SPIEGEL ONLINE September 21, 2001, 6:10 PM
The Power of Television
What is the Truth?
By Lisa Erdmann
Only a few hours after the murderous attacks on New York and Washington television stations were showing images across the world of Palestinians who were celebrating the unthinkable act. Now it seems that a part of these pictures was possibly staged, the rest old.
Hamburg - Children celebrate, a woman with a black shawl and glasses throws her hands in the air, a man claps and waves to passers-by: a street scene, filmed in Jerusalem on September 11, the day of the attacks in New York and Washington. Pictures that went around the world. Pictures that shook many people. The hunger for information and film was insatiable that day - and so these reports were shown by TV stations over and over again, subtitled with the words that Palestinians were celebrating the attacks in the U.S. But now, ten days after the attacks, the ARD political magazine "Panorama" is reporting that there might be another truth to these pictures, that the scene may even have been staged.
[caption: Celebration before the camera for a piece of cake]
The Palestinians were filmed by two news agencies: Reuters and Associated Press (AP). TV audiences have only seen a few seconds of the material in the past week. But in total there were 4 minutes of material in the TV stations. Panorama editor Annette Krueger-Spitta had a closer look at the entire footage from both agencies. "That is just explosive material." Then she noticed discrepancies.
The finally edited news films in the past week made the impression that there many people celebrating in the street. There were no wide-out shots that showed the entire street, but only small groups of people. But in the material originally delivered there were definitely wide-outs - they showed clearly that only a handful of Palestinians were celebrating and many others were simply passing by without participating. "The woman with the shawl said later that she celebrated for the camera because someone promised here some cake," according to Krueger-Spitta. The Palestinian woman had said that she was horrified when she saw the context in which her celebration was shown. She says she abhors the acts in New York in Washington. What is the truth?
[caption: Children celebrate the attacks in front of the camera - in the background, people hurry by without participating]
In the past week agitated emails swept around the globe about a similar incident. CNN was using ten-year-old pictures to give proof of Palestinian celebrations. A Brazilian student, Marcio, had posted a letter Wednesday on the website for Indymedia, an independent media outlet. He wrote that he had proof that the images on September 11 from the American news broadcaster were falsified. The film was from 1991 and showed Palestinian youth celebrating after Iraq marched into Kuwait. One of his teachers had video clips from that time and had compared them to the current reports. Result: Both images were identical. CNN was creating an anti-Palestinian sentiment.
Only two days later, on Friday, Marcio backpedaled. The information had only been suspected; the university teacher could not prove it. But then it was too late. Emails have been rushing through the internet with the false information; many editors - including us - have been receiving concerned notes from readers. CNN International has strongly denied the accusation to SPIEGEL ONLINE. Reuters TV, which delivered the material to CNN, was quick to refute the accusations. Even on Indymedia's website there was doubt in the accusation. A reader explained that the images could not be from 1991 because you could see a 1995 Ford in them.