The news from last week that President Sarkozy called Prime Minister Netanyahu a liar to President Obama, and that Mr. Obama, rather than defending Mr. Netanyahu, complained about having to deal with him every day, is finally seeping out this morning. But as newsworthy as the insight it provides into international politics is the insight it provides into what might be called the media-political industrial complex. From the Reuters dispatch:
The conversation was not initially reported by the small group of journalists who overheard it because it was considered private and off-the-record.
From a report in Israel's Yedioth Achronot:
The surprising lack of coverage may be explained by a report alleging that journalists present at the event were requested to sign an agreement to keep mum on the embarrassing comments. A Reuters reporter was among the journalists present and can confirm the veracity of the comments.
A member of the media confirmed Monday that "there were discussions between journalists and they agreed not to publish the comments due to the sensitivity of the issue."
He added that while it was annoying to have to refrain from publishing the information, the journalists are subject to precise rules of conduct.
This raises a series of questions. What were these "rules of conduct" that the journalists agreed to or this "agreement" that they were asked to sign? Who were the journalists who agreed to keep the comments by the politicians out of the news? And wouldn't it be nice, as a reader, to know about all this? I'd like to see at the bottom of every dispatch filed from the G20 a disclosure — "In order to attend this event, I had to sign a contract with the government that said I agreed to X, Y, and Z. A link to a copy of the agreement is here. And by the way, some newsworthy things could have happened that I didn't report in the article because I signed an agreement with the politicians to keep them quiet."
The Associated Press has more:
Several French-speaking journalists, including one from The Associated Press, overheard the comments but did not initially report them because Sarkozy's office had asked the journalists not to turn on the headsets until the press conference began, and the comments were deemed private under French media traditions.
Ah, those French media traditions. The AP doesn't name the name of its reporter who overheard the comments but didn't report them.