Reuters has come under fire for failing to condemn Israel’s killing of its reporter and falling short of mentioning the occupying state as the perpetrator.
Lebanon is submitting a formal complaint to the United Nations Security Council over Israel’s “deliberate killing” of Reuters’ Lebanese journalist and wounding of other press members during Friday’s cross-border attack.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates instructed the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the UN in New York to submit a complaint to the UN Security Council about Israel’s deliberate killing of the martyr Lebanese journalist Issam Abdullah, who worked for Reuters, and the wounding of other journalists from Agence France-Presse and Al Jazeera,” the Lebanese foreign ministry said on Saturday.
Israel targeted the group of international press crews in Lebanon as they covered attacks in the south of the country on Friday evening. Abdallah was killed and a number of others, including two Al Jazeera crew members, were injured.
The attack in Lebanon’s Alma Al-Shaab area included Al Jazeera correspondent Carmen Jokhadar and photographer Elie Barkhia. Other press members were identified as AFP photographer Christina Assi and video journalist Dylan Collins.
The journalists were all wearing helmets and blue flak jackets that clearly identified them as members of the press when they were targeted. In a statement, Al Jazeera confirmed the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) fired “a guided missile” at its crew as yet another attempt “to silence the media”.
The Lebanese foreign ministry slammed the “blatant attack” on those working to “convey the truth, defend it with the lenses of their cameras and pens, and transfer them to the tape of repeated Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon.”
“The complaint also included an explanation of the escalating Israeli provocations and attacks in the last week, the injuries they caused to lives and property, and the ongoing violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which Lebanon affirmed its keenness to implement and abide by in all its aspects,” the Lebanese statement added.
Lebanon said it holds Israel responsible for the ongoing escalations and warned that failure to halt the violence “will ignite the entire region and threaten international peace and security and the interests of the entire world.”
A separate statement by Al Jazeera on Saturday slammed Israel’s “blatant disregard of international safety standards”.
The Qatar-based network condemned the “repeated atrocities” which it said had also previously killed veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in 2022. To date, Israel has not been held to account for that killing.
“Al Jazeera holds Israel legally and morally responsible for this brutal attack and calls on the international community to take action to ensure the safety of journalists. We demand that the perpetrators behind this heinous crime are held accountable and brought to justice,” the network said.
Meanwhile, Reuters has come under fire for failing to condemn Israel’s killing of its reporter and falling short of mentioning the occupying state as the perpetrator, despite numerous footage of the attack.
“We are deeply saddened to learn that our videographer, Issam Abdallah, has been killed,” Reuters said, without mentioning Israel.
Social media users, including journalists and activists, have called out Reuters for its vague statement and added community notes that directly named Israel as the perpetrator.
“Let us fix the press release for you, Issam Abdallah, has been killed by the Israeli army. SAY IT LOUD, ISSAM WAS KILLED BY THE ISRAELI ARMY,” social media activist Hanady Gerges said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
AFP also issued a statement calling for a “thorough investigation” into the attack.
“The Israeli military announced on Saturday that they are ‘looking into’ the incident, without taking responsibility,” the AFP said, despite the testimonies of witnesses on the ground who said they “believe they were hit by fire coming from the Israeli side”.
‘‘It is crucial that every effort is made to ascertain how a group of journalists, clearly identified and duly accredited, could be targeted in this way. We urge the relevant authorities not to settle for mere ‘checks’ but to carry out an in-depth investigation and provide well-documented, clear, and transparent answers,’’ Fabrice Fries, AFP’s Chairman and CEO, said.
It added that its photographer, Assi, had suffered severe injury, particularly to her legs and is currently in intensive care in a hospital in Beirut. Collins also sustained “minor injuries and could soon be discharged from hospital.”
Western media bias
The latest developments come amid accusations of media bias by Western press outlets when reporting about Israel. Critics say leading outlets either use a passive voice when reporting on killings by the IOF or opt for amplifying its own narrative against Palestinians.
On Friday, Qatar’s Sheikha Moza bint Nasser called out the “deception” of coverage on the ongoing Israeli bombardment of Gaza, stressing the need to “distinguish facts”.
“Misinformation, deception and distortion are the most prominent elements of the propaganda discourse of modern wars in general, but it is shocking to see some commentators adopting stories of rape and slaughter of children without scrutiny,” Sheikha Moza said in an Instagram post.
The Qatar Foundation founder and chairperson stressed that “it is imperative to distinguish the facts from false narrative”, though she made no mention of examples of misinformation.
The post, accompanied by an image of a press jacket, was made as Israel continued its brutal bombardment of Gaza, in which at least 2,329 Palestinians, including at least 724 children, have been killed in a week.
The IOF has targeted the press since the start of the war in Gaza, killing nine journalists within a single week, per figures shared by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Last week, Western media and pro-Israel social media users spread uncorroborated allegations on Palestine’s Hamas fighters allegedly “beheading” Israeli babies.
The disturbing claims spread further following remarks made by the President of the United States Joe Biden on Wednesday, who claimed he had seen “confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children”.
The following day, a White House spokesperson clarified to The Washington Post that President Biden’s remarks were primarily based on the Israeli reports and claims by Israeli diplomats.
The Washington official said on Thursday that no member of the Biden administration, including the president himself, had seen such images.
“There is a famous saying that ‘truth is the first casualty of war’. This is what we are witnessing in Western media coverage of the war in Gaza today,” Sheikha Moza explained.
The Arab Center for the Development of Social Media (7amleh) documented on Thursday more than 19,000 cases of hate speech and incitement using the Hebrew language on X, formerly known as Twitter. The watchdog noted that the increase of such content started on 7 October, the first day of the escalations.
At least 30% of the hate content documented by 7amleh included fake news or the promotion of violence or incitement.
“The Israeli government is taking advantage of the current international sentiment to continue exerting pressure on social media companies to censor the Palestinian narrative and silence voices critical of Israeli policies,” 7amleh said in a statement last week.
Despite X’s policies against “harmful content”, the thousands of incidents reported by 7amleh have continued despite the presence of so-called content regulations.
Meanwhile, a number of Instagram users said they are being ‘shadow banned’ for posting pro-Palestine content on their stories and accused social media giants of serving Israel by silencing those speaking about its crimes.