Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Mote and beam

It was with growing incredulity that I read a piece in that august journal, the Lebanon Daily Star about how an EU team has been set up to monitor media fairness in the forthcoming elections there.

Its "mission", we are told, is "to assess impartiality during election coverage", making sure that the media stands accountable

"All forms of media will be monitored to check if all the candidates running in the elections get equal access to the media," said a media expert, who preferred to remain nameless, from the EU Election Observation Mission team.

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) was sent to Lebanon to observe the general elections and carry out a comprehensive analysis of the electoral process and then offer an impartial, balanced and informed assessment of the elections.

In order to conduct this mission thoroughly, one segment of the EOM is solely devoted to monitoring the media coverage of the elections. "We are not here to critique or judge what is being said, we are here to assess and note everything down and hand in a complete report at the end of the elections," said the media expert.

He also mentioned that a team of six Lebanese media monitors trained in quantitative and qualitative methodology would measure the time, space and tone devoted to the political parties and candidates in a cross-section of the Lebanese national media.

In other words, the tone of the political candidates or parties about themselves or others is not what is being monitored, but rather "the manner" in which the media provides them with a platform.

If, for example, a journalist asks a critical question, the program will not necessarily be rated as one of negative content, as it is the journalist's job to ask candidates difficult questions. However, should the tone of the journalist's questions be "monotonously critical" or "insulting," then the interview could be considered "negative."

I suspect Paxo wouldn't pass muster if he was given the EOM treatment, but one just can't help wondering how that EU can have the nerve to set itself up as a monitor of media impartiality when virtually every member state holding a referendum is attempting to rig the media to ensure a "yes" vote for the EU constitution.

Perhaps when the Lebanese have finished their elections, they could send their own observers over here, to have a look at the BBC.

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