Prejudicial Treatment of Women Even in Charlie Hebdo Coverage

As the world was trying to come to grips with the massacre of the writers/cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, ultra-Orthodox Israeli newspaper HaMevaser chose to run a photograph of the Paris “Unity” march of world leaders by removing the women who were in the front lines: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga were some of the prominent women removed.

In reporting the story, The New York Times said “Ultra-Orthodox publications generally avoid pictures of women for reasons of modesty, and their intended audience has been known to scratch women’s faces out of bus advertisements and to ban them from running for public office…”

Shouldn’t HaMevaser readers be particularly sensitive to such discriminatory practices?


“Faulty Memory” Bad News for a Reporter

NBC Nightly News anchorman Brian Williams was suspended without pay for six months in February 2015 after reporting falsely that his helicopter was hit by enemy fire as he was covering the 2003 Iraq war. Apparently he was in another helicopter an hour behind the one that was hit. Veterans had questioned Williams’ account for years, but public reaction this time was unyielding.

Williams told Stars and Stripes he did not know “what screwed up in my mind” that “caused me to conflate one aircraft (with) the other.” He said that was his first war engagement and “we were all I think—scared” and “it all became a fog…” He said he could not have been in “a more foreign environment. All we knew is we had been fired upon.”

Although professional journalists presumably are unwaveringly committed to accuracy, there can be little doubt that the “fog of war” can cause misrecollection, uncertainty and misunderstanding. But how is it possible that Williams could not hear, for 12 years, the corrective voices of the veterans who were with him? Of course, after his suspension, he now should have time to think about it.


Not True: No-go Zones

Fox News apologized January 17 for allowing its anchors and their guests to make “some regrettable errors on air regarding the Muslin population in Europe, particularly with regard to England and France.” The apology said the network regretted using references to “no-go zones, areas where non-Muslims allegedly are not allowed in and police supposedly won’t go.” “To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country and no credible information to support the assertion that there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion,” the apology said.

The apology followed a series of reports and discussions by alleged experts about Islam who made such claims as: the existence of areas where “Shariah courts were set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don’t go in, and where it’s basically a separate country almost, a country within a country,” using The New York Times’ reports.

Fox’s Sean Hannity even told his audience that no-go zones “means no non-Muslims, no police, no fire, their own court system. So basically these countries have allowed Muslims to take over parts of their country, entire portions, towns.”

When local journalists in those countries tested the claims and failed to substantiate them, the “experts” and eventually the network backtracked. In fact, one of these pundits later admitted his research was “sloppy” and not “fact checked.”

We report, you decide.


No More Pun and Games in China

Normally, it’s the French who fight for the purity and dignity of their language, but recently the Chinese are giving them a run for their euros. The Chinese State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television ordered “Radio and television authorities at all levels” to “tighten up their regulations and crack down on the irregular and inaccurate use of the Chinese language, especially the misuse of idioms.” The order said “Idioms are one of the great features of the Chinese language and contain profound cultural heritage and historical resources and great aesthetic, ideological and moral values.”

Turns out the authorities were fed up with wordplays that were made at the expense of Chinese authorities.

It all took special urgency last fall when clever language manipulations made reference to China’s leader Xi Jinpin and his wife Peng Liyuan. This is how The Atlantic describes the incident:

At a celebration earlier this year of Teachers’ Day in China, Xi picked up the term of affection “Daddy Xi.” Last week, an ode to the president and first lady—“Daddy Xi loves Mama Peng”-- extended the filial reverence to Peng. The first character in “daddy” is 大 , pronounced “da.” The first in “mama” is 媽 , pronounced “ma.” Combining those two, you get “dama.” That is a homonym for 大麻 , “marijuana.”

The government reacted with an official request for “standard usage” of the language and the need for more “harmony,” often a euphemistic reference to reining people in, The Atlantic said.

So it’s single meanings from now for PRC journalists. Clear?


  • This column is a regular feature in Media Ethics magazine. Readers with verifiable contributions for future issues (all subject to editing), or comments on the entries chosen for this issue, should send them to Manny Paraschos, c/o Media Ethics.