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December 24, 2015 2:18 pm

Fareed Zakaria, Daily Mail, Haaretz Among Media Watchdog’s ‘Dishonest Reporting’ Award-Winners

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Photo: Honestreporting.com.

Photo: Honestreporting.com.

As 2015 draws to a close, a media-monitoring organization highlighted eight of what it deemed the most egregious violations of professional standards concerning reporting about Israel.

HonestReporting, a group with affiliates in the US, the UK, Canada, Italy and Brazil, whose self-described mission is “defending Israel from media bias,” released its list of the year’s top offenders on Wednesday.

Number 1 on the list — under the title “The Gaza Flood Libel” — is shared by a few publications, but HonestReporting slams the Daily Mail in particular for reprinting a proven-to-be-false story accusing Israel of flooding Gaza by opening its southern “dams.”

The charge, HonestReporting said, appeared in a number of outlets, among them Agence France-Presse (AFP)Al-JazeeraRussia TodayXinhua, and the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency.

Russia Today, for example, wrote, “Almost every year without prior notice, Israel opens the floodgates to their dams in the direction of Gaza to discharge massive quantities of excessive water that accumulated during heavy rains or snowfall in the Naqab region.”

However, as HonestReporting pointed out, “There are no dams in southern Israel. Gaza’s flooding was simply due to heavy rain and poor drainage.”

When this fact was made clear, AFP removed its video of the story and Al Jazeera both retracted the article and issued an apology.

It was then that the Daily Mail republished the story — on February 23 – only posting a revised version on March 19, after HonestReporting called it to task. The updated piece acknowledges that the original story was false.

Haaretz was also a “Dishonest Reporting” laureate. Number 3 on the list, the Israeli daily won in the “Worst Abuse of Anonymous Sources” category.

In a July 23 report relating to the nuclear deal with Iran, Haaretz quoted “senior [Obama] administration officials” asserting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “would reject any deal,” and that a “congressional override of the presidential veto would make it harder for the US to defend Israel.”

The story cites these “officials” in Washington saying “they had reached the conclusion that … Netanyahu was not interested in any nuclear arrangement with Iran – except for one in which Tehran completely capitulates but is denied sanctions relief in return.”

According to the report:

The officials expressed both dismay and disappointment at the fact that Netanyahu and other Israeli opponents of the Iran deal did not find anything positive in the Vienna agreement – even though many Israeli positions had been incorporated in the final document. The officials noted that the agreement also met the “red lines” that Netanyahu himself had drawn during the past few years – “and then some.”

HonestReporting claimed that this constituted a “blatant violation” of two ethical guidelines adopted by journalists when using anonymous sources: “1. Reports must contain at least one identified source; no story should ever be pegged solely on anonymous figures. 2. Care must be given when quoting an unidentified individual’s opinions, rather than facts. It’s unethical to allow someone to attack another behind a shield of anonymity.”

Other media outlets that made HonestReporting’s list are The New York Times and MSNBC. Individual journalists who received “dishonorable” mentions are Kitty Holland of the Irish Times; CNN analyst Fareed Zakaria, former NBC anchor Brian Williams (who moved to MSNBC following suspension) and CNN anchor Jim Clancy.

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