The under-reporting of Palestinians killed

On Friday 6 October 2000, it was noted that many radio/TV reports from the first two-thirds of the day suggested that the clashes were winding down when the reality was that, by the end of Friday, 11 more Palestinians were killed (5 WB, 6 Gaza) and Palestinian human rights organisation Addameer recorded 177 injuries in the West Bank and 132 in Gaza.

On Saturday 7 October, Reuters and CNN were still reporting 8 killed, the BBC “at least eight”, while the funerals for 10 of the 11 were taking place. This has been common during the duration of the clashes. It is believed that this happens as the result of news organisations being unwilling to report unverified deaths, and time pressures that make last minute verification ‘too much work’ as deadlines approach. The daily numbers roll ovcr until the next day and catch up several days later as a new benchmark is verified, resulting in a 2+2+2=10 reporting.

Considering that news organisations are generally well-resourced and funded, The Electronic Intifada believes that this can be overcome. Local human rights organisations overcome this problem for their daily press releases by cultivating relationships with the hospitals and national medical bodies who deal with the dead and injured.

Under-reporting of numbers killed in comparable events

On Saturday 7 October 2000, Reuters claimed:

“The casualties brought the total death toll in nine days of violence to 77, the highest number of dead since 60 Arabs and 15 Israelis were killed in 1996 when Israel opened an entrance to a tourist tunnel in Arab East Jerusalem.”

In fact the number was 88 Palestinians and 16 Israelis, a figure investigated by Birzeit University’s Web Project in 1997 during the making of the September 1996 Memorial website. A team of students, staff, and others took both the official (and slightly differing) Palestinian Authority lists and went to interview families and friends of all those killed.

Final remarks

Although this trend does continue to be noted — especially in evening broadcasts of electronic media (radio, television, Internet) — giving the impression that the daily toll is less than it is, some news organisations are being careful to report numbers accurately at least sporadically, and are quoting the sources of their numbers. CNN in particular is to be commended for this. On Feb 23rd, CNN reported that:

“[Today’s] shootings raised the toll of the dead in five months of clashes between Palestinians and Israelis to 441 — 367 Palestinians, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, and 61 Israeli Jews and 13 Israeli Arabs, according to Israeli officials.”