Thursday, August 19, 2010

“Grave” Errors II: Aftonbladet and Colleagues Write “Pravda” Journalism

As those who recall the Soviet Socialist Empire recall, the totalitarian leftist regime there completely controlled all media.  There was one party line which dictated the tone and content of all reporting. The “official truth” was what was printed in Pravda, which, ironically, means “truth” in Russian

No one is claiming here that the Swedish government is controlling all media outlets. Yet left-wing bias in the mainstream media—which also cooperatively own the main news agency—results in an eerily similar situation.  We reported recently on the Mamilla graves issues, where a site which Muslim extremists are claiming now as “holy ground” was slated for development and used for pumping sewage by Muslims more than 60 years ago. Evidence clearly documenting these facts was overlooked by the mainstream Swedish media.

In effect, it would be more accurate to talk about a Swedish medium, singular.  Basically, the Swedish mainstream papers, TV, and radio, as well as their internet avatars rely on the Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT) news agency. TT claims to be the “only nationwide Swedish agency with a complete news service.”  What this seems to mean is that it is practically the sole provider of foreign news in Swedish.  As a result, the media, which receives government subsidies to guarantee multiple viewpoints, delivers one story from one angle to all the mainstream papers.

Now, it is understandable that in a country like Sweden, it would be unrealistic for each newspaper to maintain a foreign staff. However, it would not be unreasonable that their local staff cross-checks foreign material either through English-language sources or simply through online translation. (If anyone at TT doesn’t know how to do this, just email us and we’ll explain how.)

As an example, I checked to see how the Swedish papers reported on the fake graves issue, which is the latest permutation of the Mamilla development squabble.  It is unclear who financed the installation of “grave markers”, which can be seen in a video along with buckets, cement, gravel and building debris here.
What is interesting is that the source for the TT story was AFP (Agence France-Presse) which operates internationally in several languages. AFP‘s original report included these statements from the Jerusalem city council:

-"The municipality and the (Israel Lands) Authority destroyed around 300 dummy gravestones which were set up illegally in Independence Park on public land.”

-"The court approved the removal of all the dummy gravestones which were laid in the last seven months," the municipality said in a written statement sent to AFP.
-“Underneath the tombstones excavators found only ‘plastic bottles, cigarette packets and parts of a sprinkler system,’ the statement said. It accused "Islamic elements" of trying to pull off a huge scam.”
Notice that the report, credited as TT or TT-AFP—which was printed almost identically in Aftonbladet, Svenska Dagbladet, and Dagens Nyheter , and also the Christian daily Dagen—changes the wording of the AFP report:

-“Municipal leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday denied Palestinian information earlier this week that an Arab cemetery had been destroyed.

-“In its first comment on the information, local government leaders confirmed that about 300 gravestones had been removed; they claimed that they were false and that there were no human remains in them.
-“On Tuesday, A spokesman for the Islamic al-Aqsa Foundation said that Israeli bulldozers had torn up a couple of hundred graves in the centuries-old Muslim cemetery… in the Jewish-dominated western part of Jerusalem.

Notice that the city council is no longer quoted directly, but comes in the form of a denial of prior “information”.  In the second excerpt, the city council “claims” the graves are false, and in the third bit, the al-Aqsa foundation spokesman is quoted directly, but his statement is not described as a “claim”.  Also, the phrase “mostly Jewish” in the original report has morphed into the more loaded “Jewish-dominated” in the TT text. Of course, city council is not quoted as saying that it found trash under the alleged tomb markers.
Interestingly, the editor of Dagen, which has a more center-right orientation, was forced to write an editorial defending his use of the TT item. In his defense, he complains that because the primary source for this information was Arutz Sheva—a “settler mouthpiece” he was reluctant to publish this information—on the Swedish right, it’s still handy to bash the Israeli right. Later, Arutz Sheva’s documentation was picked up by other media, including the Jerusalem Post in which the city council statement explains how Islamic officials:

- “exploited permits they had received from the city’s sanitation department for the cleaning and renovation of existing graves, and instead [used the permits to] fraudulently erect fictitious tombstones …about 300 fictitious tombstones have been removed, with each new location being identified and cleared only after review and approval from an IAA [Israel Antiquities Authority] expert.”

The bottom line is that as Pravda did for the Soviets in the good old days, TT today often stands as the sole window on the world for Swedes. Shouldn’t the Swedish media work along the lines of the stated mission for those who receive governmental press subsidies? Doesn’t accepting the people’s tax money obligate the Swedish media to strive for objective reporting and multiple voices? It is obvious that a “reporter” at TT took what was a reasonable and factual piece and twisted it to make it seem as if Israelis were countering Muslim "information".

Instead of working as a news agency, they are operating as a leftist cabal with a central agency for doctoring the international wire service reports to conform to their world view. Clearly, when the monolithic left-wing Swedish media promotes the cause of Muslim extremists while bashing Israel for building a Museum of Tolerance, it is business as usual. For the Swedish media, it’s ideology first—facts are optional.

This post was written by Chanah Shapira.

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