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January 12, 2009

Update on Questionable CNN/Channel 4 Video

In response to increased skepticism and questioning by bloggers about Ashraf Masharawi's video of his younger brother's death and burial, CNN has responded with a defensive article. Although it is headlined "Gaza video genuine, journalists say", it turns out it is only one journalist who "says", and that journalist is, according to the article, "the team's employer"--Paul Martin.

The only "proof of authenticity" that Martin attempts to bring is that he knows and trusts Ashraf:

He's a man of enormous integrity and would never get involved with any sort of manipulation of images, let alone when the person dying is his own brother," Martin said. "I know the whole family. I know them very well. ... [Mashharawi] is upset and angry that anyone would think of him having done anything like this. ... This is ridiculous. He's independent.

Martin gives no explanation as to why the film was introduced as having been "captured on film by [Ashraf]" when Ashraf himself is featured in the scenes. He does not attampt to explain how another cameraman so conveniently happened to be on the scene with his equipment in order to film Ashraf finding his younger brother, burying him, showing roof damage, etc. Nor does he attempt to explain how Ashraf, in his time of grief, took the time to edit the tape and to create a cohesive storyline.There is no attempt to explain the lack of correlation between the damage shown on the roof and that which a "missile" would make.

Here is Martin's attempt to explain the obviously staged resucitation scene run by Norwegian emergency room specialist Mads Gilbert in the hospital.

Responding to accusations that the resuscitation efforts of Mashharawi's brother appeared inauthentic, Martin said that, based on his years of reporting from Gaza, doctors often go through such efforts even with little hope that a patient can be saved.

While doctors might continue to give CPR for several more minutes even after they believe there is no hope, in this scene there clearly are no "efforts" being made to resucitate the child. Does Martin mean to suggest that because the doctors gave up on the patient, they decided to pretend to be doing CPR for the sake of the camera? Isn't that unethical?

If a 12-year-old boy lost his life as a result of being sent to play on the roof during an aerial bombardment, it is even further testimony to the cynical use of children during wartime. If a dead child's corpse is being used as a prop in a re-enacted scene, it is disgraceful. The lack of disclosure and misrepresentation of the video by CNN and Channel 4 violates journalistic ethics, making these news organizations party to the cynical use of children as pawns in Hamas' propaganda campaign.

Posted by RH at January 12, 2009 01:14 PM


I see that CAMERA is not informed. Maybe you could call mr Gilbert himself and get some first hand information? Did you attent the one hour press conferance organized at Gardermoen airport, Oslo (Norway) today? With your resources, you should have. Or at least, did you contact the NORWAC organization to get details before making further statements?
In this case, it is clear that CAMERA violates jorunalitic ethics, by not seaking information available, letting the "blamed" side get a chance to reply. I addition, setting forward claims without credible backing. I notice that CAMERA is indeed involved it what seems notting less than a cladestine operation to undermine freedom of speech. I will follow up, be sure. Nothing is more important than accuracy and fairness in reporting, that includes CAMERA

Posted by: Reggy at January 12, 2009 05:10 PM

I'm really not sure what specifically Reggy is complaining about, apart from a general, "CAMERA is not informed". The whole issue is about a piece of video, suspected of being a piece of propaganda, with doubts being raised firstly about the medical assistance being depicted in that video. I don't see any allegations that the Norwegian Aid Committee (NORWAC) was involved in any official capacity in the making of this video. Unless you have some information you can bring to light on this, Reggy. Please tell us what did happen at that press conference, if you know, and what information about the video broadcast by UK Channel 4 and CNN was clarified or exposed in this press conference. We would be very interested, I think.

I would say that some of the suspicions that people have voiced over this video are unfounded, at least from my analysis of the video, such as: that nobody died and the whole thing was made up as a propaganda piece. I am reasonably confident that Ashraf's brother Mahmoud and his cousin Ahmed were on the room, were mortally wounded as a result of an explosive device detonating on that roof, were taken to hospital and later to a cemetery to be buried. More than that I'm less sure of.

Certain claims, including allegations of war crime claims have been made in this video, and broadcast as commentary over this video and claims these should be investigated. By allowing these claims to stand unchallenged, then the video, if it is a piece of propaganda, will have succeeded in its purpose - to blacken the name of good people. If we investigate and find the claims validated, then so be it - let the guilty be punished. If we find that these serious allegations are false, then those who have promulgated these lies should be brought to account.

The major allegation of the video, and the hardest to prove or disprove, is that the dead boy and his cousin were deliberately targeted as civilians, and killed by rockets from an Israeli airborne vehicle. Whatever the truth, this is the allegation.

Many people have claimed that the video had anomalies in the CPR and the resuscitation technique shown in the video; some of whom were medical people with direct experience in resuscitation rooms in hospitals. After that almost every frame of the video was pored over to find other discrepancies. In my opinion, some of the speculation was right and some was wrong. The Internet enabled a wide range of experts in their field to bring their specific knowledge to bear on some of these possible anomalies, greater than that of the knowledge of any one journalist. This is one of the greatest strengths of the Internet, and perhaps one of its greatest weaknesses.

Once the first anomaly was detected, questions started to be raised as to whether this video was a piece of propaganda. This computer's dictionary defined propaganda as "information of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view." I think that, hypothetically speaking, if a video promotes a false accusation of a war crime then it would be considered propaganda. In the video we are discussing, a story is told in video of the death of a teenager and an allegation is made of a war crime that has led to the death of that child and of the suffering of the family. If parts of it are found not to be true, then there was a possibility that none of this story is true and that it is pure propaganda. Even if only some of it is true, then it still could be propaganda.

One of the anomalies that CAMERA raises is that the credit for 'cameraman' is given to Ashraf, but Ashraf is obviously not operating the camera in much of the video shown. A claim is made in the video that Ashraf was away from home trying to video the ongoing conflict when he received a phone call telling him of the tragedy on the rooftop. It could be that all of the work and the unnamed cameraman that actually shot much of the video is part of Ashraf's normal camera team, and that Ashraf claims normally claims credit as cameraman for all the video the team shoots. This would account for the anomaly of "If that is Ashraf, and he's the cameraman, who is using the camera?"

To try work out if this is a piece of propaganda, then people have investigated the personalities both in front of the camera and behind it, the timing, the "Who", "What", "When", "Where", and "Why"s of this video. Investigations seem to have discovered a link between Ashraf and Hamas's web site ( There are strong personal connections between Paul Martin and Ashraf, which Paul's testimonial above shows. If we follow Paul Martin's associations, we find out that he has previously had contact with Hamas, and videoed a rocket firing team likely shooting rockets at the civilian population in Israel in his documentary "Rocket Men of Gaza" (ref. All of these associations help us make a decision as to whether the people who made and presented this video were biased and thus whether the video itself is likely to be biased. And this is where Dr Gilbert comes in, as people have investigated him have tried to determine where his own biases lie and also to work out whether these biases, if any, have created a biased video.

Once we have all the facts, then we can make up our minds as to whether this video was propaganda or not, and not all people will end with the same conclusion.

Of course CAMERA is seeking information about this video, for better or worse, to find out what the truth is. Others have managed to get Paul Martin to provide an explanation of his point of view of this video, that has clarified some of the unknowns. Who is being blamed here? I don't believe that Dr Gilbert's medical technique is being called into question here, do you? Based on interview and statements Gilbert has made, many of us would disagree with his political sympathies and thoughts. But that in itself is not an attack on freedom of speech.

I agree with your last sentence Reggy.

Posted by: Anonymous at January 13, 2009 11:05 AM

CAMERA does not say the boy was not killed--only that questions have been raised about the video and how it was presented by news organizations. They point out that Paul Martin has not addressed these questions. Channel 4 said that Israel targeted the boys. They provide no proof. There is nothing wrong with raising questions.

Posted by: toni at January 13, 2009 12:09 PM

What boggles my mind is that none of the credulous media outlets covering the story asked a single question about the SMALL DENT in the rooftop that's said to be from an Israeli missile.

This is what Israeli missiles are capable of doing:

Yet according to Channel 4, the small dent was a result of the most sophisticated weapons money can buy.

Aren't journalists supposed to ask questions, to explore, to investigate? Instead, they parrot.

Posted by: Will at January 13, 2009 02:18 PM

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