AFP shows lack of transparency
If you’re going for transparency, you can’t do much better than an x-ray.
The Agence-France Presse, an international news service, claims there are x-rays that substantiate the caption of a recent photograph allegedly depicting Israeli army brutality.
The caption stated: “An injured Palestinian construction worker screams in pain after an Israeli army driver drove a trailer hooked to a tractor over his legs, as he tried to block him when Israeli forces stopped workers on January 25…”
The International Herald Tribune, published by the New York Times, prominently printed the image by Hazem Bader, as did the Washington Post. Several news outlets featured the photo online, including the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, and MSNBC.
Yet, after checking Palestinian, international and Israeli sources, it appears that the “injured worker,” Mahmoud Abu Qbeita, was, in fact, not actually injured. Moreover, there is no evidence that he was even run over. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights and the United Nations, both of which provide comprehensive reports about West Bank casualties, made no mention of the alleged injury.
On the Israeli side, spokesman Capt. Barak Raz said Abu Qbeita was on the ground blocking Israeli officials from confiscating the trailer and other equipment being used for unpermitted construction when he started screaming that he had been run over. No one saw it happen. Initially, Abu Qbeita complained his left leg was injured. After an army medic’s examination found no wound, Abu Qbeita then claimed his right leg was injured. Raz said that the Palestinian Red Crescent likewise found no injury.
Presented with this information, AFP Jerusalem bureau chief Philippe Agret angrily responded that because several media outlets were on the scene, including Palestine TV, Pal Media, and Al Quds TV, Abu Qbeita could not possibly have faked being run over. The AFP also claims to have viewed footage of Abu Qbeita on a stretcher, but does not claim to have seen footage showing Abu Qbeita being run over.
Agret unwittingly raised a key point: of the several photographers on site who were snapping away, not one has released images of Abu Qbeita actually being run over.
Moreover, a Feb. 3 AFP statement contradicted the original caption on several basic facts. For instance, while the caption claimed the vehicle ran “over his legs,” in plural, the more recent statement quoted Abu Qbeita: “it drove over one of my legs.” Likewise, while the caption said he was run over by the trailer, Abu Qbeita later claimed he was run over by the much larger tractor. Similarly, the caption noted that the man was injured “as he tried to block” the trailer. In contrast, the AFP later quotes Abu Qbeita as saying: “I started walking over to where my stuff was so I could get my phone and ID card and that’s when the tractor hit me.”
Which one is it? A tractor or trailer? Did it run over one leg or two? The AFP has gone back and forth on these essential questions.
As for the x-rays, they were mentioned in a “medical certificate” released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Why would the health ministry, and not the hospital itself, release a statement about a patient?
The AFP translated the peculiar document as stating: “We conducted X-RAYS on him and found fractures.” The wire service also quotes Abu Qbeita boasting that he has “a medical certificate and I will show it to anyone who wants to see it.” But, tellingly, he does not offer to show the x-rays. Nor has the AFP released them.
The AFP has plenty to answer for, and it can start by releasing the elusive x-rays.
Tamar Sternthal is director of the Israel office for CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America).