As if to prove my point about the overlap between political activism and an ostensibly independent media (‘Boat People’, 30 June, 2015), we now have the story of a pair of Maori TV journalists, Ruwani Perera and Jacob Bryant, turning up on a protest boat in the Mediterranean. Ostensibly, they are there to report but, in fact, they are part of an elaborate propaganda effort promoted by Kiaora Gaza, through Maori TV’s Native Affairs.
As it happened, the story was already out, before the event was over. As recounted by Martyn Bradbury on his DailyBlog the ‘peace flotilla’ (actually reduced to one vessel by the end; three of the four having turned back) is ‘trying to break the violent and brutal blockade of Gaza’, and protest at a ‘great cultural genocide’.
Native Affairs, on the following day, offered a discussion of the issue, beginning with an interview with Roger Fowler of Kiaora Gaza. Certainly he said, the protestors ‘could expect to be detained and their equipment would be stolen’. Not only that, they might actually be harmed by Israeli security personnel (they had done it before) and this was, ‘because of their barbarity and bellicose nature’. There was also reference to a comment made by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to the effect that if the issue was atrocity and massacre, there were more obvious targets for protest nearby. Mr Netanyahu seems to have been referring to Syria, where, between them, the Government and the various Muslim extremist organisations (including ISIS) have killed tens of thousands of men, women and children. Mr Fowler dismissed this as a ‘sick joke’.
There was also a panel of four to discuss the matter. The first to speak was Mateiria Turei, who broadly concurred with what had gone before and particularly asserted that ‘the Israeli blockade was designed to keep medical resources from the people of Gaza’. This, of course goes with the peace flotilla claim that they were bringing humanitarian supplies. Twenty-four hours later we now have photographic evidence on the matter. The cargo of the Marianne included two paper parcels. One (the smaller) was a nebulizer for inhaling medication. The other was a single solar panel. And that was it. Perhaps the reporters from Native Affairs will report about this, as well as about how they were treated by Israeli authorities. They, or their employers, might even tell us how much this venture into international activism cost.
Also on the panel was Winston Peters, who said that he was, ‘insufficiently briefed’ (and not much else). This was an astonishing comment from a former Foreign Minister. He might, at least, have provided some background/context for the Gaza situation, which could have included the voluntary hand-over by Israel to Palestinians of the Gaza strip as a gesture of conciliation, and the subsequent take-over of the territory by Hamas: a movement which is dedicated to the destruction of the Israeli state and the killing of Jews (it is in their charter). He might even have mentioned the recent conflict between Gaza and Israel, which began with volleys of missiles from Gaza towards Israel. Whatever else might be said about the situation, it surely explains why Israel might be keen to control what goes into that territory.
For the sake of completeness, I ought to add that Te Ururoa Flavel, Minister of Maori Affairs, also lent his presence to the charade (perhaps because he was ultimately paying for it; or is it us?). Nanaia Mahuta completed the panel. She was concerned about the safety of the reporter and the cameraman and urged the New Zealand Government to become involved.
What was glaringly obvious was that there was no intention to provide context or balance to the discussion. The purpose was rather to reinforce prejudices and, perhaps sway the gullible. Is this what we want from our public media? I have written about this before, particularly in relation to Radio New Zealand (‘Public Service and Public Propaganda’, 31 August 2011). This was just another egregious example. Journalists, and the producers concerned, do not seem to recognise that they have an obligation to the public. Arguably, this is particularly so if they are actually financed by that public. Given this, perhaps it is time that that public (through its representatives) made an effort to insist!