Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Time Magazine's Distortions During Lebanon War Revealed

Do you remember the above photos from the Israeli-Hezbollah War this past summer? Both depict a Hezbollah gunman in front of a smoking landscape. The closeup appeared in U.S. News; the panoramic shot appeared in TIME magazine. Both were taken by news photographer Bruno Stevens. To truly understand how TIME distorts the news, generally to the detriment of Israel, read his account of the photos and their captions, at Lightstalkers. Here is a summary to whet your appetite:

When Stevens submitted the photos to U.S. News, he provided this caption:
"“Kfar Chima, near Beirut, July 17, 2006 An Israeli Air Force F16 has alledgedly been shot down while bombing a group of Hezbollah owned trucks, at least one of these trucks contained a medium range ground to ground missile launcher.”

He worded it that way deliberately, because he had not been able to verify the Hezbollah claim that it had shot down an Israeli plane. Also, Stevens took pains to note that at least one of the targeted trucks was a legitimate military target.

When TIME published the photo, although it had Steven's original caption, here is how it captioned the photo:
“The wreckage of a downed Israeli jet that was targeting Hizballah trucks billows smoke behind a Hizballah gunman in Kfar Chima, near Beirut. Jet fuel set the surrounding area ablaze.”

Note how the word "allegedly" has disappeared, as has the description that makes clear the trucks were a legitimate military target. A description of the targets as "Hizballah trucks" allows the inference that these vehicles were being devoted to civilian uses, perhaps one of Hezbollah's many heartwarming humanitarian programs providing food and education.

Some days later, after returning to the site 3 more times and collecting evidence, Stevens rewrote the caption to read as follows:

“Kfar Chima, near Beirut, July 17, 2006 The Israeli Air Force bombed a group of Hezbollah chartered trucks parked on the back of large Lebanese Army barracks , at least one of these trucks contained a medium range ground to ground missile launcher, at least one missile was hit, misfiring high into the sky before falling down and starting a huge fire in the barracks’ parking lot.”
So Hezbollah had not shot down an Israeli plane. It made up a propaganda story to cover up the loss of its missiles.

Stevens also sent the American newsmagazines other photos of the Lebanese army base after the raid, including a photo of a destroyed truck, which clearly showed it had been used to hide a medium range ground to ground missile launcher (of the type Hezbollah used to attack northern Israeli towns and cities during the war). Please go to Lightstalkers to see those photos. Interestingly enough, TIME did not find those photos newsworthy enough to publish. Yet, as Stevens notes:

"This is a very important piece of evidence showing probable collusion between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army, there is little doubt that the Lebanese Army was aware of the presence of at least one missile launcher and at least one large missile on their parking lot. The size of the launcher, destroyed a couple of days later from the ground by an unknown party suggest missiles 10 to 14 meters long."

Kudos to Bruno Stevens, an honest and hardworking photo journalist who put in the extra effort (probably at no small danger to himself) to get the entire story. Stevens points out that we cannot blame a field photographer for the caption attached to his photos, over which he has no control. Shame on TIME for not letting its readers know the whole story. And HT to Little Green Footballs.


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