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.”
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.