MediaCentral

Wednesday afternoon I went to the opening of a new media center in Jerusalem called MediaCentral. This is designed to fulfil a need that has been apparent for some time. The large contingent of foreign press in Israel covers most of the Middle East, including the PA, Jordan and Lebanon. They are no doubt safer staying in Israel than in the Arab areas. But, they get little in the way of actual help and support from Israel.
There are now good spokespeople at the IDF and the Foreign Ministry, but the Israeli Government does not provide communications, transportation and other perks for the foreign press, most of whom do not work for large international press agencies, and often do not report in English. The Foreign Ministry does not have the budget to support these activities and are not trusted by many foreign press anyway.
If a journalist wants a car, a photographer or a translator to accompany him in the PA there are offices in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza where he can go to and get this help free. But, even though these offices are supposed to be independent, everyone knows that they are supported by the PA, just as they used to be part of the PLO. There is no such thing as independent news organizations in the Palestinian areas. So with the aid of biased helpers, no wonder much of the reporting is biased against Israel (apart from any inherent bias by the reporters themselves). But on the Israeli side such offices have not existed. Ideally what is needed is an NGO, a truly independent organization that tries to help the foreign press to do their job by providing both services and accurate up-to-date information about Israel. MediaCentral is now that organization.
It does not duplicate what the FM and IDF spokespeople do, because they give the official Govt. view, while MC will give an independent view, with regular briefings by many different groups, as well as the official ones, but also including the settlers groups and the human rights groups. They will also provide contact services for journalists who are in a hurry. For example, their first action was to help a Swedish TV team find an Israel woman who spoke Swedish who could give a view about the Security Fence to counter that given by a Swedish woman who lives in the PA.
They have nice offices, with TVs and computers, and a small library, as well as an informed staff. The person who spoke on behalf of MediaCentral was the Director, Aryeh Green, an old friend from Sharansky days. The FM spokesman Mark Regev and the IDF spokesman also spoke briefly. We also had doughnuts (soufganiyot).
For many years many of us have been critical of the poor PR activity of the Israeli Government. They have always cried lack of funds and often seem to respond too slowly because they present only the official point of view. Now finally others are doing something about it. For further information their web address is www.m-central.org

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