Israeli photojournalist fights for balanced media coverage

Mark Haymond

Noam Bedien sees himself as a warrior.

Monday night he brought his war to Kent State.

In a presentation sponsored by Hillel, Bedien, a 28-year-old photojournalist from Israel, was fighting for a balanced view of the reality along Israel’s border with Gaza. A crowd of about 80 people was on hand for the speech at Bowman Hall.

Bedien is the director of the Sderot Media Center in Israel. They seek to publicize the plight of Israeli citizens who live under the threat of rocket fire from across the border in Gaza. Sderot is a town less than a mile from Gaza, a disputed territory which is controlled by Hamas, an Islamic group considered a terrorist organization by the American government.

“It leads if it bleeds, only when there is blood does the media take notice,” Bedien said. He believes that the media only covers stories that can be accompanied by graphic or sensational images.

Bedien believes that the people of Sderot and other places under threat of rocket attacks in Israel don’t get equal coverage as those injured or killed in Gaza.

“When you have these images (of the maimed or killed in Gaza) versus psychological warfare, you can see why the Palestinians get more coverage.”

Bedien’s weapons of choice for his media war are photographs and videos of those who live in what he calls the “rocket reality.” The citizens of Sderot have 15 seconds from when the rocket sirens sound until the rockets land.

In one video, children and teachers sprint for a bomb shelter. Once inside, the children count down to the time of impact and sing when they reach zero. Bedien says the singing is meant to drown out the possible sound of explosions.

On the day of the speech, six mortars were fired towards Sderot or the Negev desert, according to Bedien.

Over 70 percent of the children in Sderot show signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and tranquilizers have become a regular part of most kids’ diets, Bedien says.

Sderot is the bomb shelter capital of the world, according to the SMC, and its citizens are the first in the 21st century to be targeted by rocket fire. The city is entering its 10th year of being targeted by rocket attacks. According to the SMC, 3,200 rockets had been fired by 2008, sometimes at a rate of 60 a day.

The vast majority of the attacks from Gaza are launched from civilian centers, with some coming from mosques, according to Bedien. The rockets, which can be built from locally salvaged materials like sewer pipes, are often painted by the groups who launch them as a kind of calling card.

Towards the end of the presentation, Bedien passed around two pieces of detonated rockets. As they made their way around the room they were Bedien’s final weapons in his war for balanced media coverage.

Bedien has spoken in front of various governments around the world, as well as the United Nations.

Contact reporter Mark Haymond at [email protected].