French Press Bias in Coverage of Prisoner Swap

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French press coverage did not seek to establish balance its coverage by reporting adequately from the Occupied Palestinian Territories or to express solidarity with Palestinians held in Israeli prisons for decades. (Photo: AFP - Jack Guez)

By: Sabah Ayoub

Published Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gilad Shalit’s name has trended in the French press these days. But the press celebrations of his release went hand in hand with almost no coverage of the 1,027 Palestinians freed, demonstrating a clear political bias.

Since news of the prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel first leaked over a week ago, Gilad Shalit’s case has been well covered by French media outlets. But the celebratory rhetoric surrounding the news seems to have little to do with principled humanitarianism, for the same coverage was not afforded Palestinian prisoners. The unbalanced coverage reflected varying degrees of unprofessionalism and political bias toward the the ‘liberation’ of an Israeli prisoner.

French press coverage did not seek to establish balance in its coverage by reporting adequately from the Occupied Palestinian Territories or to express solidarity with Palestinians held in Israeli prisons for decades. The coverage implied that Shalit was the only prisoner; that only Israelis celebrated the exchange; that only Benjamin Netanyahu deserved congratulations; and that only Shalit’s family was traumatized. They reported 25 June 2006 as the date of detention and that attempts to free Shalit were the only chronology of events relevant to the prisoner exchange, which, for the Palestinian side had likely been ongoing well before Shalit’s capture.

But what about the people on the other side of the deal? What did they win? Who was released in exchange for Shalit? The French press appeared to view these questions as irrelevant, so long as the Israeli soldier was released from Hamas’s grip.

The number of articles and reports, and their headlines and contents, are enough to verify the unprofessional bias in favour of the Israeli side, despite the clear humanitarian dimension for both parties. In two days, 35 articles in four French newspapers were dedicated to the Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit alone. The 1,027 female and male Palestinian prisoners being released from Israeli detention did not arouse the interest of the professionals in those outlets in the French press.

The following is a sample of headlines from French newspapers Le Monde, Libération, Le Figaro, and Le Nouvel Observateur, which they joyously used for the Israeli prisoner’s release: “Hope in Reaching Shalit’s Release,” “The Long-Awaited Freedom,” “Shalit Receives News of His Release,” “Relief following 1,934 Days of Imprisonment,” “Shalit’s Release: First Step Towards Peace,” “Shalit Returns Home Wednesday,” “Shalit Blames His Government for His Late Release,” “Gilad: The Reason for a Miracle,” “Five Years of Waiting,” and “Important Dates in Shalit’s Detention.” Des Infos, a French media outlet, used Hebrew for their headline, “Hatikva (Hope at Last).”

But little was reported on the Palestinian prisoners. Only one article in Le Monde titled “Who are the Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Prisons?” touched on the Palestinian side. Nonetheless, its contents had nothing to do with the exaggerated headline. The article simply listed the numbers of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, without giving any context or other information on the prisoners, except for Marwan Barghouti, whose name was mentioned in passing at the end of the article. Yet one name was mentioned repeatedly at the beginning of the article: Gilad Shalit.

Le Monde said that in the past five years, Shalit enjoyed massive propaganda and international solidarity campaigns calling for his release. “This has made Shalit’s name world famous.” Although Le Monde was conscious of the matter, it still participated in the propaganda campaign.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

Does seem very puzzling, except for one small fact. Shalit is French. He holds dual French/Israeli citizenship.

So you're accusing the French press of being biased in favor of French people.

Shocking.

This is because of the program on israeli ( european ) occupation of Palestine aired on france 2 some days ago. The Zionists are striking back.They always get what they want.

Today the various news reports labeled the prisoners as 'terrorists' and gilad as a 'hero'

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