Reuters Shoots Truth in the Foot

The IDF suspended a soldier for firing his weapon in an unauthorized way during the Nakba Day clash. That’s according to Israeli media reports such as Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, YNet, and the Times of Israel.

The reports make clear that this soldier did not fire the shots that killed Palestinian teenagers Nadim Nuwara and Mohammed Salameh. As a member of a non-combat communications unit, the soldier in question wasn’t authorized to use his gun at all unless he was fired upon or in a life-threatening situation, yet he fired several rubber bullets at a wall hoping to scare away Palestinian rock throwers.

Now imagine what a careless or confused reporter might do with this information. Then see how closely Reuters matches your mind’s eye:


The problem’s more than a headline sorely lacking nuance. The lead paragraph’s even worse.

Israel has suspended a soldier in the fatal shootings of two Palestinian teenagers at a protest held on May 15 in the occupied West Bank, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.

Most people see headlines in social media feeds and web sites without clicking on the articles. The minority of people who click on the stories tend to skim the the first two or three paragraphs. Only a minority of readers who stuck with the story into the seventh paragraph will learn that — surprise! — the suspension and deaths aren’t connected.

No apparent evidence linked the soldier to either fatality, though, in the incident outside Israel’s Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The soldier was suspected of firing rubber bullets, not live ammunition, the reports said.


The New York Times has made the same error in its own report which begins:

The Israeli military suspended a soldier who was captured on video this month firing his rifle at protesters in the occupied West Bank. Video evidence showed that the soldier fired his weapon within seconds of a Palestinian boy’s collapsing to the ground with what proved to be a fatal gunshot wound.

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