Former BBC news journalist Mahmoud A. Ibrahim says journalists with a conscience working in the mainstream media should either speak up loudly about Israeli crimes against Palestinians or resign in protest rather than being a bullet in the gun of the Israeli propaganda machine.
The world is witnessing another phase of ethnic cleansing and mass killings of Palestinians in this current war on Gaza, which international media is deceitfully calling a “conflict.”
More than 4,500 Palestinians have been killed (not “died”) at the time of this message; 70% of them are babies, children, women and elderly, and more than 60% of the population of the Gaza Strip has been displaced.
So mainstream media journalists, who have huge power when it comes to shaping opinion, must do one of two things:
Firstly, they must journalistically resist the deceitful narrative which equates the colonialist oppressors’ powers with the oppressed colonised people.
This can be done in various ways – in the field, inside the newsroom, on air, in editorial meetings, via emails, in your terminologies, via the choice of words, images and footages, your sources, or in explaining the context and the history of the occupation and the suffering of families under the apartheid regime.
The second option is simply to leave. For example, if you have tried hard and failed and you cannot make even 1% change, if you are silenced, if you are pressured to become complicit in twisting the truth, if you have been marginalised to become just a number, a journalist with no contribution towards correcting the narrative, then you need to think seriously about your career choices.
Do not become a bullet in the machine gun of the mainstream media which can manufacture the public’s consent in supporting massacres.
Remember, you are a journalist with a mission to convey the truth and stand up for justice, not a tool in the occupiers’ army propaganda machine. And you can also be a tool by your shameful silence at a time when you need to speak up.
I have never regretted leaving the BBC after their coverage of the 2014 war on Gaza, when 551 children and 299 women were murdered. According to UNRWA, the scale of human loss, devastation and displacement during that assault was catastrophic and unparalleled since 1967.
People have forgotten that massacre as they have forgotten others, but Palestinians who are living with its aftermath can never forget.
Fast forward to 2023 and the so-called international community is giving the green light to another neo-colonial project accompanied with war crimes in Palestine. And the dehumanisation of Palestinians in media discourse and political rhetoric doesn’t only impact their lives but it intersects with the Islamophobic and neo-orientalist discourse about Arabs and Muslims worldwide, which demonises them and leads to a spike in hate crimes.
So for journalists to make a change, they need to decolonise their mind-sets first.
Mahmoud A. Ibrahim is a journalist, news producer and PhD researcher at the University of London.