Yet Reuters inexcusably does the latter in its July 30 report, “U.N. rights body tells Israel to end Gaza blockade.” The article tells readers that the attack by activists on Israeli troops boarding the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara is nothing more than an Israeli claim denied by activists, in effect suggesting that Israeli soldiers might not have actually been attacked on the ship.
“Israel admitted errors in planning the raid but justified the use of lethal force saying its marines came under attack from activists wielding knives and clubs. Activists deny this,” the report notes. (Emphasis added.)
This language, which casts the attack as an unsettled matter of dispute, is highly misleading, as it fails to inform readers that the Israeli troops were indeed, unequivocally and clearly, attacked, a fact corroborated by video evidence. In other words, activists who deny that Israeli soldiers were attacked are lying, and demonstrably so.
In an April 2009 blog post, media critic Jay Rosen, of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, faulted what he called “he said, she said” journalism. In such journalism, he explained, “no real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims” in a story, even though “the means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims.”
This is precisely what Reuters does in its July 30 story.
Reuters itself has previously reported on the flotilla incident accurately, stating that “Israeli commandos killed nine Turks during the raid … after boarding the ships and being swarmed by pro-Palestinian activists armed with clubs and knives,” and elsewhere pointed out that “Video footage showed marines being set upon by activists on the vessel who beat them with clubs as they rappelled onto its top deck.”
But in its more recent report, the news giant backs away from the hard facts, even while relaying falsehoods by one of the parties. When CAMERA informed Reuters editors of this breach of journalistic ethics, one editor stood by the report, stating his belief that Reuters “adequately reflected the positions of the two sides to this issue.”
In response, CAMERA informed a senior Reuters editor responsible for news standards that the editor’s reply fails to address the actual problem. Reuters misleads its readers not by failing to reflect the position of the sides, but by relaying these conflicting positions at the expense of the actual facts, which bear out one side’s position but not that of the other side.
Reuters still has the opportunity to correct its misleading language during the current news cycle, before newspapers have a chance to re-publish the error of omission. We will let you know whether they decide not to do so — check back soon for our update.