There has been several recent scandals about the press releasing false stories.

The first story was Rathergate, where obviously fake documents written on a computer was quickly debunked by the blogosphere.

But now there are questions whether the situation in Iraq and the recent war in Lebanon have been manipulated by reporters accidentally or deliberately.

During the Lebanese war, vivid pictures of destruction and civilian casualties turned the world against Israel.

Now there are less publicized stories of how fakery of photography and manipulation/staging of photos was documented so that a casual reader/viewer would get the impression of exaggerated civilian casualties by Israel.

A BBC investigative report admitted that Hezbollah controlled the photos and stories by reporters during the Lebanese war:
Hezbollah had delivered an edict: no filming of their fighters. They preferred all the video and photo images to be of civilians, preferably of mangled bodies in rubble. In the southern port town of Tyre, Hezbollah representatives threatened dire consequences for anyone filming their fighters during the war…”.

Israel just released a report onHezbollah’s deliberate use of Lebanese civilians as human shields, so that if Israel retaliated against missles deliberately aimed at Israeli civilians, the result would be damage and death to civilians that could be spun as propaganda against Israel.

Now, the blogosphere, starting with FloppingacesBlog , is all over a story of a militant Shiite revenge attack against a mosque, which was exaggered by a police captain who described several Mosques raided, and many killed, including six men burned to death.

The problem? There is no police official with that name. When confronted, the AP assured the blogosphere that they sent their “reporter” back to confirm the incident with their source, who indeeds exists.

What the AP didn’t confirm or deny is why no one in the Iraqi government has this “official” source on their payroll.
To make things worse, there is a question about the “stringers”, i.e. independent reporters filing stories with the wireservices.

There are rumors saying some of the “stringers” are known to the wireservices from their work during the Hussein regieme, which means essentially they are Sunni Baathists who worked for the Saddam Hussein government…
In effect, the question is: how much of the war news coming out of Iraq is not only biased from the US reporters, but may be false information deliberately fed to us by our enemies?

An examination of one story in today’s paper shows the problem of reporting.

Here is a BBC and a Reuter’s report of an incident where American soldiers came under fire, and called in airstrikes to bomb the house where the it originated.

This is, of course, a routine military decision, especially in a sparsely populated area. The alternative is a frontal assault to save those living nearby, but which would result in many more American casualties. However, if family members were still in the homes where the shooters were hiding, we would expect dead women and children. The press too often blames the US or the Israelis who are fighting in self defense and often unaware of the presence of civilians. But few press articles bother to condemn the “insurgents” who are using innocent civilians (or worse, their own family) as hostages or human shields.

The Reuter’s report starts by saying this is another incident where Americans bombed civilians. The give one short paragraph to the US reports that they bombed the place, leaving out why the place was bombed, and then two paragraphs quoting the mayor and saying how bodies were shown to reporters, and then spend the rest of the article about American problems in Iraq.

The BBC report gives more detail of the raid.

The Americans came under fire from the house, and ordered it bombed. Immediately afterward, the soldiers checked the house, found bodies including two women, and evidence of a weapons cache. No children’s bodies were found.

The BBC article then quotes the Reuters report to the contrary that:
“However relatives and local officials showed journalists the bodies of children they say had died in the raid.”

So the BBC did not have a reporter to check the story either, but merely quoted Reuters.

A CBC (Canada) report is even more interesting…
Associated Press Television News gathered horrific video of the scene, which showed more than a dozen charred and bloody bodies, some of which appeared almost mummified. In the video, villagers pulled back colourful wool blankets to reveal several bodies. In some cases, it seemed impossible to guess the sex or age of the dead.

An Associated Press photo showed an Iraqi man in blue garb gently holding the dusty head of a boy of about 10 killed in the attack up from a floral print quilt. The boy’s hand pokes out from under a blanket, his fingers curled.”

There is no name for the reporter/writer of the article (based partly on “AP Reports”), which for good measure reminds it’s readers that most of the American public is dissatisfied with the war.

A photograph names the photographer as Hameed Rasheed.

But for the name of the AP reporter, we have to go to AlJazerrah  who uses the AP report, whose writer is named “SAMEER N. YACOUB” and the headline is:”19 Iraqi Civilians Killed by a US Air Strike on Friday, Including 7 Women and 8 Children”..

(checking back, the link now doesn’t work. But the headline and reporter’s name is still on Google).
So after the propaganda in all these reports, I was gratified that this AFP reports in another Middle East paper shows bloody photograph of a child, but the report is actually….reporting.

It gives extended quotations from the US Army and the mayor, allowing the US to point out that a lot of fakery goes on, and then gives the full quote by the mayor:

This is the third crime done by Americans in this area of Ishaqi. All the casualties were innocent women and children and everything they said about them being part of Al-Qaeda is a lie,” he said.

But then the article actually describes the bodies:” weeping relatives displayed the bodies of the victims, many of them hideously maimed by the force of the blast. At least two of the bodies were of young children and one of an adolescent.”.

Then it goes on to name the names of those living in the compound.obtained from the police, four of them female, who lived in those houses.

Writer? Mahmud Khalil.

So the winner of the best report goes to AFP writer Mahmud Khalil, who actually wrote a fair and balanced article.

Well, one out of three isn’t bad.

Wonder which version will be touted on CNN INT this evening? No matter which version, it will be delivered with eyebrows raised and a smirk.

There’s more than one way to spin the news, you know.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician who was a missionary in Africa during a civil war and knows a little bit how both governments and sympathizers of “insurgents” manipulate reports of atrocities. She is retired and lives in the rural Philippines with her husband in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket

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