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July 05, 2015

Who Knows How to Correct? Al Jazeera or The Jerusalem Post?

This year, two prominent Middle Eastern media outlets -- Al Jazeera and The Jerusalem Post -- each published a completely bogus story about Israel.

In February, one of them published an article which falsely claimed that Israel flooded the Gaza Strip by opening a dam in southern Israel. The headline was "Gazans flee floods caused by Israel's dams opening," and was followed by the subheading: "Palestinians were evacuated from their homes after Israeli authorities opened a number of dams flooding the Gaza Valley."

After CAMERA contacted that media outlet pointing out that Israel has no dams in the south which could be opened, editors commendably entirely retracted the article and ran the following editor's note:

Article retracted, 25/2/2015.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this page hosted an article which stated that Israel had, without warning, opened a number of dams, which had resulted in a part of Gaza being flooded.

This was false.

In southern Israel, there are no dams of the type which can be opened.

We apologise for this error.

[This media outlet] depends on objective reporting and strives to correct all errors of fact. We are committed to accountability and transparency.

We encourage our audience and others to identify and report our mistakes.

On Friday, an article in a second Middle Eastern media outlet falsely claimed that a Saudi prince launched an unprecedented peace-making initiative vis-à-vis Israel including plans for a groundbreaking visit to the Jewish state.

The article had stated:

In an unprecedented overture, Saudi Arabian prince and wealthy media tycoon Talal Bin Waleed announced Thursday that he is planning a seven-day-trip to the Jewish State and urged all the Arab nations in the region to "strive for a more peaceful, prosperous and homogenous Middle East," according to Saudi Arabian news media.

"All my Muslim brothers and sisters must understand that it became a moral imperative for all inhabitants of war-torn Middle-East, namely Arabs, to desist their absurd hostility toward Jewish people," Okaz reported the prince saying, an Arabic-language Saudi news agency.

"My sovereign, King Salman has instructed me to open a direct dialogue with Israel's intellectual (community), building amicable ties with our Israeli neighbors," Bin Waleed added.

The Saudi prince said that he plans to pray at the Al-Aksa mosque located on top of the Temple Mount when he visits Jerusalem's old city, the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest site in Islam.

When editors learned this was a hoax, did they publish a retraction and apologize, as had the first media outlet? No. Instead, without notifying readers of any change, editors replaced the original article with a different article headlined: "False online rumors suggest Saudi prince to visit Israel."

The replacement article began:

In an apparent hoax, unsubstantiated reports claimed Thursday that Saudi Arabian prince and wealthy media tycoon Talal Bin Waleed was planning a seven-day-trip to the Jewish State.

At no point did the media outlet in question acknowledge that it itself was one of the purveyors of the hoax. Furthermore, within a few hours, editors today ultimately pulled that article as well, so that those who return to that url receive an error message.

So which media outlet, Al Jazeera or The Jerusalem Post, forthrightly notified readers of its gross error and forthrightly apologized, exhibiting professional transparency and accountability? Which media outlet, on the other hand, shirked its journalistic responsibility to set the record straight? Read on for the answer.

It was Al Jazeera which reported, and then subsequently, fully retracted the "flood libel" story.

Al Jazeera flood retraction.JPG

The Jerusalem Post, on the other hand, initially issued stealth changes to its article, not acknowledging that The Post itself has published the bogus story about the Saudi prince as fact:

jpost Saudi hoax.JPG

As of this writing, Post editors pulled that story as well, and readers who look up the url in question get the following:

Jpost saudi error.JPG

Error indeed. It looks like The Post could learn a thing or two from Al Jazeera about how to correct an error. Post editors would also do well to look towards a more local source, Israel's Haaretz, which in recent years has demonstrated that corrections are a routine element of journalism as well as an essential means of setting the record straight while maintaining accountability to its readers.

Posted by TS at July 5, 2015 03:23 AM


JPost could also learn from al-jazeera how to engineer a web page that doesn't keep refreshing when you are halfway through the - fake or otherwise - article!!

Posted by: fcallen at July 6, 2015 06:41 AM

Be more accurate and not so sensational.

Posted by: Eugene Wolkow at July 9, 2015 02:51 PM

We are quickly becoming disabused of the notion that The Jerusalem Post is run by fair-minded and objective editors. We are further dismayed that many of its articles are or appear to be reprints of slanted articles by Reuters, the AFP, and/or other less-than-objective sources. As a blogger above has pointed out it is somewhat distressing to have a page continually refresh when you're in the middle of reading, or replying, to an article. As for the editors not correcting an obvious factual error, as a journalist of 40-plus years I am appalled. Loss of credibility is one thing that is almost impossible to regain.

Posted by: Barry Goldberg at July 9, 2015 11:01 PM

I have appealed to the staff and editors of the JPost numerous times to correct a number of very irritating problems, including the automatic refresh, which, in addition to being very annoying, destroys the comment in the process of writing when the refresh happens. But they simply couldn't care less. Eventually, I stopped bothering to read JPost and now read TimesOfIsrael and Algemeiner instead. JPost is a black hole with no echo. Hopefully, competition will either make them shape up or go out of business altogether.

Posted by: Seva Brodsky at July 13, 2015 04:37 PM

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