May 15, 2004

Intimidation = Bias

UPDATE: It's been nearly ten years since HonestReporting read this article, (How do I know? click here) however they still haven't mustered enough decency to edit or remove their erroneous summary. It's still proudly displayed on their site.
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On April 29, 2004, HonestReporting released a communique entitled "Intimidation = Bias" that contains a severely distorted summary of an article written by Khaled Abu Toameh. Here's the entire text of the HonestReporting communique that references Abu Toameh's article:

HonestReporting has long maintained that Palestinian intimidation of the press is a key contributing factor to biased coverage of the Mideast conflict. See our special report on this topic. Perhaps such intimidation contributed to this event, two years ago in Ramallah, related this week by Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh: With a crowd of international reporters standing around, two Palestinian policemen brought a man out, threw him up against a wall and shot him right under the window of Arafat's office. When the reporters converged, the policeman seemed bewildered. It was just a simple execution, nothing to get excited about, he said. And no one did. In fact, according to Abu Toameh, no one else even mentioned it. (emphasis in original)

This summary twists the facts of the Abu Toameh article in an attempt to bolster HonestReporting's theory that the Palestinian Authority uses intimidation to silence the foreign press. This is done in a number of ways.

The first is by claiming that the execution occurred "With a crowd of international reporters standing around". This statement clearly gives the false impression that the reporters actually saw the execution take place, however Abu Toameh's article states that he was the only witness. He writes that "The executioners did not notice that I was watching. When the rest of the journalists heard the shots they rushed towards the area to see what was happening." He later states that an ambulance "waiting nearby took the young man's body away before anyone had a chance to see it."

It is also incorrect to claim that the execution took place "right under the window of Arafat's office." Abu Toameh states that two policemen and the condemned man walked passed some "reporters standing under Arafat's second floor office". The three men then continued "to the back of a three story building north of Arafat's office." This is the location where the execution took place, not "right under the window of Arafat's office" as HonestReporting falsely states.

The third deception is by the statement "It was just a simple execution, nothing to get excited about". The policeman's actual quote from the article is "A criminal has been executed. what's the big deal?". There is a world of difference between those two sentences. Why doesn't HonestReporting simply use the original quote, which is shorter than the sentence it's replaced with? Completely ignored in HonestReport's article is the fact that Abu Toameh specifically states that the man was executed for killing two elderly women and raping a third.

Finally, in an attempt to bolster their theory of press intimidation, HonestReporting includes a total fabrication. The last sentence states that "In fact, according to Abu Toameh, no one else even mentioned it". HonestReporting even highlights this phrase in bold print, just to drive home their point of press intimidation. Someone must have added this bogus sentence for effect, because Abu Toameh's article mentions nothing of the sort. In fact, Abu Toameh's article contains a quote specifically about this execution from a Swedish journalist.

It's incredible just how much damage HonestReporting was able to do to the truth in just five short sentences.