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Media Analyses





UPDATED: International Herald Tribune Caption Challenged, Again


March 13 Update: Tribune Promptly Corrects Erroneous Location

March 12 -- The International Herald Tribune, which refused to set the record straight after tripping up on the discredited photograph said to be depicting a Palestinian run over by an Israeli soldier, is facing some new troubles in its photo department. The following image by veteran New York Times photographer Rina Castelnuovo appeared on page 5 of Friday's edition (March 9):

The caption reads:

Women's Day Israeli soldiers in Ramallah, West Bank, fired tear gas and aimed a water cannon at about 50 women marching Thursday in support of Hana Shalbi, who has gone without food for 22 days to protest the holding of Palestinians without formal charges. In Gaza, about 500 women marched to support the hunger striker.

The caption is wrong and misleading on multiple points. First, as Castelnuovo can no doubt confirm, this scene was photographed at the Qalandiya crossing into Jerusalem, south of Ramallah, and not in Ramallah itself. There were no clashes or incidents involving water cannons and tear gas in Ramallah on Thursday (March 8).

Whether the Israeli troops were targeting Palestinians in a Palestinian Authority-controlled city (Area A) or at the Israeli-controlled checkpoint into Jerusalem (Area C) is a critical, substantive distinction.

The information and language for this caption were apparently lifted from Dalia Nammari's AP story, which was confusing. The dateline for the AP story is Ramallah, and the first two paragraphs deal with the incident in question, without specifying where in the West Bank it took place. The accompanying photographs by Majdi Mohammed, however, make clear that the Palestinians "clashed with Israeli troops at a West Bank crossing into Jerusalem."

Second, the Tribune caption suggests that Israeli troops fired tear gas and water cannons on the women merely because they were protesting. But as the very same AP story makes clear, "Palestinian teens threw rocks at the soldiers from behind the women's march."

For whatever reason, the information about the Palestinian rock throwing did not make into the Tribune cutline, although it is critical to understanding the day's circumstances. Indeed, the AFP, like the AP, noted that the Palestinians were throwing stones:

At Qalandia, hundreds of women arrived by bus from across the West Bank for a rally organised by women's groups and local unions.

They carried posters of Shalabi, who has accused Israeli forces of mistreating her and imprisoning her without evidence.

Israeli troops used water cannons against the protesters and also utilised the "scream truck," a military vehicle that emits a high-pitched noise intended to disperse demonstrations.

Towards the end of the demonstration, a handful of youths began throwing stones at Israeli forces, who responded by firing tear gas.

The two wire stories are inconsistent as to how many protesters converged upon the checkpoint into Jerusalem, but they both agree that Palestinians were throwing rocks at troops at a checkpoint. Why exclude the fact that the demonstrators were throwing stones at Israeli forces, which is reportedly the reason for the tear gas (which was noted) in the first place?

Finally, the cutline neglects to note that Hana Shalabi is a member of Islamic Jihad, listed as a terror group by the United States. Surely, that information is no less important to readers' understanding than the fact that she has not eaten for 22 days or that 500 women in Gaza protested on her behalf.

Taken together, these errors and omissions create an entirely inaccurate, propagandistic depiction of the incident, and the Tribune owes its readers a correction. Stay tuned for updates. 

March 13 Update: Tribune Promptly Corrects Erroneous Location

Today the Tribune commendably ran a correction making clear that the clash took place outside of Ramallah, in Qalandiya. The correction reads:

A photo caption Friday misstated the location of a clash between Palestinian women demonstrators and Israeli security forces. It was at the Kalandia checkpoint near Ramallah. It was not in Ramallah.

CAMERA applauds the prompt correction and urges greater oversight at the paper's photo desk to ensure that future captions are accurate and balanced and include key information (such as the fact that stone-throwers were among the demonstrators and that Shalabi is an Islamic Jihad member).


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