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Media Analyses





Time Clarifies Phony Caption that Charged Israeli Students Were "rallying for more violence"


{APF photo}

UPDATE – In its May 13, 2002 issue Time Magazine "clarified" a photo caption from their March 18 issue which had claimed the Israeli students pictured above were calling "for more violence." In fact, as pointed out to Time by CAMERA, the students were protesting against the scheduled appearance on the Hebrew University campus of Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.

According to Time's clarification, their caption should have more "precisely explained the situation" depicted in the photo. Unfortunately, precision or imprecision was not at issue – the caption was a sheer fabrication. Time should have forthrightly admitted as much, and dealt appropriately with whoever was responsible. Here is Time's inadequate clarification, followed by the original CAMERA alert:

Clarification
In our story "Streets Red With Blood," on the increasing violence in the Middle East [World, March 18], we ran a photo of Israelis holding up their red-painted hands, accompanied by a caption that read, "Voting for Mayhem: Israeli students at a demonstration in Jerusalem rally for more violence, raising paint-dipped hands." Instead, our caption should have more precisely explained the situation shown in the photograph: "Israeli right-wing student activists hold up their hands, painted in red as a symbol of bloodshed, at a demonstration supporting the cancellation of chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat's lecture at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem."


The original alert:

Time Magazine: Reporting, or Just Making it Up?

April 24, 2002

The March 18 issue of Time Magazine ran a four-column, 10 by 7 inch, full color AFP (Agence France Press) photograph with a scandalously inaccurate and misleading caption. The photo, on pages 56-7, depicts Israeli students with their raised hands covered in red paint:

{APF photo}

According to Time, the students were calling for "more violence":

VOTING FOR MAYHEM: Israeli students at a demonstration in Jerusalem rally for more violence, raising paint-dipped hands.

Accompanying the photograph was a story headlined in red letters, "Streets Red With Blood."

While the photo and caption together do make a dramatic and shocking impression, Time's caption blatantly contradicts the original caption issued by AFP. That caption read:

Israeli right-wing student activists hold up their hands, painted in red as a symbol of bloodshed, at a demonstration supporting the cancellation of chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat's lecture 06 March, 2002 at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.

On March 26, CAMERA contacted Time to find out why the magazine modified the AFP's caption to state that these students were demonstrating "for more violence." CAMERA inquired whether Time had another source for information about this particular event, and what the students might have been chanting, or what their message really was. How did Time know that the students were not demonstrating against violence?

Extensive Lexis-Nexis searches turned up only one media account of the demonstration. It was a March 7 Jerusalem Post news brief entitled "Erekat cancels Hebrew University appearance," which indicated that:

University students affiliated with the Zionist Tachlit student party had planned a large demonstration against Erekat and the university's decision to invite him. Far-right activists affiliated with the banned Kach party had also threatened to disrupt the lecture.

The Post story thus agrees with the AFP caption that the demonstration was against Erekat's planned appearance at the university, and offers no support for Time's claim that the students were demonstrating "for more violence."

On April 10, Time Letters Editor Betty Satterwhite wrote back to CAMERA, stating:

It appears that in the process of providing information to the staff, the photo editor revised the caption information provided by AFP before he gave the caption files to the story's writer and editor.

Certainly our caption should have exactly explained the situation, closely following the AFP caption information.

Thus, she suggested that Time had erred and misled its readers. She added that the decision to run a clarification would be made by the managing editor. When no clarification appeared in the next issue, CAMERA contacted Ms. Satterwhite on April 17. This time, she backtracked on her earlier admission of error, even though she could not provide any evidence that the students had been demonstrating "for more violence."

In response to CAMERA concerns that the caption misrepresented the situation, she responded that that was CAMERA's "interpretation." In fact, it seems it is Time Magazine that is interpreting events and contriving captions based on speculation concerning the motives of demonstrators they did not see or interview. And, unfortunately, Time's interpretation is at odds with those of the AFP photographer and the Jerusalem Post reporter, both of whom were present at the demonstration.

When it comes to Israel, does Time report the news, or does it just make it up?



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