Through the Smoke, Reuters’ Double Standard: Fires in Lebanon, Israel

On Sunday, when Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at a border post in northern Israel, Israel responded by launching 100 artillery shells into southern Lebanon, sparking fires in agricultural fields. Reuters’ brief captions accompanying photographs of the burning Lebanese fields clearly identified the fires’ cause: Israeli shelling.

In contrast, Reuters captions failed to identify the cause of scorched earth near Avivim, the Israeli border area initially targeted in the Hezbollah attack Sunday which prompted the Israeli response. Similarly, Reuters photo captions frequently omit the source of the fires that have plagued southern Israel for over a year: Gazan arsonists send flaming kites and balloons across the border. Through the smoke, one thing is clear: Reuters does not apply a consistent standard in photo captions about fires resulting from conflict between Israel and its neighbors. When Israel is to be blamed for fires, Reuters says so. When the other side is culpable, Reuters frequently remains mum.

A sampling of Reuters photos and captions about Sunday’s fires in Lebanese fields, caused by retaliatory Israeli shelling follow. They clearly report the Israeli shelling responsible for the blaze.

A view of burnt areas from Israeli shelling is seen in Maroun Al-Ras village, near the border with Israel, in southern Lebanon, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

 

A woman uses her phone as smoke rises from shells fired from Israel in Maroun Al-Ras village, near the border with Israel, in southern Lebanon, September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

 

A firefighter truck is seen near fire and smoke rising from shells fired from Israel in Maroun Al-Ras village, near the border with Israel, in southern Lebanon, September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

 

People take selfies as smoke rises from shells fired from Israel in Maroun Al-Ras village, near the border with Israel, in southern Lebanon, September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

 

In contrast, captions about the damage by the Israeli border community of Avivim, caused by Hezbollah’s anti-tank missile attacks, fail to note the source of the burned area, saying only that Israeli soldiers “check an area near the Israeli village of Avivim.”

Israeli soldiers check an area near the Israeli village of Avivim, close to the border with Lebanon, Israel September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

Israeli soldiers check an area near the Israeli village of Avivim, close to the border with Lebanon, Israel September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

Israeli soldiers check an area near a damaged road close to the Israeli village of Avivim, on the border with Lebanon, Israel September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

 

Photo captions from Associated Press, another leading news agency, about damage near Avivim did refer to the Hezbollah attack responsible for the scorched earth. An Associated Press caption, for instance, stated:

An Israeli soldier examines the remains of a rocket near the village of Avivim on the Israel-Lebanon border, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. Hezbollah militants on Sunday fired a barrage of anti-tank missiles into Israel, prompting a reprisal of heavy Israeli artillery fire in a rare burst of fighting between the bitter enemies. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Reuters’ failure to note the Hezbollah attack Sunday as the cause of the damage in Israeli territory is consistent with earlier Reuters captions which neglected to report the Palestinian arson attacks responsible for burned fields in southern Israel. While CAMERA had prompted improvement of these captions at one point in 2018, such elliptical captions have since reemerged.

Firefighters check a burnt field on the Israeli side of the border fence between Israel and Gaza, Israel May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

A young gazelle runs in a burnt field, on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Gaza, May 30, 2018 REUTERS/ Amir Cohen