Media Watchdogs: Russian News Outlet RT Wins Top Prize for Most ‘Appalling’ and ‘Dramatically Absurd’ Headline in Coverage of Tel Aviv Terror Attack
Kremlin-affiliated news outlet Russia Today (RT) takes first place for the most misleading headline in all media reporting on yesterday’s bloody terror attack in Tel Aviv, spokesmen for two prominent media watchdog groups told The Algemeiner on Thursday.
In its initial report on the attack, RT ran an article under the headline “2 ‘ultra-Orthodox Jewish’ gunmen kill 1, injure 8 in Tel Aviv.” In response to the portrayal, Simon Plosker, managing editor at Honest Reporting, said that RT ”wins the prize” for “most appalling headline.” Gilead Ini, a senior research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) described RT’s “short-lived headline” as “dramatically absurd.”
“If anyone ever considered RT, the Kremlin’s propaganda outfit, to be a credible news organization, this headline proves the opposite,” said Plosker. According to Ini, the headline “was quickly changed after CAMERA and others drew attention” to it.
On Wednesday evening, two Hamas terrorists dressed in dark business suits entered the Max Brenner cafe at the popular Sarona Market. Eyewitnesses told Israeli media outlets that they believed the men to be ultra-Orthodox Jews due to their attire. After sitting down and ordering food, the terrorists opened fire on civilians in the vicinity, killing four Israelis and wounding a number of others.
The Russian news outlet’s headline even caught the attention of one Israeli lawmaker — MK Sharren Haskel — who took to Facebook to call on Israel’s Government Press Office to “ban the press certificates of RT reporters, due to improper and falsified reporting.”
“The RT communications network, published a falsified news report – only minutes after yesterdays horrible event. This hasty publication, which was done in negligence at the very least – holds serious implications on the worldwide public opinion, towards Jews and Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] Jews. It provides fertile ground to develop racist opinions – in regard to Israel, Jews, and to the worldwide Haredi community,” Haskel wrote.
RT was not the only media outlet criticized for its coverage of the attack. Plosker said one of the “worst headlines” belonged to Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Both republished a Washington Post report under the headline “Tel Aviv shooting: Well-dressed men open fire at popular food market.”
“Of course it wasn’t ‘well-dressed men,’” Plosker said, “but terrorists who opened fire.”
CAMERA’s Ini called out Britain’s Independent newspaper. He said its headline on the shooting had “a more subtle but serious problem.” The title in question on the Independent’s website now reads, “Tel Aviv shooting: Four killed and eleven wounded in attack.”
“There isn’t a hint about who the perpetrators were — Palestinian terrorists — and who the victims were — Israeli civilians. We know for sure that if it were the other way around, in the rare case of a deadly Jewish attack on Palestinians, the headlines would be much more informative. After an attack last year, for example, the Independent headline explicitly noted that the perpetrators were Jews and the victim was a Palestinian,” Ini said.
“What’s most incredible, though, is that throughout the entire Independent article, headline, body, and all, not a single word informs readers that the gunmen were ‘Palestinian,’ that they came from the ‘West Bank,’ or that ‘Hamas’ praised the attack,” he said. “Those words didn’t appear. It could have been a mafia shooting.”
According to watchdog BBC Watch, The BBC’s initial headline, titled “‘Several wounded’ in Tel Aviv shooting,” made no mention of the terrorist nature of the attack. In later updates to the headline, the BBC used “the ambiguous phrasing ‘shopping centre attack’” to indicate the location, but nothing more. Additionally, the first three versions of the report did not mention terror, with later reporting including the word terror inside quotation marks based on comments by officials and eyewitnesses. CNN also came under fire for similar usage of the word terror.
Other news outlets — including several French media outlets, Yahoo News and the Daily Telegraph — “appeared to be fixated on the location of the attack in their headline, stressing the proximity of the Israeli military headquarters nearby at the expense of stating that the attack took place at a civilian location,” said Plosker. “This has the effect of making it appear that the terrorist attack could either be explained or justified because it was a military target when, in fact, this was aimed squarely at civilians.”
While the international media was quick to cover the attack itself, both Plosker and Ini called out global media outlets for their silence in failing to report on Palestinians celebrating the attack.
“It doesn’t fit the framework of Palestinians as victims devoid of responsibility for their own difficulties,” Plosker told The Algemeiner. “There’s also the issue of intimidation and access. There isn’t a free press in the Palestinian areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas and we know that some journalists prefer not to shine a spotlight on the Palestinians at the risk of offending those in charge and losing their access.”
According to Ini, “The same zeitgeist the media has in reporting about Israel also accounts for their silence, with some exception, about Palestinian celebration of the attack. A proper focus on how Palestinian society often encourages anti-Jewish violence, including by lauding terrorists as heroes, gets in the way of the caricature some journalists peddle of basically blameless Palestinians and oppressive Israelis.”
Israel’s struggle with often inaccurate, false and misleading reporting by the international media is not new. According to Plosker, the Jewish state faces a “David versus Goliath situation where Israel is the Goliath and the media has a real problem when that role is reversed and Israelis are victims of Palestinian violence.”