By Adam Kredo / FreeBeacon.com
DAY 1, Tuesday
The Associated Press has corrected the caption on a controversial photograph depicting a Gaza-based BBC reporter cradling his dead baby.
The photo of Jihad Masharawi holding his dead son sparked outrage late last year when The Washington Post and other Western media outlets blamed an Israeli airstrike for the child’s death.
The United Nations confirmed on Monday, March 11, 2013 that Israel was not to blame for the child’s death, which was caused by an errant rocket fired by the terrorist group Hamas at Jewish civilians.
The AP and many other publications, most notably the Post, ran with the photo and story that erroneously blamed Israel.
The original caption read: “Jihad Masharawi weeps as he holds the body of his 11-month-old son, Ahmad, at al-Shifa hospital after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.”
AP spokesperson Paul Colford informed the Free Beacon Tuesday afternoon that the caption had been updated to reflect the United Nations’ new findings.
The AP photo of Masharawi became the focal point of a pitched battle last year between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian advocates.
Israel’s defenders said the photo was an example of the media rush to judge the Jewish state, while supporters of the Palestinians said the snapshot was an example of Israeli aggression.
The updated caption, which is just over 200 words, offers a correction and explains the controversy at length.
“Caption correction: Corrects information regarding the child’s death in the first sentence, corrects child’s name, and corrects family name,” the correction reads.
“In this Nov. 14, 2012 file photo, an anguished Jihad al-Masharawi, a BBC reporter, clutches his slain 11-month-old son Omar, wrapped in a shroud, at Shifa hospital in Gaza City,” the revised caption states. “An errant Palestinian rocket, not an Israeli airstrike, likely killed the child during fighting in the Hamas-ruled territory last November, a U.N. report indicated, challenging the widely believed story behind the image which became a symbol of what Palestinians said was Israeli aggression. Omar was killed on Nov. 14, the first day of fighting.”
“Palestinians blamed Israel, and this image was broadcast around the world and widely shared on social media,” the caption continues. “A March 6, 2013, report from the U.N. office of the high commissioner for human rights says the baby was ‘killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.’”
The AP notes that the BBC and Masharawi declined to comment on the new findings.
“Gaza’s rulers, the militant Islamic group Hamas, whose fighters fired most of the rockets into Israel during the conflict, had no response Monday. BBC officials declined to comment, and al-Masharawi said he couldn’t discuss the issue,” according to the revised caption. “An Israeli military spokesman said they could not confirm or deny whether they hit the al-Masharawi house.”
The AP caption had been partially updated late Monday, immediately following the release of the UN report. That update was later scrapped and replaced with the new one.
The Washington Post has updated but not corrected and retracted its erroneous story blaming Israel for the child’s death.
DAY 2, Wednesday
The Washington Post Wednesday morning [March 13] issued an “editor’s note” explaining why it erroneously blamed Israel for the death of a Gaza-based BBC reporter’s 11-month-old son.
The correction was issued several days after a United Nations report independently confirmed that Hamas, not Israel, was to blame for the child’s death, which occurred during last fall’s Israeli military operation in Gaza.
A photo of the crying reporter cradling his dead child was prominently featured on the Post’s front page with the following caption:
“Jihad Masharawi weeps as he holds the body of his 11-month-old son, Ahmad, at al-Shifa hospital after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.”
Following the UN report’s release and the ensuing backlash from supporters of Israel, the Post waited to correct the story.
Post spokeswoman Kristine Coratti said on Monday [March 11] that she did not have a comment on the new report and could not say if the Post would be running a correction in the coming days.
A two paragraph “editor’s note” appeared on page A2 of the paper Wednesday morning beneath the controversial photo:
“The photograph above was published on the front page of the Nov. 15 editions with a caption that said, based on information from the Associated Press, that the weeping man, Jihad Masharawi, was holding the body of his 11-month-old son ‘after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City,’” the note reads. “The image has been used to symbolize what Palestinians say was Israeli aggression during fighting in the Hamas-rule Gaza Strip.”
“A report published by the United Nations has now cast doubt on that interpretation,” the statement continues. “The report, from the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, says the baby depicted in the photograph was ‘killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.’
“The Post published an Associated Press item about those findings Tuesday and is reprinting the photo now to provide readers with the updated information,” the statement concludes.
Originally, the Post claimed that it independently verified the AP photo. The editor’s note does not address this discrepancy.
Former Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton previously defended the paper’s actions, saying the photo “moves the viewer toward a larger truth.”
Pexton said at the time that “the bomb was dropped by Israelis” and claimed the Post conducted its own investigation into the incident.
“Post staff then authenticated and verified the facts behind the Associated Press photo,” he wrote. “The dead baby was real. The bombing was real.”
Coratti said that the paper wanted to verify the new information before printing a correction.
“Photos like this are incredibly sensitive, and because of that we wanted to ensure we could verify the corrected information,” she said via email. “As for the original photo, we, like many papers, run AP content whole and credit it to them. Our story on the conflict did not mention the incident depicted in the photo.”
The Associated Press corrected its erroneous caption on Tuesday afternoon [see DAY 1 story above] to explain that an errant Hamas rocket likely killed the child.