Hezbollah won a propaganda victory in last summer’s war with Israel by its strict and undemocratic control of the media, a report concluded.The paper, released by Marvin Kalb and Carol Saivetz through the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, asserted that the media became “a weapon of modern warfare” in the asymmetrical conflict. They wrote it “shows how an open society, Israel, is victimized by its own openness and how a closed sect, Hezbollah, can retain almost total control of the daily message of journalism and propaganda.” Reporters were given open access in Israel but only very choreographed access within Lebanon.”Hezbollah provided only limited access to the battlefield, full access to an occasional guided tour and encouraged visiting journalists to check its own television network, Al-Manar, for reports and information about the war,” the report said. “Al-Manar was to Hezbollah what Pravda was to the Soviet Union.” This resulted in the media’s portrayal of Israel as the aggressor, despite the fact that the war had been sparked by Hezbollah’s deadly July 12 raid, and constant depiction of Israel’s attacks as disproportionate. The authors wrote that the media’s increased coverage of “movement of troops and the rocketing of villages,” albeit unintentionally, “also became an extremely valuable intelligence asset for both Israel and Hezbollah, and Hezbollah especially exploited it.” They especially cited “UNIFIL’s gift” to the terrorist group when it posted detailed Israeli military movements online for public access. Bloggers on both sides of the war had a negative and “overwhelming” effect on reporting, creating “nonstop pressure on journalists to look over their shoulders – to conform either to extremes on both sides or to stick to the middle of public opinion,” the authors wrote. “If ‘disproportionality’ was the theme of the day, most reporters would try to do stories supporting or rejecting the theme but always keeping it in play. It was easier and safer to be in step with the public than to be walking into the wind.”
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