Media Microscope: Guilty until proven guilty
May 31, 2022 | Allon Lee
The lack of conclusive evidence to prove who fired the shot that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a May 11 gun battle in Jenin between Israeli forces and Palestinian terrorists was no barrier to many in the media declaring Israel had done it.
An AFP report on SBS’s website (May 11) claimed, “Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli troops… an AFP photographer reported.”
A report on SBS Arabic Radio’s website (May 11) stated “that the Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed the killing of Abu Akleh by the Israeli army.”
The lead in to SBS TV “News in Arabic” (May 11) said Abu Akleh was “killed from a bullet of the Israeli army.”
An appallingly one-sided online SBS article (May 22) by Rayane Tamer – an SBS journalist and signatory of the #dobetteronpalestine open letter – insinuated Israel was responsible for Abu Akleh’s death, while stating that Israel’s “decision not to pursue a criminal investigation… has prompted growing concerns for the safety of press.” The piece omitted the critical point that the Israeli investigation – which is still ongoing – is being stymied by the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) refusal to let the bullet that killed Abu Akleh be tested. There is no evidence to begin a criminal investigation, if one is indeed warranted, without that bullet.
ABC TV “The World” (May 11) also stated Israel killed her, saying, “Abu Akleh…was shot by Israeli fire in the town of Jenin.”
On ABC TV “7pm News” (May 12), Middle East correspondent Allyson Horn’s report included footage that Israel said might prove a Palestinian gunman was responsible for Abu Akleh’s death. Horn cautioned that “an Israeli human rights group [B’Tselem] says it is very unlikely the fatal shots were fired from here, saying Abu Akleh was too far away.” Horn added, “since April, the Israeli military has been performing regular raids in Jenin in the wake of several attacks,” without noting that 19 Israelis have been murdered in these attacks.
Channel 7’s (May 14) report of Israeli riot police confronting mourners who had seized Abu Akleh’s coffin outside a Jerusalem hospital said, “Israeli riot police have clashed with mourners,” adding that “police said they acted only after stones were thrown at them.” It correctly said the coffin was “almost” dropped.
In contrast, Horn’s ABC TV “7pm News” report (May 14) claimed that the coffin was dropped and did not include Israel’s explanation for its actions. An ABC TV “News at Noon Weekends” newsreader report earlier that day falsely suggested Israel had prevented Abu Akleh’s family from taking the coffin to the cemetery.
SBS TV “World News” (May 14) also included Israel’s explanation that its police “were forced to intervene” after “bottles and rocks” were thrown at them by rioters who prevented family members from loading the coffin onto a hearse.
On ABC Radio National “Drive” (May 12) Pauline Ades-Mevel from Reporters without Borders strongly insinuated Israeli culpability for Abu Akleh’s death, saying Abu Akleh “knew perfectly how to deal with the Israeli army.” Ades-Mevel insisted Israel cannot be involved in any investigation, even a joint one.
Drive host Andy Park did not follow up by asking if the PA – which has already declared Israel guilty of deliberately targeting Abu Akleh – was a credible partner in any such investigation. Instead, Park asked, “how independent can an investigation be if it is conducted by Israeli authorities?”
On ABC Radio National “Breakfast” (May 16), host Patricia Karvelas failed to probe extreme claims made by Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories.
Accusing Israel of apartheid, Albanese was sure she knew who killed Abu Akleh, saying, “the footage that is circulating… is quite is quite telling about… what happened that day… I’ve worked on Palestine for more than a decade now… I’ve never seen… safeguards in place [for journalists]… over 40… media personnel… have been killed by Israeli forces.”
The footage is not “telling”, otherwise the shooter would’ve been identified. Moreover, many of those 40 so-called “media personnel” were actually Hamas fighters who also worked in Hamas media outlets.
On May 22, an extreme op-ed in the Sunday Age from Palestinian Australian documentarian Sherine Salama claimed Israel “target[s] journalists”.
In fact, according to the list of slain journalists maintained by the NGO the Committee to Protect Journalists, Israel has murdered no journalists at all. However, ironically enough, the PA’s Presidential Guard has.