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Monday, August 07, 2006

More wire service photo bias

Today, Amnesty International organized a series of rallies worldwide. Here is how Amnesty describs the rallies:
Civilians have been targeted in Lebanon by the Israeli Defence Forces and in northern Israel by Hizbullah leaving hundreds dead.


After weeks of fighting, bombs and rockets continue to fall indiscriminately on women, children, ambulances, rescue workers and other innocent victims of this escalating conflict. These deliberate attacks violate international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes.

Only an immediate, full and effective ceasefire will protect civilians on both sides, but calls for the warring parties to obey the laws of war and protect civilians have fallen on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, governments that could exert their influence to end the crisis have chosen instead to prioritize their own political and military interests over innocent lives of civilians.

We, the international community, are not powerless in the face of this crisis. We must stand up together to protect the lives of civilians and to ensure no more war crimes are commited.

What can you do? Take action now!

1. Join Amnesty International in our Ceasefire vigil on Monday 7th August

  • We call for a ceasefire;
  • We demand that all governments stop the supply of arms to the conflict; and
  • We stand in solidarity with the victims and survivors on both sides of the Israel/Lebanon conflict.
I have posted before about why I believe that in the context of this conflict, even-handedness is stupid. I strongly object to Amnesty's slanderous charge that Israel is deliberately attacking civilians and is guilty of war crimes.

Nevertheless, from the text above Amnesty is exerting a lot of effort to make the rallies appear even-handed, and they are meant to protest the violence on both sides of the conflict.

Somehow, AP in Madrid interpreted the rallies a bit differently:

Candles spelling out the word Stop are seen on the ground during a vigil in central Madrid, Monday, Aug. 7, 2006 to protest Israeli attacks on Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. The protest, organized by Amnesty International, called for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Most of the captions about rallies in other cities (Washington, Paris, Istanbul) reflected the intent of the Amnesty rallies, but the Madrid one was always described as "to protest Israeli attacks on Lebanon and the Palestinian territories." Interestingly, the rally had nothing to do with the Palestinian conflict. So who writes the blurbs? If the AP editors wrote them they would not have been inconsistent, so this bolsters my theory that photo stringers themselves - who are not journalists - give descriptions of photo captions to wire services and they are printed without any editorial oversight.

One other way that pictures lie are from what they don't show.

Here, for example, are two of many pictures taken by Reuters at an anti-Israel rally today in Santiago:

Pedestrians walk along a street decorated with black and Palestine flags next to an orthodox church in the Patronato neighbourhood in Santiago August 7, 2006, where members of the Palestinian community attended a mass against Israel's military offensive in Lebanon and Gaza. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado (CHILE)
And another:
From the pictures, it appears that perhaps a few dozen people were in attendance.

Compare this to this pro-Israel rally that happened in Denver today:

The article that accompanies this picture says that hundreds of people rallied for Israel. But I cannot show you the wire service caption.

Because not a single wire service bothered covering the pro-Israel rally.

I have seen pictures of dozens of anti-Israel rallies on the news wire services, and very few pro-Israel rallies. Yet I know there are plenty of pro-Israel rallies worldwide.

Now, why would wire services extensively cover one kind of rally and almost ignore the other kind?

And when newspaper editors are putting together their editions for the next day and need a photo to fill up some space - which one is more likely to be published?