Authenticity and Impartiality

Monday, February 14, 2011

The role of cyberspace, social networks and cell phones in mobilizing people has only just begun.

But it’s true that just as they enable all citizens to join together and express themselves freely, the “powers” can use new communications technologies to control, threaten and dissuade.

The echo of social networking pages is even greater when the press or audiovisual media use them as news sources.

Distance, peaceful rebellion may be the key for the “fermentation” of strong, well-organized non-violent popular action.

While the western powers looked the other way, as is customary, in Tunisia there has been a profound movement among the people who –precisely due to improved education- could no longer bear the corruption that tarnished the regime, especially given the President’s wife’s present saga.

Protests are successful because there are motives, because –in the words of the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- citizens can be “compelled to rebellion”. If there are no circumstances to motivate and prompt reactions, without having to wait for a “tsunami”, which always involves suffering and negative effects, attempting to elicit a response from society at the wrong moment can be counter-productive and the targeted governments may capitalize on any failure and take regulatory, logistical and propaganda measures to later hinder the capacity for awareness and commitment that come with freedom of expression.

We have to become “indignant” at the right time and stay alert, to guarantee the effectiveness of the communications media, which in a very few years will overthrow authoritarian systems and consolidate genuine democracy.

It is also essential –as I have previously insisted*- to confirm the veracity of information provided by Wikileaks and other information sources. We need to know the truth, and all of the truth, because it is suspicious, for example, that practically none of the information leaked refers to Israel, and when it exceptionally does, it has been to denigrate the Palestinians, ridiculing their “offers” in the peace process, which can further aggravate internal divisions …

The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abbas had announced that in September of this year, on the 20th anniversary of the initiation of the peace process with Israeli negotiators who, with the exception of Yitzhak Rabin, have always prevented them from concluding successfully, he would declare the Palestinian State, with the support of President Obama. Abbas’ position was weakened by leaks, although their veracity has never been demonstrated. “The Guardian” was the newspaper that “selected” these news items, describing them as “verified”.

And we must ask, are the aforementioned references a part of Wikileaks or are they a part of the selection made by the communications media that published them?

Rigor can be demanded. Because, if not, what might be an essential element of the “new beginning” that we all desire, could be used to the advantage of the great powers.

Rigor, verification: I was also impressed with the bias shown in the press with the recent publication of Human Rights Watch’s Report, particularly with respect to Guantanamo. The European Union was harshly criticized for its “soft” touch with the world’s dictators (the reference was principally to Ben Ali, the deposed President of Tunisia). China was treated with “almost universal cowardice”… I would also like to read a condemnation of the deadly invasion of Gaza in “Operation Cast Lead” about which, according to Wikileaks, the Palestinian leader had already been informed by the Tel Aviv government!