DECEMBER 8, 2023 UPDATE:
After CAMERA provided CNN with a copy of the indictment and a statement by the Israel Prison Services, the network updated both the written and video versions of the report acknowledging that Fatima Shahin was, in fact, indicted. See below for a detailed update.
A November 27 video report by CNN’s Chief International Investigative Correspondent Nima Elbagir about a pair of released Palestinian prisoners got a major fact wrong. Elbagir falsely claimed one of them was never charged or put on trial. CAMERA promptly alerted the network to the error and wrote about it the very next day. Instead of a correction, the day after CAMERA’s communication, the network went on to publish a written version of the report, prominently featuring the same exact error in the first two sentences. In addition to Elbagir, the byline of the November 29 written version includes CNN’s Ivana Kottasova, Barbara Arvanitidis, Abeer Salman, and Alex Platt.
CAMERA has now acquired and provided the network with conclusive evidence that the claim is false.
The false claim at issue has to do with the recently released Palestinian prisoner Fatima Shahin. According to the CNN report, Shahin “was never charged with any crime” and hadn’t been “put on trial or given an opportunity to defend” herself.
But according to multiple Israeli and Palestinian news reports, Fatima Shahin was, in fact, indicted. CAMERA alerted CNN to these news reports on November 28, but the network responded only that it stood by its reporting. CAMERA is unaware of what information CNN relied on in its initial reporting, and the network provided no explanation as to the basis for its decision to stand behind Elbagir’s false claim about Shahin.
After CNN’s response, CAMERA tracked down a copy of the indictment, definitively showing that Shahin was, in fact, charged. CAMERA also acquired a statement from the Israel Prison Service that Shahin’s trial was ongoing until her release. Both pieces of evidence have been provided to CNN.
Shahin’s indictment, dated May 4, 2023, was for attempted murder, relating to a terrorist attack she carried out on April 17, 2023. According to the indictment, Shahin stabbed an Israeli, hitting an artery between the victim’s ribs. After Shahin was incapacitated, the victim was immediately rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
CAMERA also acquired a statement from an Israel Prison Services spokesperson, stating: “According to our records her trial was ongoing in Yehuda military court.”
That CNN’s video and written report got this fact wrong is particularly egregious not just because it is flatly false, but because it’s the basis for the report’s central theme. The report cites her as the example purportedly showing how Palestinians are being unfairly detained without being charged or given any form of due process.
But, with the clear evidence of Shahin’s indictment and ongoing trial, we now know that neither of the two specific examples given by CNN support this claim. Its own report acknowledges that Malak Salman – the other profiled released prisoner who unsuccessfully tried to stab Israelis in a February 2016 terror attack – was also charged and was even convicted of attempted murder.
Rather than shedding light on an unfair system, as the report claims, the truth about the two examples provided by Elbagir et al. suggests precisely the opposite. Seemingly the only one not given a fair shake in court was Fatima Shahin’s victim, whose attacker has now been released thanks to the blackmail and savagery of internationally designated terrorist organizations.
The initial error, coming from CNN’s chief international investigative correspondent, is discouraging. That the network then repeated the verifiable error and stood by it, even after being handed credible evidence to the contrary, is deeply perplexing. To uphold its own credibility, CNN must correct the error.