AUT Professor of Journalism and Director of the Pacific Media Centre, David Robie, recently wrote an article where he lamented the New Zealand media’s coverage of ‘critical issues’. The issues he cited as having been “glossed over” by Kiwi journalists were the Samoan elections, West Papua, East Timor, and the Israel-Palestine conflict.
There was no data provided by Professor Robie – who has been a journalist for more than four decades and educating students for at least three of those – to substantiate his claim.
Professor Robie only referenced problematic and biassed sources, such as Malcolm Evans, who may be a ‘National award-winning cartoonist’, but publishes antisemitic imagery in a column in the Daily Blog, a site that regularly publishes screeds of antisemitic material. Robie also referenced Hanan Ashrawi’s comments in the Middle East Eye, an organisation linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Ashrawi was the first woman member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and is an apologist for terror.
In order to see what quantum of column inches were devoted to the issues, we did a search of New Zealand news outlets for each of the four issues in PressReader over the past month (from 08 June 2021). A search of “Samoa AND election” returned 124 results; a search for “‘West Papua'” returned 14 results; “‘East Timor'” returned 14 results also; and “Israel OR Palestine” returned 752 results.
New Zealand Friends of Israel analysed the coverage of the recent Hamas-Israel war by Stuff and found they published 38 articles between 11 May and 23 May (an average of almost 3 articles per day). They also found that only two of the headlines mentioned Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket attacks.
The Israel Institute of New Zealand also did an analysis of letters to the editor and op-eds published in 2020 by New Zealand media on the Arab-Israeli conflict. There were 51 published (almost one every week) and 65% were anti-Israel.
It is surprising, given this evidence, that an academic journalist could argue that the New Zealand media were all but ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or that the reporting was biased in favour of Israel.
Professor Robie may have a point about the lack of reporting on West Papua and East Timor – an average of one article every two days over the past month across all New Zealand media is not that much. But it takes a certain ignorance to suggest the same for the Samoan election, with almost 4 articles published per day over the past month; or the Arab-Israeli conflict, that had 25 articles per day written on it.
And, further, to suggest that the New Zealand media reportage of the Arab-Israeli conflict was “very unbalanced in favour of the oppressor” either ignores the reality of what was printed or is an unintended admission that Hamas is, if anyone, the real oppressor in the conflict.
Whatever the reason, Professor Robie partly answers his own question by devoting so much of his article to the Arab-Israel conflict, himself. He is apparently clouded by the same bias that is evident in the wider media landscape.
If this is the standard of those in charge of teaching our journalists, it is small wonder trust in the media in New Zealand is at an all-time low.