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Deadly Toys By: HonestReporting.com
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, November 09, 2005


As HonestReporting has repeatedly stated, pictures are central aspects of news stories. The decision of which photograph should accompany a report is an editorial matter of tremendous importance. It can completely change the way an textual story is understood by the reader.

On Saturday (Nov. 5), a Palestinian child playing with a replica of an M-16 assault rifle in Jenin was mistakenly shot and killed during a firefight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists. As Reuters described:

The Israeli army said soldiers in the Jenin refugee camp came under fire from Palestinian gunmen in several locations and returned fire, hitting the boy who they said was later discovered to have been holding a toy weapon.

The New York Times provides greater detail:

Soldiers noticed what they thought was an armed gunman standing about 130 yards away, and opened fire, hitting the target, which turned out to be the boy, the army said. He was evacuated by the Palestinian Red Crescent, and when the Israeli soldiers "approached the spot, they found the weapon which the Palestinian was holding and discovered it to be a plastic gun," an Israeli Army statement said.

Obviously, a soldier being under fire from multiple directions 130 yards away could easily mistake a plastic replica for a real gun. From the pictures above, therefore, one could easily understand how the boy could be confused for one of the gunmen.

Most media outlets, such as BBC , Boston Globe and Kansas City Star, decided to accompany the story with pictures of the grieving mother or the child's body:

These photos, while eliciting sympathy for the loss, fail to illustrate how this tragedy occurred. The journalists have left many questions unasked in this incident, among them:

  • Why did the Palestinians start shooting from positions near playing children?
  • Why were children allowed to play with realistic looking plastic guns in a combat zone?
  • Did the terrorists use the children as human shields?

Yet, in the wake of this event, not a single reporter has written about Palestinian responsibility in protecting such children. Unfortunately, as HonestReporting has documented, this would not be the first time that children's lives have been placed in the line of fire in support of the Palestinian cause. (For more on this issue, see HR's affiliate Teach Kids Peace.)

After the incident, the IDF spokesman issued the followings statement:

The Israel Defence Forces regret the incident and stress again the danger which Palestinian gunmen and terrorists place the civilian Palestinian population by operating from within it against Israeli targets.

Certainly the death of any child is a tragedy. Yet it is the responsibility of journalists reporting on the incident and editors selecting photographs to bring all contextual material - visual or otherwise - to accurately reflect what really happened.

Did this story run in your local paper? If so, HonestReporting encourages you to write a letter to the editor, pointing out the fuller context of this matter.

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

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