, the authors have betrayed the integrity and trust that readers have placed in them. As consumers of information, we must always be cognisant of the power of words like these and the ease with which we can all be fooled by them. We must always do our best to use our common sense, and the sparse details we can get our hands on, to make our own value judgements. Unfortunately, this trend is far too common.
In the future, I will try to point out as many of these as I can, something Mr. Ibrahim has been doing with regards to the Middle Easts Christians for years now.
This is my opinion. What’s yours?