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September 7, 2022 11:13 am

70% of Media Bury Lede as IDF Probe Confirms Soldiers Did Not Intentionally Fire at Al Jazeera Journalist

avatar by Akiva Van Koningsveld


People light candles during a vigil in memory of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli raid, outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

Why are leading news outlets burying the lede in their coverage of the latest developments in the Shireen Abu Akleh case?

Following a four-month investigation, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Monday released the findings of its inquiry into the tragic death of the Palestinian-American journalist. According to the internal IDF probe, the Al Jazeera reporter was most likely shot by mistake by an Israeli soldier, who did not identify her as a member of the press.

A senior security official during the Israeli press conference stated that the Duvdevan counterterrorism unit entered the West Bank terror hub of Jenin on May 11 to arrest two Palestinians. During the entire operation, soldiers were under heavy fire from every direction, including from Molotov cocktails hurled at close range.

After pinpointing every spot where troops had been attacked, the military confirmed that soldiers operated in accordance with the IDF’s strict rules of engagement. Despite previous reports to the contrary, the investigation found that no IDF serviceman had intentionally directed fire at Abu Akleh or other civilians.

Monday’s press release explained that “the soldiers operated in a dangerous situation, under high pressure and stressful conditions. Accordingly, the soldiers were required to make real-time decisions, under fire and with their lives in danger.”

“In conclusion, although there is a high probability that Abu Akleh was shot by IDF soldiers, the circumstances of the incident, as they emerged from the operational review and other findings collected, do not raise the suspicion of a crime having been committed which would justify the opening of a criminal investigation,” the missive stated.

The publication of the IDF probe — which included extensive interviews with those involved, as well as the review of “visual documentation collected from various sources” — provided the media with an opportunity to reflect and correct articles that falsely accused the Jewish state of killing Abu Akleh in a targeted attack.

However, an HonestReporting analysis reveals that some of the world’s major media organizations are evidently unrepentant. Indeed, less than 30 percent of headlines produced on Monday and Tuesday noted the fact that Abu Akleh was, in all probability, killed in error.

By publishing ambiguous headlines, CNN, the BBCthe Associated PressAgence France-PresseThe New York TimesThe Los Angeles Times, National Public RadioABC NewsNBC NewsCBS News, and HuffPost effectively buried the lede.

As HonestReporting has repeatedly stressed, at a time when roughly eight-in-ten Americans consume their news on digital devices, headlines are often the first and last thing people read — regardless of the story.

To their credit, The Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalFox News, and Reuters were among the few prominent outlets whose headlines conveyed the full story.

In its reporting on the Abu Akleh probe, CNN took editorializing to a whole new level. Blatantly misrepresenting the Israeli determinations, Jerusalem correspondent Hadas Gold told viewers of CNN’s “The Situation Room” that “this IDF, Israel Defense Forces, investigation essentially comes to the same conclusion that several investigations, including CNN’s own, has [sic] come to.”

Yet the network’s farcical May 24 “investigation,” which HonestReporting dissected in an in-depth critique, outrageously claimed that the Al Jazeera journalist was not killed by a “random shot,” but was “targeted” — suggestive of an act of murder.

The CNN website on Monday similarly claimed that “footage obtained by CNN … suggested that Abu Akleh was shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces.”

By contrast, the IDF inquiry concluded that Israeli soldiers did not commit any criminal act in Jenin.

After a comprehensive examination of the incident, and based on all the findings presented, the Military Advocate General determined that under the circumstances of the incident, despite the dire result – the death of Ms. Abu Akleh and Mr. Samudi’s injury – there was no suspicion of a criminal offense that warrants the opening of an MPCID [Military Police Criminal Investigation Division] investigation.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz previously emphasized that, while “[Shireen Abu Akleh’s] loved ones deserve to know the truth behind her tragic death … we may only uncover the truth by conducting a thorough ballistic, forensic investigation and not through unfounded investigations.”

On July 4, the US Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority announced that a forensic investigation into the bullet that is said to have killed Abu Akleh did not yield a clear-cut result, because it was too badly damaged. While the Americans said that the bullet was “likely” fired from an Israeli position, the analysis “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

Now, Israel’s military, after a “comprehensive examination of the incident,” has reached the same conclusion.

What will it take for the media to accurately report on Shireen Abu Akleh’s death?

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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