News organisations ‘very frightened” of getting Israel-Hamas coverage wrong says MEAA media president

The Australian news industry is grappling with how to accurately cover the Israel-Hamas war in the absence of correspondents on the ground, according to Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) media president, Karen Percy.

Hosted by the University of Technology Sydney, the webinar explored the ‘Responsibilities of the News Media on Palestine’, in which Percy responded to accusations that the mainstream media has demonstrated a pro-Israel bias in it’s coverage of the unfolding conflict in Gaza.

Karen Percy, federal president of Media, MEAA

The panel, which also included Rawen Damen of Arab Reporter’s for Investigative Journalists (ARIJ), Zahera Harb from the University of London, and hosting UTS lecturer, Martin Newman, posed that the Australian media is struggling to grapple with misinformation coming from both sides of the conflict.

Percy, herself a former correspondent in Bangkok and Moscow, said that this could in part be attributed to a “lack of international journalists on the ground in Gaza” for Australia news organisations, which was part of a broader contraction of covering international news.

“We don’t have the same connections in the key places; there’s a lack of understanding in a lot of the places that we’re trying to cover,” Percy said.

The dangerous conditions present in war zones mean that media organisations are increasingly dependent on third party accounts, which Percy argued can be difficult to verify in cases where there has not been an ongoing relationship with those on the ground.

She said that while the safety of journalists is and should be paramount to news organisations, this “leaves a very big void”.

Percy added that it was critical to also understand the state of the news industry, which had been whittled down to a much younger and less-experienced cohort after years of redundancies.

“And we do have editors who are very, very scared of any kind of backlash, of any kind of criticism, political, or from other lobbying groups,” Percy claimed.

“It’s very, very hard to stand up and say something in their news rooms when there aren’t the number of people around them that there used to be and they don’t have the seniority that they used to have. A lot of them are in precarious work scenarios so saying something actually does potentially mean a job loss.”

Understaffing and the moderation of abusive and violent comment sections have also contextualised caution on behalf of the news organisations themselves.

“[News] organisations are very, very frightened about getting things wrong, and sometimes are probably hiding behind that,” she said, “but I think what we need to see more of is organisations, and consumers demanding that organisations, are upfront and transparent about how they are covering things and why they are covering things.”


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