Gaza flotilla: A humanitarian mission or PR?

Watch the video at Al Jazeera English

Gaza Freedom Flotilla: a humanitarian mission or political PR? And MEMRI – the media source shaping the view of the Arab world in the US.

Even before the boats of Freedom Flotilla II set sail for Gaza, the PR and media machine was rumbling. The flotilla is as much a media effort as it is an aid mission. Pro-Palestinian activists have been using the second flotilla journey to bring Gaza back into the media spotlight.

When activists set out last year on the same journey, an Israeli military attack killed nine people on board one of the ships and Israel was internationally condemned. This time around, Israel has been trying to control the story even before the ships have set off. In our News Divide this week we look at how successful both camps have been in getting their stories covered in the media and Israel’s PR strategy in containing this story.

In the News Bytes: Syrian authorities allow foreign journalists back into the country; six months after the fall of President Ben Ali, Tunisia has yet to deliver on its media reform promises; a Chinese investigative reporter has his jail sentence extended; and Google reveals that the US government asks for private user information more than any other country.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an organisation set up in the US that specialises in providing translations of Arabic-language broadcasts. It has become a useful tool for many a journalist covering the Middle East with a limited, or in many cases, zero understanding of Arabic. So in its purpose lies its problem.

MEMRI is a source for journalists that do not understand Arabic, but because they do not understand Arabic, they cannot validate the source. When you consider that the source is the brainchild of a former Israeli intelligence officer and has been caught selectively translating Arabic broadcasts that would reflect negatively on the Muslim world, the problem increases ten-fold.

Listening Post‘s Meenakshi Ravi looks at an organisation that is out to influence how the Middle East is seen in the rest of the world’s media.

In an online world, fifteen minutes of fame is just an autotune and remix away. Case in point – a Jamaican relief worker named Clifton Brown. Brown was working to help people across a flooded river when he gave a TV interview. The interview was picked by Jamaica – based DJ Powa who then remixed it, auto-tuned it and stuck it on the web as ‘Nobody Canna Cross it’. Half a million hits later and Brown is negotiating an endorsement deal with a Jamaican mobile phone company. Click here to watch our Internet Video of the Week.


 Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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