Agence France-Presse Caught Spreading ‘Gazan’ Coronavirus Machine Lie

Any journalist worth his or her salt knows that it always pays to check one’s sources. But a recent story by Adel Zaanoun of Agence France-Presse (AFP) about a remarkable multipurpose device that fights the spread of coronavirus, allegedly invented by a Gazan woman, falls far short of the standards expected of any respectable news outlet.

The article, published October 29 and shared by multiple news sites around the world, claimed that a two-meter (around 6.6-foot) high machine which simultaneously sprays hand sanitizer while taking the user’s temperature, offering “an all-in-one disinfection experience,” also serves as a gate to public places such as restaurants, allowing access only to those who pass the temperature test.

Alleged creator Heba al-Hindi is quoted by AFP as saying: “In Gaza, we have basic devices imported from abroad to measure temperatures, and others to disinfect, but our devices combine multiple technologies in one.”

But something seemed off, and David Lange of pro-Israel activist site IsraellyCool published an expose revealing that the whole thing is a hoax.

As Lange noted, an image which accompanied the article on at least one new site shows the device clearly appearing with the word “Malaysia” on it. So where is it from – Gaza or Malaysia?

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The discovery prompted Lange to engage in further research, and a reverse image search on Google showed that the alleged  “inventor” herself, Heba al-Hindi, had posted it on her Facebook page – only to later delete it. Suspicious indeed. And the suspicions were confirmed in an exchange of messages with al-Hindi, in which she admitted that, “This device was purchased from an institution Ahibaa Malaysia.”

So the machine was not a Gazan invention at all, but a Malaysian one. And the proof was on the internet all along, literally written on the front of these machines.

Is it really too much to ask of journalists and editors to check their sources, instead of taking them at their word? What is the point of journalism if it’s simply parroting whatever outlandish claims are being made, with no time taken to investigate and verify their accuracy?

Partial Explanation of Gaza Situation

Predictably, the article gave an over-simplified one-sided background paragraph describing Gaza’s situation in reference to what Zaanoun earlier calls the “Israeli-enforced blockade” (thus erasing Egypt’s role in ensuring weapons don’t fall into the hands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad):

But dire economic conditions, a poor healthcare system and chronic electricity shortages, partly caused by the blockade, made Gaza especially vulnerable to the virus.”

Gaza’s situation can indeed be partly explained by the blockade… but only partly. The other, part is caused by the chronic mismanagement of Gaza by terror group Hamas, which misappropriates aid money, and rules the territory with an iron fist. And it’s this part which the media repeatedly leave out when describing conditions there.

Basic Journalistic Failures

Responsible journalism involves ensuring the veracity of any information shared. It requires taking the time to thoroughly check sources and claims. It demands that journalists attempt to independently establish as much as possible, rather than automatically trust any given source.

Most of all, proper journalism should be rooted in an open-minded, fair approach, in which all people and all countries are held to the same standards. In completely neglecting to mention Hamas’s role in the suffering of the people of Gaza while explicitly referring to Israeli-enforced blockade,” AFP’s Adel Zaanoun has not only helped spread yet another lie emanating from Gaza, but continued to hold Israel to a double-standard and let Hamas off the hook for its crimes.

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