When there are two wildly different versions of a story, and in the absence of conclusive evidence of either version being proven objectively correct, a responsible journalist should always strive to ensure that readers are presented with each narrative, along with additional relevant information, in a fair and equal fashion.
But the reporting of the recent death of a Palestinian youth in unclear circumstances in the West Bank this week by leading British newspaper The Daily Telegraph leaves much to be desired.
Two Contradicting Versions
As the Times of Israel reported, there were two versions of the story: According to the IDF, 18-year old Amer Snobar fatally injured himself while running away after throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles. But according to the Palestinians, troops allegedly shot and beat him to death while he was driving.
It’s clear that only one of these versions of the story can be true. And in the absence of certainty, journalists owe it to the readers to make clear that the circumstances behind the man’s death were unclear. They should also include information that would seem to strengthen or contradict either of the side’s stories
For example, the Times of Israel report mentioned that no damage from gunfire could be clearly seen on the car – highly relevant when considering the claim that Israeli troops were supposed to have shot the man while he was in the car.
How The Daily Telegraph Reported The Event
Instead of giving equal weight to each version, The Daily Telegraph allowed its headline and subheadline to reflect the Palestinian narrative alone. The headline, “Palestinian teen dies after being chased by Israeli soldiers,” leads readers to believe that Israeli soldiers were the cause of the teen’s death, and the subheadline, “The family of Amer Snobar believe he was beaten to death by Israeli troops,” reinforces the point, making the connection explicit.
The first five paragraphs of the report by Campbell MacDiarmid, the Telegraph’s Middle East correspondent, are dedicated to further outlining the story as seen from the Palestinian side, with his family’s claims repeated and a Palestinian health ministry statement cited. Only in the fifth paragraph is the Israeli version of events introduced.