BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ compromises accuracy with sloppy caption

The ‘In Pictures’ section of the BBC News website included the image below in the latest edition of its ‘Week in pictures‘ feature. The photograph is captioned:

“Sahar, girlfriend of Israeli soldier Dor Nini mourns during his funeral in a cemetery at Shtulim village near Ashdod. He was one of two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish UN peacekeeper killed as Hezbollah militants traded fire with Israeli forces on the Lebanese border.”

Har Dov In Pictures

St. Sgt. Dor Nini and Maj. Yochai Kalangel were killed by Hizballah terrorists who deliberately targeted the vehicle in which they were travelling (and additional ones), on a road also used by civilians, with Kornet guided anti-tank missiles from around 4 to 5 kilometers inside Lebanese territory. They could not and did not ‘trade fire’ with their attackers.

The BBC’s use of the phrase “traded fire” to describe that incident promotes a notion of equivalence which hampers audience understanding of the cause and sequence of events by blurring the fact that a terrorist organization carried out a premeditated cross-border attack which then prompted  a military response from Israel during which a member of UNIFIL was accidentally killed.

The same misleading expression was also used in a written BBC report but at least there it was followed by the clarification “[a]fter Israeli forces were hit by missile fire, they responded by firing shells into southern Lebanon”. The constraints of space affecting photo captions obviously mean that the use of precise language is critical if BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy are to be met. 

2 comments on “BBC’s ‘In Pictures’ compromises accuracy with sloppy caption

  1. “St. Sgt. Dor Nini and Maj. Yochai Kalangel were killed by Hizballah terrorists who deliberately targeted the vehicle in which they were travelling…”

    You can call Hizballah terrorists if you like but this incident was certainly not terrorist in nature. Firstly the target was military, which excludes it from most definitions of terrorism. Secondly the intention was not to terrorise but to retaliate against Israel’s killing of Hizballah members a few days previously. Haaretz referred to the strike as “Hezbollah’s response to last week’s airstrike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, which killed Jihad Mughniyeh and six other Hezbollah operatives”.

    Your objection to ‘trading fire’ as a description of the incident would obviate the use of the expression in any military exchange since in the nature of things one side always fires first. Too often it is the IDF but this time Hizballah got in first.

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