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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lost in Translation Followup: Palestinians reply

Earlier, we posted a PMW expose that described differences between Arabic news stories of the Palestinian Maan news service, and their supposed translation into English.

Some examples:

Ma'an English: "…in the southern Israeli resort of Eilat."
Ma'an Arabic in first reference: "… in Eilat located in the south of occupied Palestine."
Ma'an Arabic in second reference: "…carried out a brave deed and for the first time in occupied Eilat.”

In the English the mother is referred to simply by her name and age: "Ruwaida Siksik, 42."

In Arabic Ma'an adds: " Ruwaida Siksik, 42, whose family originated from the occupied city of Jaffa."

In English: The mother prayed that it may send a message to the fighting brothers in Hamas and Fatah, to stop and direct their weapons against the Israeli occupation.

In Arabic: the mother prayed that Allah will receive her son as a Shahid…

What did the mother really say? Who knows? The indirect quotes change, and the facts change too. Maan replies below that news must be written differently for Arabic speaking and English speaking audiences. Inventing quotes is part of professional journalism according to them, and they are proud of it, because, as they insist:
Our objective has been set from the very beginning: to be a credible, professional and high quality news agency.
Praise be to Allah. Perhaps a new school of linguistics should be opened in order to train people in this needed skill, according to a new lexicon.

In English:
"Palestinians want peace with Israel"
In Arabic:
"Death to the Zionist entity."

In English:
"Peace treaty"
In Arabic:
"Worthless document signed with Jewish sons of apes and dogs."

In English:
"We are pleased to cooperate with our honored European patrons."
In Arabic:
"May Allah rot the bones of the foreign infidel sons of pigs, but may he give us their money first."

Maan notes:

Ma'an's editor-in-chief, Nasser Al-Lahham... ascribed the reason for the
difference between the Arabic and the English versions as being merely
professional rather than political

Our national identity is well-known and publicly declared because we are
proud of that identity and we never conceal it.

And the Europeans of course fund this "professional" lying. One wonders what the European donors have to say about all this, since according to Maan, they can certainly read the original Arabic.

Ami Isseroff

Israeli media watchdog accuses Ma'an of 'sterilizing' their 'hate terminology' in an attempt to please the donors
Date: 28 / 02 / 2007 Time: 16:16
Bethlehem - Ma'an - An Israeli website has published an article in English accusing Ma'an News Agency of using "hate terminology" in their Arabic-language news and then 'sterilizing' the same news as part of the translation process into English.

The website, which is devoted to monitoring Palestinian media (Palestinian Media Watch) claimed that Ma'an uses "hate ideology espoused by the terror organizations" in its Arabic news, while avoiding this incitement when translated into English. PMW claims, "The same stories go through a sterilization process to hide from the English readers - and possibly from the two Western countries, the Netherlands and Denmark, who give them funding - the terrorist ideology Ma'an is helping to propagate."

Two Israeli writers, Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, gave examples to prove their claim, namely with regards to Ma'an's coverage of the bombing operations and in the naming of places which are located within the internationally-recognized borders of Israel, but are also considered to be in pre-1948 historic Palestine.

Ma'an's editor-in-chief, Nasser Al-Lahham responded to the Israeli accusations as saying that several Israeli journalists object to Ma'an, especially the English version which has begun to spread across the world. He ascribed the reason for the difference between the Arabic and the English versions as being merely professional rather than political. There is a difference between editing English and Arabic news, he said, and there is no connection to any wish to conceal any secrets from the Danish and Dutch donors. He also added that the assumption that the donors monitor the English version and neglect the Arabic site is "stupid", since the Danish and Dutch embassies possess the ability to read Arabic-language media.

Lahham added, "Our national identity is well-known and publicly declared because we are proud of that identity and we never conceal it. Our professionalism is acknowledged and distinguished. Ma'an News Agency employs more than 100 journalists, including Muslims, Christians and Jews. Our objective has been set from the very beginning: to be a credible, professional and high quality news agency."

Lahham added that he does not give political directions to the department heads, including the English desk, regarding what they should and should not publish.

When Ma'an was established at the beginning of 2005, Ma'an News Agency hosted media experts from all over the world, including Israel, in order to discuss the terminology. Among the guests were the Israeli journalists, Miron Ropot and Zvika Yehezkely, along with dozens of media professors from Britain, Iran, Europe and the United States. All agreed that each language has its own terminology and special meanings, and that Ma'an will not stop using terms such as "martyr", "resistance" and equivalent terms, in Arabic.

Philippa N., chief English editor, said: "We have never tried to hide the fact that we cater to a different audience and therefore need to employ a different language. The most important thing for us is to deliver the facts and to portray the full extent of the harsh reality of life for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, without causing incitement. The coverage is more important than the language. In regards to our choice of terminology, we aim to stick as close as possible to UN-accepted terms, while maintaining our Palestinian perspective."

An English news editor, Rashid Shahin, believes that what the Israeli website carried out was just an attempt at "opinion terrorism." He added, "The Israeli website has criticized almost every Arab media outlet. They seem to want to force Ma'an and others to reflect the Israeli point of view. They are indirectly asking the Palestinians and their media to view what is going on in the Palestinian territories through Israeli eyes and to choose terminology that matches the Israeli mood and mind and reflects their own vision about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict."

In regards to the captions of the images used by Ma'an News Agency, Ma'an's chief photographer, Magnus Johansson, said: "MaanImages is following international standards when it comes to the captions for the pictures. Since we supply images to more than 40 agencies around the world, we can't have incitement in the caption. This would immediately force a response from our clients. The caption is there to describe what is in the picture (who, what, why, where and when) without any personal comments or values. For MaanImages the quality of the pictures is the most important thing and it must reflect what was happening on the spot. It is then up to the viewer to make their own judgments on the event."

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