Sometimes, just sometimes, there is accountability in the Australian media. The following adjudication from the Australian Press Council was released this month:
The Press Council has upheld a complaint by Moammar Mashni about a photograph accompanying an article entitled Aussie war graves in line of fire that appeared in The Herald Sun on February 6, 2009. The report covered recent damage to Allied graves in the Gaza war cemetery. The print version of the article was accompanied by a photo of damaged headstones, which was digitally altered to include the figure of a Palestinian soldier carrying a grenade launcher. The online version of the story did not contain the soldier’s image.
Mr Mashni, representing Australians for Palestine, argues that the report and photo create an impression that the Palestinians were responsible for the damage to the graves, which he says is unsubstantiated, and that the notation that the photo was digitally altered was not clear enough. He states that this is “a deliberate attempt by the paper to distort the Israeli/Palestine conflict”.
The Herald Sun responded that the article was accurate, fair and balanced, citing “clashes between Israeli and Hamas militants” rather than apportioning blame, and quoting a number of sources, including the General Palestinian Delegation to Australia. It asserts that the photograph was clearly marked “Digitally altered image”. On February 27, 2009 the paper ran a follow up article entitled Israelis blamed in grave row, which reported new facts that had emerged about who was responsible for the damage to the graves.
The Press Council acknowledges that the articles satisfied its principles of fairness and balance. However, the use of the superimposed image of a Palestinian soldier bearing a grenade launcher and the unobtrusive reference to digital alteration may leave the reader with the impression that Palestinian soldiers were responsible for the damage, a fact not proved at the time of publication.