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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Do journalists have any ethics on Twitter? (updated)

When journalists tweet, do they have the same ethical responsibilities as they do when writing articles?

Apparently, pro-Palestinian journalists don't believe so.

George Hale from Ma'an tweeted yesterday:

4 people injured after Israeli forces open fire toward mourners near the eastern cemetery - medical official


Never mind that Gaza medical officials have been known to, um, how should I put it? - lie. A piece of information gets released, and it gets tweeted without verification.

Joseph Dana retweeted the same information adding, "Classy."

Only one problem: It never happened.

It was reported in Gulf Today/AFP this way:

Palestinian security officials said that at one funeral, east of Gaza City and close to the Israeli border fence, Israeli troops opened fire at a crowd of mourners, wounding four people, one in the head.

But PCHR, which is reporting every single attack by Israel, is silent on the topic. You can be sure if it happened they would have noted it. Similarly, Ma'an never reported on any gunfire at a funeral, even though their editor was the first to tweet the information. Why not?

But step back for a second. Does the story make any sense at all? Israeli troops aren't in Gaza, so how could they shoot mourners at a funeral? With rockets? Helicopter gunships? Really long range machine guns?

In other words, how much do you have to hate Israel to believe that the IDF is shooting at funerals?

So what really happened?

From AP:
Tens of thousands of Palestinian mourners marched through the streets in funeral processions. They carried slain militants in coffins, their bodies too torn up to be wrapped in cloth, as Muslim tradition dictates. Masked militants sprayed machine gun fire above the mourners' heads in angry grief.
Ah, so the only gunfire in Gaza at funerals is coming from the terrorists. If anyone was injured by gunfire, it came from terrorists shooting their own weapons.

But the tweets live on, get retweeted, and people who read tweets from journalists give them the same credibility that they give articles that were edited and vetted (not that they are so much better, as we see from AFP.) They rarely get retracted or corrected, because, hey, its only Twitter, right? (And  if pushed, they'll just fall back on saying that they were quoting "officials" who they know quite well routinely lie.)

And the truth gets lost in the sea of hate and bias.

UPDATE: PCHR does describe the incident:
At approximately 14:00 also on Saturday, Israeli soldiers stationed at observation towers at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east of the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabalya opened fire at a number of Palestinian civilians who got close to the border and threw stones, during the funeral procession of a number of victims of Israeli air strikes. Five civilians were wounded by gunshots, including two ones who were in serious conditions.
It is doubtful that the funeral procession came within 300 meters of the border, so the Gazans deliberately went over to the border that the IDF keeps clear to avoid terror attacks. (h/t Bruan)

UPDATE 2: See Israellycool on some other lies flying around Twitter.