Saturday, February 04, 2012

AFP defends photo of Arab allegedly run over (updated)

I reported last week about a series of photos, one of which was published by AFP, supposedly showing an Arab man - Mohammed Abu Qbeita - in agony after one of his legs was tun over by a truck.

Here is the AFP photo:

CAMERA did an investigation and found that there were many holes in the story:
After checking with both Palestinian and Israeli sources, it seems that the man was not at all injured, and there is no evidence that he was run over. On the Palestinian side, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which provides comprehensive weekly reports about all injuries, fatalities, incursions, and other incidents in both the West Bank and Gaza, makes no mention of this alleged injury in its report for Jan. 19- 25. In addition, the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency did not cover the alleged injury, even though it does report on Israeli army activity that day nearby in Tel Rumeida. And Ma'an also reported a hit and run incident, in which a Palestinian teen was hit by an Israeli driver at a checkpoint this morning. Presumably, then had this worker actually been run over and injured on Wednesday, Ma'an would have carried the story. Nor does it appear that any English-language wire service or other media outlet covered the alleged injury.

On the Israeli side, Capt. Barak Raz, spokesman for the Judea and Samaria division who had spoken to soldiers at the scene, told CAMERA the following: IDF soldiers were on site to provide security for the Civil Administration, which was preventing Palestinian construction in an area not permitted for building. One Palestinian worker was lying on the ground next to the trailer when he started to scream that he had been run over. Nobody saw him get run over. First he complained that his left leg was injured. An army medic checked him and saw nothing. The medic did, nevertheless, wrap him in a bandage since the worker was carrying on that he had been run over. The man then subsequently claimed that it was his right leg which was injured. According to Raz, the Palestinian Red Crescent, which was also on the scene, checked him, and likewise found absolutely nothing wrong with him.

In short, at worst, this incident is staged, as Raz contends, and the man pretended to be run over and injured, while neither happened. At best, there is zero independent confirmation that he was injured. If neither AFP nor IHT can substantiate the claim, it ought to be immediately retracted.
AFP is denying any impropriety on the part of their photographer, and say the story is true:
These claims are false.

AFP’s Jerusalem bureau and photo editor interviewed other media representatives present at the scene and watched video footage filmed by other colleagues showing the construction worker being carried away on a stretcher. Their trust in the events described by Hazem Bader is unequivocal.

Reporters from AFP Jerusalem bureau also interviewed the injured construction worker, Mahmud Abu Qbeita, on February 1 as well as the doctors that treated him at Yatta hospital. The following is a translation from Arabic of the medical certificate issued on the day of the incident : “Yatta Hospital Prescription for Mohammed Abu Qbeita To whom it may concern, The above mentioned person has attended the emergency service at the hospital. He was suffering from severe pain in his right leg. He said that an Israeli military vehicle ran over him. In the medical examination we found that he has pain in his right knee, pain in his pelvis, and pain in the neck, and has difficulty in walking. We conducted X-RAYS on him and found fractures. He has been advised to consult the orthopedic department."

Here’s a transcript of the interview given on February 1 by Mohammed Abu Qbeita: "I was working on this site for the first day. It was the first time I'd been working there. Some time after we started working the Israeli army arrived. All of a sudden, a lot of them, started saying it was forbidden to build there. I didn't know that because I hadn't worked there before, but they said it was forbidden and we had to stop and they wanted to demolish what was already at the site. They were shouting a lot and I started walking over to where my stuff was so I could get my phone and my ID card and that's when the tractor hit me. It hit me twice, first on my side, which knocked me over on the ground. Then it drove over one of my legs. I didn't see it coming. It went over one of my legs, one was under the wheel, the other one was outside it. (Asked whether he heard it coming) I didn't hear it, there was a lot of noise, a lot of shouting. Even if I heard something, I didn't respond because I never imagined that it would hit me. (Asked who was driving?) It was one of them driving, one of the army, the Israelis. I don't know who he was. It was our tractor, for our work, but he was on it and driving. (Asked if he went to the hospital?) Yes, I went to the hospital, they examined me and treated me and I have a medical certificate and I will show it to anyone who wants to see it. Anyone who wants can talk to me and take a picture of my leg and of me."

In the light of these inquiries and based on the trust we have in our photojournalist, AFP Management does not believes that this event could ever have been staged.

Given the ferocity of the attacks against the AFP Photo service, we have decided to release this statement in order to set the record straight. We will not make any further comment.
Here is the "medical certificate" that AFP translated:

Assuming that AFP is representing this correctly, here's what doesn't add up.

Since when do hospitals release statements about patients for the public ("To whom it may concern") on the date of the incident, days before anyone published any accusations that this did not appear to be true? 

How can a person whose leg was run over by a heavy truck be able to still walk, even "with difficulty?"

If Qbeita was play-acting in the photo, why would a statement by him be considered verification to AFP in the least? Couldn't they find someone else to interview who was at the scene?

Why does Qbeita still say that he was run over by a tractor when the wheel he is under is clearly from a truck?

How on earth could he have been run over in a muddy road, from a spectactularly muddy tire, without any visible mud on his leg at all?

How, given how he is positioned, could the truck have run over only one of his legs? How could it have knocked him down - was it going in reverse?

Photos of him going on a stretcher are hardly proof. And what did the videos show? Certainly not him being hit, or else AFP would have stated so.

While it is possible that AFP's photographer was not part of the staging of this incident, it seems very unlikely that the victim was truly run over by the truck, especially given contradictory evidence from the scene. And the PA Ministry of Health is not exactly above politics

(h/t @cetypeestfou)

UPDATE: See CAMERA's comprehensive response.