Today I happened to be on Twitter, approximately mid-day Australian time, when a tweet caught my eye.
I’ve been following @jessradio for some weeks. Her full name is apparently Jess Hill, an ABC journalist who’s been tweeting prolifically about north Africa and the middle east.
This morning she tweeted an appeal for someone to check out video footage and provided a link to a page on the ABC wesbite entitled Syrian protesters beaten by security (the link is now dead)
She sent her message directed to ‘Syrian tweeps’.
I can’t show you the exact tweet, because Jess seems to have since deleted it for reasons best known to herself (but which may become more apparent).
Dialogue between @jessradio and TrellaB
She received a reply from someone in Lebanon called TrellaB, who seems to fit the bill of a ‘Syrian tweep’.
I clicked on the link in @jessradio’s tweet. It took me to the page on the ABC website displayed below.
The ‘story’ is mostly a video which the ABC says “cannot be independently verified”.
I’ve screen-captured one scene from the video displayed on the ABC web page . The video itself was accompanied by the following, rather minimal text:
Headline: Syrian protesters beaten by security
Source: ABC News
Published: Sunday, May 8, 2011 9:44 AEST
Expires: Saturday, August 6, 2011 9:44 AEST
Caption: Amateur video, which cannot be independently verified, shows heavily-armed Syrian security beating anti-government protesters.
ABC's alleged Syrian atrocity story
The next thing I did was check the link kindly tweeted to Jess by her friend Imad Bazzi (@TrellaLB) in Lebanon.
This took me to a YouTube video entitled Hezbollah VS 14 azar : 7 ayar. It’s a few years old and is of Lebanese origins. Clearly this is the same footage shown in the horrifying story on the ABC story.
I reproduce one screen-shot from the YouTube video to make the point. It’s clearly the same scene as above.
Video of atrocity in Lebanon a few years ago
To summarize, the ABC website – website of the publicly-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation which fondly cultivates a reputation for objectivity and accuracy in news reporting – has been running a video as a news item for several days purporting to depict recent brutality by Syrian Government forces, when in fact it’s old footage from a different country!
I tweeted Jess in some anger about this – as well as the Managing Director of the ABC. Jess at least had the decency to reply. Here’s what she said in reply:
“I’d say it’s not dishonesty as much as carelessness. Reminds everyone the importance of verifying”
Well, I’m sorry Jess, but I cannot see that. The story in question was a targeted hit-piece on Syria. It deceptively portrayed video images of Syrian “security”, using material that had nothing to do with Syria.
That’s no accident. It’s deliberate deception. ‘Accidents’ like that simply do not happen through ‘carelessness’. Please don’t insult the intelligence of ABC viewers.
Stop Bombing Libya!
Whoever was responsible for this psy-op should be subject to disciplinary action and show good reason why they shouldn’t be fired. If the order to run the story emanated from the top, heads should roll at the top of the ABC.
Secondly, as this video was running for days (before it was taken down within an hour of my Twitter exchanges) a prominent retraction should be posted on the ABC website front page explaining and apologizing for the mistake.
The public deserves better than a publicly-funded broadcaster that lies for a partisan agenda.
Will Media Watch run this story or has it become tamed and corrupted too?
Go ahead ABC… surprise me!
UPDATE (7pm Thursday 12th May)
Since publishing the above article a few hours ago and promoting it via Twitter, I’ve had a bit of feedback.
Julie Possetti and Syd Walker Twitter exchange
Fellow independent activists have re-tweeted the story – many thanks!
Australian media analyst and academic Juli Posetti (of Twitdef fame) contacted me to say that she didn;t think I don’t think it was “a case of dishonest or propaganda but a consequence of new models of publication/verification“.
That led to a brief exchange of messages on Twitter (see right). To say the least, I’m not convinced by Julie’s suggestion.
Jonathan Holmes of Media Watch also sent me a private message on Twitter. It’s reproduced below.
Johnathan seems to imply journalism is best left to the pros who really know what they’re doing. Suits, like him, in other words.
If only he was right. I wish…
Anyhow, as Johnathan may have spare time on his hands this week (now his brilliant scoop has been tarnished by my clumsy meddling), perhaps he’ll be open to an idea from the great unwashed for a special Media Watch project?
I suggest he looks at this, this and this – and reports on Media Watch next week, for the first time in a decade, how the story of the decade has been avoided by the ABC… for a decade.
- Jonathan Holmes’ grumpy tweet
Media Watch indeed!
How silly does the ABC think their viewers are?
Syria atrocity map
UPDATE TWO (8pm Thursday 12th May)
In my earlier update I forgot to mention Jess Hill, the ‘journalist’ whose tweet started off this little tale of deception, cover-up, pomposity and general spookery.
Jess seems to have recovered from external irritants and is tweeting away still, networking with fellow ‘journalists’ and ‘independent bloggers’ in the middle east or thereabouts.
Here’s what she had to say an hour or so ago about a shocking map of absolutely horrific things that have been happening in Syria.
I tweeted an irreverent reply. So far I haven’t heard back
Twitter exchange with Jess Hill