Case Number: 3262

Council Meeting: MAY 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Headlines and Captions

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Headlines and Captions
Tragedies, Offensive Handling of


Newstalk ZB published an article on April 30, 2022, headlined Palestinian assailants shoot dead Israeli guard in West Bank.

The AP news agency story led off by reporting “Palestinian assailants shot and killed a security guard at the entrance of a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank late Friday, the Israeli military said.”

Tameem Shaltoni complained the article breached principles relating to accuracy, fairness and balance and headlines and captions in the following ways:

  • The headline should have stated “unlawfully occupied” West Bank.
  • A photo at the top of the story showing Palestinians rallying in Gaza was irrelevant to the story and the caption misled readers to think the Palestinian flag was the Islamic jihad flag.
  • The reference to Jewish settlement suggests the incident was motivated by antisemitism. They should be called unlawful Israeli settlements.
  • The article mentions “a string of Palestinian attacks…left 14 Israelis dead” but did not mention that more than 20 Palestinians were shot in the same period.
  • The Israeli police statement, about Palestinians hurling stones in the direction of the heavily guarded gate that leads to the Western Wall where Jews can pray, misled readers to think praying Jews were the target rather than the Israeli guards inside Al-Aqsa Mosque.
  • The article reported many statements from the Israeli police but did not present any statements from Palestinian worshippers or protesters.
  • The article reported “The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is built on a hilltop that is the most sacred site for Jews.” This is a claim and not an established fact.

Responding to the complaint NZME Experience Manager Paul Gillick said the article was sourced from Associated Press, a highly reputable news agency. As for the other points the complainant raised:

  • The article states the attack occurred in occupied West Bank and the words “unlawfully occupied” did not need to be inserted in the headline.
  • It upheld the complaint that the caption may be inaccurate, and it was amended to remove reference to “Islamic Jihad actives”.
  • He rejected the use of the term “Jewish settlement” was motivated by antisemitism. It was common to refer to settlements in this way and it was not necessary to insert the work “illegal” as it was generally understood that Israel’s occupation and settlements in the West Bank were considered illegal under international law.
  • He accepted the article should have included detail on Palestinians killed by Israeli forces to provide balance. It was amended to include the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in recent weeks.
  • He did not agree that the article suggested Jewish visitors to the Wailing Wall were the intended target of stone throwers. It was clear from the preceding paragraph that the violence was between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli police.
  • Balance was provided by reporting a statement by the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service. The article also made it clear that the presence of Israeli police on the site and increasing visits by nationalist Jews was viewed as provocative by Palestinians and in violation of long-standing agreements.

The Media Council considers the article to be balanced and notes it include frequent references to the events from a Palestinian perspective.

Newstalk responded to the complaint by altering the caption and including information about the recent killing of Palestinians.

As for the balance of the complaints the Council considers that the article was fair reporting by a reputable news agency and that commonly used generic terms - including “the occupied West Bank” and “Jewish settlements” - are widely used shorthand for events in a complex, long-running conflict where, as demonstrated here, even the vocabulary is contested.

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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