Photo Op


On Feb. 7, while photojournalists were recording a seemingly candid expression of Palestinian suffering, Enric Marti of the Associated Press shot the scene from another angle, including the pack of photographers in his frame:







This is a very telling image, both regarding the news item in question and the larger issue of media coverage of this conflict.

While it’s possible that this woman began weeping before she encountered the photographers, her position ? alone, alongside English graffiti ? suggests the scene was staged for maximum emotional impact to a Western audience. It seems these photographers are not merely ‘capturing the scene’, but rather creating it ? either actively (by asking her to pose) or passively (allowing themselves to be manipulated by her, posing for their cameras).

Either scenario misleads the news consumer and is therefore a violation of photojournalistic ethics. The New York Times, for example, sets this standard for the integrity of news photos:

Images in our pages that purport to depict reality must be genuine in every way… Pictures of news situations must not be posed.

Moreover, these journalists are eagerly pursuing this shot because the image available here ? Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israelis ? has become the central storyline of this conflict for most media outlets. Real or manufactured, that image appears all too often with utter lack of context, as we see here.

Palestinian suffering is then said to create ‘desperation’, which many media outlets use to explain (or even justify) horrific Palestinian terrorism. Arnold Roth, whose teenage daughter was killed by a Palestinian terrorist at the Sbarro’s pizzeria in Jerusalem, warns against passive acceptance of this media message:

Everything I have learned about Palestinian terrorists since my daughter Malki was murdered tells me that desperation is the last word you should apply to them. These people are jubilant, triumphal, ecstatic at the moment of performing their satanic act of mass murder. The next time you hear about their ‘desperation’, think about this image of an Arab woman crying on demand for the gathered paparazzi. We and all our neighbors are being manipulated by photo editors, journalists and reporters in the field.

Did the picture from one of the photojournalists shown here (or a similar photo capturing ‘spontaneous’ Palestinian suffering) appear recently in your local paper? If so, forward this photo to the editor, with a note expressing concern that some of the techniques used to cover this conflict don’t meet standards of journalistic integrity.


Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.



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