Photo Bias Alert: Palestinian Kids Back Behind Bars

The Independent uses the following photo to illustrate a particularly critical story on the Israeli treatment of Palestinian child detainees:

What could be more illustrative and symbolic of the story than a photo of Palestinian children behind bars?

This time, however, The Independent has been well and truly busted. For the photo above is the classic example that featured in our Shattered Lens study on photo bias, in this case the use of bars to portray Palestinians as “prisoners” of Israeli occupation and brutality.

The photo first appeared just over two years ago in The Independent on June 21, 2010 accompanying a different story relating to Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Here is the original photo and caption courtesy of AFP / Getty:

Not only has The Independent been caught recycling an old file photo from two years ago but it has also confirmed the findings of Shattered Lens. This photo is not illustrative of the accompanying story at all and its symbolism derives from the ability of the photographer to use clever techniques to present a false impression that enhances images of Palestinian “suffering”.

Our study examined a sequence of photos that accompanied the one above and documented how a photographer was able to manipulate a Hamas-organized photo opportunity in Gaza.

Read the full chapter in Shattered Lens to see how Palestinian children were positioned behind a gate to give the impression of a prison and how using a great deal of skill to get the right position with the right lens from the right angle, the photographer manages to create an impression of many more than the several children in the actual shot.

So The Independent has:

  • Recycled an old file photo that is factually unrelated to the story;
  • Used a staged photo; and
  • Deliberately misused the image to subliminally portray Palestinian “suffering”.

It might just be time for a photo recall. Send your complaints to The Independent’s News Desk – – and demand that the photo is withdrawn and the error acknowledged.

As for the story itself, The Guardian also ran a similar special report in January 2012 on alleged mistreatment of Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military.

HonestReporting critiqued this issue at the time and also published the Israeli Embassy in London’s official response.

UPDATE, July 3: Following this HonestReporting video critique, The Independent removed the offending photograph.