Agence France Presse, an international news service that last year covered up U.S. demands on Syria to stop supporting Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, is again doctoring news about Hezbollah.
An Oct. 3 AFP news story covered a United Nations fact-finding team’s accusation that Israel and Hezbollah both violated humanitarian law. But the headline and first paragraph of the AFP report noted only the UN group’s assertions about Israeli “violations,” while ignoring the similar charges leveled against Hezbollah. Not until deeper in the story did AFP acknowledge the UN criticism of Hezbollah’s conduct.
The AFP headline reads: “Israel abused rights in Lebanon, Hezbollah must face probe: UN experts.”
And the first paragraph of AFP’s story states:
Israel committed serious violations of human rights during its offensive in Lebanon but Hezbollah must also be called to account for its actions, which could constitute war crimes, four United Nations experts said on Tuesday.
True, the UN fact-finding group said Hezbollah’s attacks on civilian areas in Lebanon could constitute war crimes. But they also said Hezbollah did violate humanitarian law, just as they said about Israel. A reader glancing at AFP’s headline and lede would have no way of knowing this.
An Oct. 4 United Nations press release summed up the conclusions of the fact-finding mission. It stated that “serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the recent conflict in Lebanon,” and also that “Hezbollah violated humanitarian law in many instances.” Furthermore, the press release called for further investigation of both Israel and Hezbollah to determine if the sides committed war crimes. The headline of that press release was, appropriately enough: “Major violations on both sides in Israel-Lebanon conflict, say UN experts.”
The fairness of the UN fact-finding report is beyond the scope of this article. But it is clear that AFP’s headline and lede did not fairly represent that UN report. And while the AFP article eventually mentioned the UN allegation that Hezbollah violated humanitarian law, the headline and first paragraph are the most widely read and influential parts of a news story, and are expected to reflect the essence of the story.
Headlines and ledes from other news reports on the fact-finding mission were much more representative of the UN group’s charges against both sides, and provide examples of how AFP could have introduced its story.
Israel, Hizbollah Broke Human Rights Law: U.N. Envoys.
Both Israel and Hizbollah were guilty of serious violations of international humanitarian law during the month-long Lebanon war, four U.N. human rights envoys said on Tuesday. (Oct. 3, 2006)
Rights Report Accuses Israel, Hezbollah of Violating Humanitarian Law During Conflict
Four rights experts have accused both Hezbollah and the Israeli army of violating humanitarian law during their recent conflict, a report released Tuesday said.
Voice of America:
UN Accuses Hezbollah, Israel of Violating Humanitarian Law
Four U.N. human rights experts say both sides in the recent war in Lebanon, Israel and the Hezbollah guerrillas, committed serious human rights violations during the month-long conflict. The investigators are experts in arbitrary executions, health, displaced people, and housing.