Multiple news outlets, including the Guardian and Times of London, reported today that Syrian air defences responded to a missile attack over Homs that targeted Shayrat airbase last night, all citing Syrian state news reports as their source.
However, every report on the alleged attack we read, including the English site of SANA, the official Syrian News Agency, avoided making specific allegations as to the source of the attack, and did not claim that Syrian authorities alleged that Israel was responsible – that is, every report with the exception of Times of London, which reported, as if it were a fact, that Israeli jets attacked the air base.
The report, by Catherine Philp and Rhys Blakely, made this claim both in the headline and text of the article:
The opening sentence repeats (without ‘scare quotes’) the allegation:
Israeli jets attacked an airbase in Syria last night, three days after Britain, the US and France struck the Assad regime’s chemical weapons facilities,
However, this is not merely a problem of a news outlet reporting as fact something that’s merely an allegation. According to research by CAMERA’s Arabic department, not one official Syrian news outlet made this accusation against Israel. Most attributed the attacks to unnamed “terrorists” or “aggressors”.
Though we complained to editors about the false claims under the terms of the accuracy clause, more recent reports reveal not only that Israel wasn’t responsible, but that no attack of any sort actually occurred last night. Within the past two hours, Reuters, and other news sites, citing Syrian military sources, reported that “a false alarm led to Syrian air defense missiles being fired overnight” and that “there was no fresh attack on Syria” as originally claimed.
Israel was charged with an ‘attack’ that never occurred in the first place.
Though accusations regarding “fake news” are used way too often these days, the Times of London report on the “Israeli attack” last night clearly deserves to be labeled as such.
Last night, Times of London editors responded to our complaint and corrected the article, revising the headline and removing the relevant paragraphs which had falsely claimed Israel launched an attack on Syria. However, the official correction still erroneously claims that their source for claims of an Israeli attack was the Syrian state meida. However, as we noted in this post, there were no Syrian state media reports which made this claim. Rather, they only blamed “agressors” or “terrorists”, without providing specifics. As far as we can tell, the only ones making this accusation were a few Assad supporters on Twitter. We’re going to be in touch with editors in an attempt to correct their ‘correction’.
- Huffington Post Arabic Closes (CAMERA)
- BBC’s casualty figure source shows its reliability (BBC Watch)