Yesterday, most major UK news outlets were quick to report on the guilty verdict of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, convicted in a military court for shooting to death a wounded Palestinian attacker, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, in Hebron last year.
Here’s a quick rundown of problematic headlines, and the response of editors to our complaints.
- The Guardian: We complained to editors after they published a story by Peter Beaumont with an accompanying headline (Israeli soldier found guilty of manslaughter after shooting wounded Palestinian) omitting the fact that the “wounded Palestinian” was an attacker. We then tweeted the following:
The Guardian promptly corrected the headline, as you can see in our follow-up tweet:
2. The Telegraph: We also complained to Telegraph editors for the following headline, which similarly omitted the fact that the wounded Palestinian was an attacker:
However, unlike the Guardian, the Telegraph refused to correct the headline, and offered an explanation which – even after reviewing it a few times – is far from clear.
3. The Independent: Unlike the Guardian and Telegraph, the Indy at least included (in the strap line of their article) the fact that the Palestinian shot by Azaria was an “assailant”. Further, at some point, editors made an improvement to the actual headline, adding the word “attacker”:
4. Times of London: Times of London published an article by Gregg Carlstrom titled “Netanyahu backs soldier guilty of killing Palestinian”.
However, we decided not to complain in this case, despite the fact that the word “attacker” (or some similar word) wasn’t used to describe the Palestinian who was killed. We made this decision because, unlike the Guardian, Independent and Telegraph, the word “wounded” wasn’t used in the Times of London headline – a word which (when used) has the effect of conveying the misleading message that the Palestinian attacker was merely a victim. We felt – in the case of the Guardian, Indy and Telegraph – that adding the word “attacker” was necessary to add context and balance out the impact of the word “wounded”. The Times of London headline is vague, but not, in our opinion, substantively misleading.