The Sun, a British newspaper renowned for its populist, often shock-jock journalism and its topless ladies on page three, used to have as its unofficial motto ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’
People expect when they pick up the tabloid that the truth will be stretched a bit, but that is all part of the fun. It is incidentally the most widely read newspaper in the UK.
What is far more sinister is when journalists and politicians deliberately set out to mislead, taking the motto as their modus operandi.
So it was with the Middle East Monitor, a supposedly credible source of news on, naturally enough, Middle Eastern affairs. Of course it is blatantly biased against Israel but then so are countless other outlets across the world.
One expects an editorial from the likes of The Guardian, a British left of centre paper, to be subjective. The clue is in its political leanings.
But when blatant untruths are presented as facts in any newspaper, without humour and without the reader even being aware of it, then we are getting into dangerous Orwellian territory.
Take the Monitor’s headline story last week. “EU auditors: No Corruption in PA spending of EU aid’. The story then went on to quote a seemingly new Court of Auditors Report that completely exonerates the Palestinian Authority in how it spends the Billions it receives in EU aid.
Here at the European Friends of Israel it is a vital part of our job to stay briefed and up to date. We also know our way around the EU and its various departments and Institutions, so this story left us puzzled and scratching our heads.
You see, it was only in December last year that the last Report came out on EU aid to the PA. And I can assure you that it was a less than complimentary.
The Court, known for its deliberate use of non-political and non emotive language broke from form and issued a terse Press Release that was headlined “EU Direct Financial Support to the Palestinian Authority needs an overhaul”. Its topline added “a report published today by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) questions the sustainability of the EU PEGASE Direct Financial Support (DFS) to the Palestinian Authority (PA).”
Questioning the sustainability of something from the Court is big stuff. It means, plainly and simply that there are huge problems there.
So as I say, we thought it was odd that six months later they would publish a new report and that any new report, given the previous one would have such a volte face conclusion.
Of course they didn’t.
After checking their work plan for 2014 we found no such report. The ‘new report’ was in fact the old report. But the story glossed over all the negative stuff and awkward unsustainability and instead quoted a European Council press release which said”…the financial procedures put in place are robust and there is no evidence of corruption, mismanagement or diversion of funds.”
Which is simply not true.
The report does not say this. But that did not stop the monitor from presenting a Council quote, who after all don’t want to admit to failure, as a Court of Auditors quote.
As I opened with, stretching the elasticity of the truth when both parties, the writer and the reader, are aware of it is part and parcel of modern journalism.
But lying through your teeth, and utterly distorting the facts to suit a political agenda is a gross disservice to democracy, free speech and journalistic integrity.
And it is all of our jobs to ensure that people don’t get away with it. Middle East Monitor: you have just been caught out.