AFP Improves Coverage After Understating Number of Hostages As ‘Dozens’

While Agence France Presse neglected to correct an article last week which grossly underreported the number of hostages Hamas captured during its brutal Oct. 7, 2023 massacre, claiming the terror organization kidnapped “dozens,” the news agency subsequently improved its coverage. 

A wall in Modiin, Israel displays fliers featuring hundreds of hostages held in Gaza, November 2023 (Photo by Tamar Sternthal)

The Nov. 28 article, “More hostages to be freed as Israel-Hamas truce prolonged,” had erred: “The truce paused fighting that began on October 7 when Hamas militants poured over the border into Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping dozens.” (Emphasis added.)

In fact, in Hamas’ Oct. 27 massacre, Hamas along with its allies kidnapped more than 240 Israelis and foreigners. Before the hostage releases began laste last month, some 240 hostages were presumed to still be alive within the Gaza Strip, mostly in the hands of Hamas, and a smaller number with Islamic Jihad or other terrorist elements.

Moreover, in the days after Oct. 7, an unknown number of Israeli bodies were recovered just inside Gaza Strip, meaning Hamas kidnapped them and murdered them after crossing in Gaza, perhaps because the hostages couldn’t keep up with their captors. Others were kidnapped and then fortunately escaped (such as Batsheva Yahalomi and her two daughters). 

While AFP declined CAMERA’s request to correct the erroneous report, later AFP stories did correctly report the 240 hostages. For instance, a Nov. 29 article, From the Israel-Gaza war to the moon race: Events that defined 2023,” accurately reported: 

On October 7, hundreds of Hamas gunmen pour across the border from Gaza, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 240 people hostage in the worst attack in Israel’s history, traumatising the country and stunning the world. 

A screenshot of the AFP story republished at VOA before VOA’s correction

Even though AFP failed to correct the Nov. 28 article, Voice of America, which had republished the AFP story, commendably did so, changing the text to cite the “kidnapping [of] more than 240 Israelis and others.”

Moreover, VOA editors commendably appended the following editor’s note to the bottom of the article alerting readers to the change: “This article was updated to correct the original AFP article and reflect the number of hostages taken from Israel on October 7.”

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