Media Culpa

Were we 15,000 or 60,000 demonstrating for justice and peace in Montreal on August 6?





AFTER each demonstration for justice and peace in the Middle East, we are stunned by the media estimations of the number of demonstrators. They always differ from ours. It usually depends on the orientation and on the political stand of the media outlet, as well as on the general political situation, but it happens all the time with the majority of media. At the July 22 rally in Montreal against the war in Lebanon, no one could dispute the fact that there were more than 7,000 demonstrators, but the media claimed that only a few hundred people participated. Their aim was clearly to minimize the political effect of that rally.

Media should be honest when presenting such important issues to the people
While preparing the last demonstration held on August 6, we, the organizers, were expecting the same distortion. On that occasion, of course, the media had to say that we were thousands instead of just "a few hundred." Things were different because of the huge number of demonstrators. For the first time the media used a number: they said we were 15,000 demonstrators instead of "a few thousand." But we still don't agree. First because this number is way too low. And second because the media claim that the police gave them this number. The police stopped giving the number of demonstrators because of controversy. At the February 2003 rally against the war in Iraq, the biggest demonstration of them all, the police had given a ridiculous number. We proved that there were 250,000 persons in the rally. The actual number was, as it often happens, 10 times higher than the number given by the media. But in order to be reasonable, we will not play their game.

Let us explain the method we used to obtain our number, and let other people try to prove their number if they can.

We taped the live broadcasting of the rally by Radio Canada's "Réseau de l'information" (RDI). We can therefore prove that our method is sound and that our number is correct. Radio Canada stated that the length of the rally was over one kilometer. It was actually 1.4 kilometer long. We applied the same calculation method used by many media sources. Knowing that the density of people in a rally is of around 50 persons per linear meter, we can safely say that 70,000 persons participated. Usually we should not accept the density without a calculation factor, which depends on many elements such as the weather and the type of march. In this rally, a safe number would be 60,000, surely not 15,000.

The rally was not directed against the Jews in Quebec. It was directed against the aggression of Israel, understood as a state not as a religion
One could have thought that the errors made by RDI with numbers were not intentional. But they invited the General Consul of Israel in Montreal to comment on the rally. RDI had never taken such an unethical stand before. Giving the Consul television time to spread his false propaganda showed that the number stated was not an error but a distortion. Then RDI posted on the screen a text indicating that
"There are 100,000 Jewish people in Quebec." What does this data have to do with the demonstration? It was a peace rally, attended by people of all faiths, by all the unions in Quebec, by respectable political parties. The rally was not directed against the Jews in Quebec. It was directed against the aggression of Israel, understood as a state not as a religion. At the rally the demonstrators could see Jewish Rabbis and Muslim Clerics hand in hand under the flags of Lebanon and Palestine. Weheard the Rabbi explain his disapproval of the Israeli aggression. We heard the Lebanese Maronite bishop, speaking on behalf of all the religions existing in Lebanon, against the Israeli aggression. Why then was the number of Jews in Quebec shown on the screen? Why didn't RDI give the other statistics on the population of Quebec: Out of 7 millions Quebecers, there are 150,000 Muslims, there are 250,0000 Arabs, there are 150,000 Lebanese, and so on.

Why didn't RDI give the other statistics on the population of Quebec?
The media did a good job by covering this very important and meaningful rally of all Quebecers against the Israeli aggression, but, as usual, they spoiled their work and its significance by adding distortions and bias to satisfy some interest group. Media should be honest when presenting such important issues to the people. Let us work together for real justice and peace rather than for false propaganda.

We would like to thank the people of Quebec and the media. We hope that they, the media, will correct such stains in the good job they do.

* Mohamed S. Kamel is a Montrealer, an activist, a freelance writer and a member of the August 6, 2006 rally organizing committee.

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