Canada’s national paper The Globe & Mail was caught last week with its hand in the proverbial ‘unethical journalism’ jar.
On February 15, 2006 The Globe and Mail published an editorial titled "See Hamas for What It Is" in which it argued that those who take the view that Hamas will moderate its position in regards to Israel now that it is an elected government should "take a look at a video presented on the Hamas website this week". After a graphic depiction of the video, the editorial concluded "the fact that Hamas is airing it (the video) now shows it has not changed its depraved views or methods just because of winning an election."
A lengthy search for the Hamas link mentioned in the editorial, and a series of email exchanges with the writer of the editorial, Mr. Marcus Gee, revealed that the writer never saw the video on the Hamas website as he claimed in his editorial, but rather relied solely on a report he received via email from an Israeli extremist site that goes by the name of Palestinian Media Watch.
There are three offenses that The Globe & Mail is guilty of; The first is that the Globe told its readers that the videos which the editorial was based on were presented after the election on ‘the Hamas website’–a claim that the Globe was not able to provide proof of. Thus The Globe & Mail has lied to its readers about the credibility of the basis of its argument.
The second issue is that the Globe & Mail’s editorial relied on Palestinian Media Watch – a well-known right-wing propaganda site run by Itamar Marcus, an Israeli settler notorious for his jaundiced views of the Palestinians. In fact, much of the wording (the translation) printed in the editorial came directly from the PMW website. Thus, the Globe has relied entirely on a scurrilous anti-Palestinian screed without referencing that source; I believe the correct word for this is plagiarism.
The third issue is that the editorial surfaced at a time when the Canadian government was deliberating on a decision regarding the new Palestinian government. Having not substantiated its argument, one is lead to believe that the Globe & Mail have attempted to influence the Canadian government’s decision by unethical means through the use of unreliable sources.
In one of his emails to this writer, Mr. Gee confessed to not having "any independent proof that the videos were shown after the election", adding that he had no reason to question the PMW report he relied on.
Mr. Gee failed Journalism 101– he failed to check the source upon which he based his editorial. Maybe he deemed the source credible only because it falls within his simplistic view of the world. In this case, the information the Globe and Mail relied on without questioning came from an extremist website. This is indeed appalling.
This incident reflects a dangerous trend in the media. Journalists like Mr. Gee who in their zeal to push their own right wing agenda eagerly rely on suspect and biased sources. Such journalists have stoked the fires of war and conflict in the Middle-East and they should be held responsible for the brutal consequences of their sloppy brand of journalism.
No one benefits from prolonging the agony of Israelis and Palestinians, no one but those extremists on both sides who want it all. Are we to understand that the Globe & Mail has become a mouthpiece for such extremists? Right now, there stands an opportunity for moderates, a new beginning with new promises of hope. The Globe & Mail’s irresponsible and uninformed editorial makes the job of the Palestinian and Israeli moderates ever more difficult to achieve.
-Samah Sabawi is a writer and activist who lives in Ottawa. Sabawi can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org