Guardian under fire over Gaza war reports

By Marcus Dysch, August 6, 2009

The Guardian has clashed with a leading media monitoring group over its investigation into reports of war crime allegations during the conflicts in Gaza and Sri Lanka.

Just Journalism analysed five broadsheet newspapers’ reports of fighting between the IDF and Hamas, and between Sri Lankan government forces and Tamil Tiger separatists.

It found that the issue of whether war crimes had been committed was raised against Israel at “an emphatically higher rate” than against Sri Lanka.

It said that the Guardian had reported allegations against the IDF substantially more often than against Sri Lanka.

But a spokeswoman for the Guardian questioned Just Journalism’s methods in conducting the research.

She said: “We were not approached by Just Journalism and remain unaware of their terms of reference and methodology, so are unable to say if their findings are accurate.

“Ever since the Guardian’s inception in 1821 we have approached reporting on any matter, including conflict, in a way which is fair and consistent.”

Rafael Broch, Just Journalism’s director of strategy, said: “In the case of the Guardian, war crimes allegations were addressed in relation to Israel nearly three times as often.

“We sent the briefing to the editor of the Guardian’s Comment is Free website within 48 hours of it being published.

“Just Journalism contacted numerous journalists with this briefing, and we always seek to involve them in the discussion about the trends we identify.”

He said the newspapers investigated — The Times, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times and the Guardian — had been sent the report’s findings after it was published.

After analysing 129 editions of each newspaper, Just Journalism found that the media had been quick to address possible war crimes in Gaza, with references appearing just a week into the Middle East conflict. With Sri Lanka, such claims did not appear in print for a month.

A report from Human Rights Watch, a leading NGO, on reported attacks by Sri Lankan forces that caused high civilian casualties, was largely ignored, the group said, while similar NGO investigations into the IDF sparked a “surge” of articles.

By the end of the five-month period in question, there had been twice as many articles about war crimes associated with Israel than with Sri Lanka.

The report noted: “The Independent implicated Israel (22 articles) almost four times as often as Sri Lanka (6). Only The Times bucked the trend, publishing a third more articles associating war crimes with Sri Lanka (19) than with Israel (14).”

The four other newspapers declined to comment.

To read the full report, go to:

Last updated: 2:25pm, August 6 2009