May 21, 2007

I See Vague Dead People: The New Best Way to Lie

Knowing the intense scrutiny that their photographers face following last summer's Adnan Hajj incident, most news organizations are carefully reviewing photos taken by journalists in the Middle East before publication, to make sure they havne't been modified. They are, however, still failing to question the captions they use to describe photos, which can also be used to deceive news consumers.

The two photos shown below have been published in the past 24 hours, and are a prime example.

AFP ran the following photo and caption yesterday:

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Hatem Hmeid, 15, during his funeral in the Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. Eight people were killed in a new Israeli air raid in Gaza on Sunday just hours after Israel's security cabinet gave the army the go-ahead to ramp up operations against Palestinian militants.(AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Reuters ran this photo and caption today:

Palestinians pray near the bodies of nine Palestinians killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza May 21, 2007. Israel launched more strikes against Gaza militants on Sunday, killing nine Palestinians in two aerial assaults, including one that struck the home of a prominent Hamas politician, security officials said. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA)

View the pictures and the captions that these news organizations provided with them, and you're looking on what may appear in your local, regional, national, or international news outlet of choice.

What you will probably take away from these photos is that once again, those dastardly Israelis are once again slaughtering defenseless Palestinians while targeting militants. Both captions mentioned that Israel was targetting militants, but both avoided mention that the dead pictured were apparently those same militants, and not innocent bystanders. Considering the names of the photographers, I wouldn't be too surprised if that vagueness was by intent.

The pictures, however, tell us a bit more than the captions would indicate.

Look closely at the photos above, and then take a gander at this photo in the Guardian Newsblog.

Hamas supporters on the left, with the green flags, Fateh on the right with yellow flags. Photograph: Laila el-Haddad

If seeing is believing, the dead in the pictures in the AFP and Reuters photos were militants wrapped in the flags of Fatah and Hamas.


Yes, they most were.

Civilian victims?

I suspect not.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 21, 2007 01:33 PM

I forget, who is lobing unguided missiles into civilian populations?

Posted by: Mekan at May 21, 2007 01:41 PM

I can't help but notice that the markings on the flags(?) or shrouds(?) on the dead in the first two photos, are of different color and type than the very clear Hamas and Fatah flags in the last photo. Green in particular is, I understand, a holy color to the Muslims. It's no suprise to find a body wrapped in it at a funeral.

Posted by: iaintbacchus at May 21, 2007 03:32 PM

Why do you think that the two sides might not wrap innocent bystanders killed in military strikes in the relevant flag? Even if not militants, once killed by Israelis are they not martyrs, and therefore deserving of respect (or at least exploitation as martyrs for their public relations value)?

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at May 21, 2007 03:33 PM

Is that first one a Fatah flag? Looks suspiciously like Hezbollah to me.

Posted by: Herr Morgenholz at May 22, 2007 06:04 AM