AFP Defends Graphic Photo After Israeli Criticism

Published February 6th, 2012 - 03:18 GMT
Shown strictly for illustrative purposes- Is Israel trying too hard to censor news agencies?
Shown strictly for illustrative purposes- Is Israel trying too hard to censor news agencies?

International news agency Agence France Presse defended Friday a hard-hitting photograph of a Palestinian construction worker writhing in pain after being intentionally run over by a tractor driven by an Israeli soldier, after Israeli complaints to U.S. newspapers that the photograph was staged.

The photograph and accompanying report – published Jan. 25 – showed the man, Mohammad Abu Qbeita, injured when an Israeli army driver drove a trailer hooked to a tractor over his leg. Qbeita was reportedly trying to prevent Israeli soldiers from seizing building equipment in the village of Al-Dirat, in the West Bank.

AFP issued a statement in response to blogs and a letter sent by the Israeli Embassy in Washington to U.S. newspapers claiming the vehicle pictured was in fact stationary and Qbeita was not injured, asking the newspapers to retract the photo and issue a correction.

“In a letter to U.S. newspapers, the Israeli Embassy in Washington wrote that the vehicle was in fact stationary and that medics from the Israeli [army] and Red Crescent determined that the construction worker had not been injured,” AFP’s statement read.

AFP said they stood by the photograph, after conducting investigations into its veracity in response to Israeli accusations that cast “doubt on AFP’s credibility and journalism ethics.”

Citing transcripts of interviews with Qbeita and doctors that treated him by reporters at their bureau in Jerusalem, the news agency said they had determined the Israeli accusations to be “false.”

“He was suffering from severe pain in his right leg. He said an Israeli military vehicle ran over him. In the medical examination we found that he has pain in his right knee, pain in his pelvis, and pain in the neck, and has difficulty in walking. We conducted X-rays on him and found fractures. He has been advised to consult the orthopedic department,” the medical report, as carried by AFP, read.

“It hit me twice, first on my side, which knocked me over on the ground. Then it drove over one of my legs. I didn’t see it coming. It went over one of my legs, one was under the wheel, the other one was outside it,” Qbeita’s testimony read.

“In light of these inquiries and based on the trust we have in our photojournalist, AFP Management does not believe that this event could ever have been staged,” the statement said, adding that they had issued the statement “given the ferocity of the attacks against the AFP Photo service.”

By Lauren Williams

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