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ABC Mini-Encyclopedia

Journalistic Code of Ethics

To International Herald Tribune                           .

Sir,
As the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Code of Ethics requires that journalists "clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct",  I trust you will welcome this letter.  My admiration for IHT's journalistic integrity has been seriously dented by the NEWS item, "Israeli forces kill brother of Palestinian militant". (today Aug. 21, 2002). Let me explain.

The SPJ code requires inter alia that headlines must not misrepresent, nor oversimplify, nor highlight incidents out of context. The aforementioned headline blatantly contravenes this elementary rule in that It misrepresents the events described in the text.  The headline creates the impression that Israeli forces sought out and wantonly killed a Palestinian. A critical reader will however notice the surrounding circumstances, buried inconspicuously in the report, namely that the Israeli military said the Palestinian was shot after he had opened fire and wounded an officer and soldier; a far cry from the impression created by the headline.

As the article purports to be a NEWS item and not commentary, journalistic integrity requires that it report the facts without coloring by journalists' personal preferences. In fact the SPJ code requires journalists to distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. It is therefore particularly galling to observe how carefully words, which reflect the writers' prejudices, have been chosen.  Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which consistently and proudly claim responsibility for massacres of uninvolved school kids, elderly persons and infants and which are widely recognized as terrorist organizations, are described in this NEWS item as "hard-line" groups. Most readers regard hard-liners as people who take an obstinate but non-violent political stand. Few would use this term to describe groups who instigate indiscriminate mass murder..

In view of the overall high standard of the IHT, I hope you will act in accordance with the exhortation in the SPJ code that journalists admit mistakes and correct them promptly

Sincerely
M.O.


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