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May 17, 2016

AFP's Lopsided Account of Slain Palestinian Teen

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When a media outlet reports on a fact sheet published by a big international NGO, what is its responsibility to readers? Do journalists have an obligation to flag shortcomings in NGO reports? AFP, apparently, thinks not.

In a widely published article, AFP summarized a UNICEF fact sheet claiming that "25 Palestinian children killed in 3 months." The UNICEF provides identifying details (date and location) in just two out of the 25 alleged cases. AFP faithfully relays UNICEF's flawed account of one of the two cases:

UNICEF cited the example on October 25 in Hebron in the West Bank of a 17-year-old girl who was "taken by IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers for a search, shot with at least five bullets and killed".

"Israeli authorities said that she had attempted to stab a policeman, however an eyewitness stated that she was not presenting any threat at the time she was shot, and was shouting that she did not have a knife," it said.

Relying solely on the UNICEF report, AFP failed to fulfill its duty to independently fact-check. A quick search reveals that Amnesty International, which has no great love for Israel, noted this relevant information concerning the Oct. 25 Hebron incident:

A photo of Ershied’s body shows a knife lying near the body, and the Israeli police spokesperson has stated that she attempted to stab a border policeman.

In other words, there is a photograph that supports the Israeli account of events, a photograph that AFP ignored.

In recent months, following terror attacks, the publication - official or otherwise - of photographs showing the weapons used in the attack have been commonplace. Despite such evidence, Palestinians frequently insist that slain terrorists are innocent. In an attempt to explain the contrary photographic material, a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming Israeli forces plant knives on dead Palestinians thrives in Palestinian social media, and is even embraced by some Palestinian officials.

That UNICEF failed to note the photograph does not exonerate AFP from its responsibility to note the photograph of the knife. Whether or not AFP subscribes to outlandish anti-Israel conspiracy theories, it carries an obligation to its readers to fully present the facts, even when its NGO sources don't.

Posted by gs at May 17, 2016 02:39 AM

Comments

I wholeheartedly agree.

One correction though. UNICEF is an organisation affiliated to the transnational UNO - not an NGO.

(Definition:A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens' group which is organized on a local, national or international level)

Posted by: Paul at May 17, 2016 05:47 AM

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