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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Lies, damned lies and statistics

As some of you may have noticed, I have been a bit behind the last couple of days. That's been due to Pesach preparations and work. But here's a story I don't think you should miss.

The Columbia Journalism Review published the statistics above as part of an article by one Justin Martin. Martin, a Journalism professor, has a history of bias against Israel.

And his statistics are misleading, says Elder of Ziyon.
Sounds damning, right?

Except that it is a meaningless statistic. The size of the country's population has nothing to do with how many journalists are in the country. Israel has far more journalists than most countries that are much larger, because there is such intense interest in Israel. Moreover, Israel is liberal in allowing journalists to have access to the nation, as opposed to, say, practically every other nation in the Middle East.

If you want to see which nations jail the most reporters per-something, you must compare it to the total number of reporters - not the total population of the nation. To restate the question - if you are a reporter in Country X, what are the odds that you will be arrested? Comparing the number of jailed journalists to the total population of the nation doesn't tell you anything meaningful.
Moreover, at least one number on that list - Turkey's - is downright wrong. A year ago, Turkey had already arrested 34 journalists (including 10 in one day), and it is now up to 97 - not 8. Here's Omri Ceren at Contentions:
(1) The CPJ numbers are straightforwardly wrong. They have eight journalists listed for Turkey, which is off by more than 1000%. Even where the numbers might have been right in the past they’re obviously wrong now. Martin writes that the Palestinian Authority jails “zero” journalists, which wasn’t true as of last month or last week or even Sunday.


(3) Any comparison between Israel and totalitarian regimes is morally vacuous. Israel is one of the few places in the world where journalists “go native” during wartime and start actively aiding one side. When they’re caught, they’re given an open trial guided by the rule of law. Even CPJ notes that one of the journalists was detained by Israel due to “terrorist activity.” To compare that to what happens in Iran is simply untenable.

Martin tips his hand when he compares Israel to Palestinian groups, noting that “Israel jails more journalists than… [the] militant group Hamas (three).” That’s the only place where he uses absolute numbers rather than his per capita statistic. Had he been consistent, he would have had to acknowledge that Hamas’s three imprisoned journalists divided by Gaza’s 1.5 million people swamps the Israeli per capita number.
And unfortunately, at least one 'real journalist' fell for Martin's trap.




At 5:46 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

The new NYT bureau chief retweeted that article. Ugh. Columbia Journo School got blasted in their comments. One of the commenters said that (I think) 3 of the "Israeli" journalism arrests are in Gaza? Then who did the arresting? Hamas? Or the IDF for protective custody or to prevent them from operating as human shields? This would be a joke, but Columbia and the NYT have gone so far off the rails of normal planetary living that they are a menace.

At 6:19 PM, Blogger great unknown said...

There's a reason many of those countries don't arrest offending journalists: they kill them instead. Cheaper, more effective, and they don't show up in Journo School statistics.


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