BONN (Jul. 29)
Diplomatic sources here have expressed amazement at a deliberate distortion of information by the two West German television networks which made it appear that a mercy ship owned by the German Red Cross was hit by Israeli fire in Beirut harbor when it was actually the victim of Palestinian rockets at the port of Junieh, 15 kilometers north of Beirut. One of the networks corrected the error, but only after considerable delay.
The vessel, the Flora, was severely damaged Tuesday while off-loading medical supplies and vehicles at Junieh. One crew member was killed and five were injured. The German Red Cross expressed outrage over the incident, inasmuch as the vessel was clearly marked with the Red Cross symbol. The initial report by the Red Cross said the ship was in the port area of west Beirut which was under intense Israeli gunfire from land and sea.
That report was widely broadcast by the two networks, ARD and ZDF which refused requests by Israeli officials here to present the true facts. Hours after news agency reports confirmed that the Flora was hit by Soviet-made Palestinian rockets at Junieh, a high official of the Red Cross repeated on television that the incident had occurred in Beirut.
The ARD corrected the information in its final newscast which appeared after midnight when relatively few people watch television. The ZDF never carried a correction.
West German newspapers published the correct version yesterday. But the General Anzeiger of Bonn described the attack on the ship as an “act of despair” by the Palestinians. The West German Jewish community has accused the State television networks of mixing its reportage from Lebanon with anti-Israel propaganda.
DUTCH MEDIA ALSO BIASED
The Dutch news media, too, has shown a strong anti-Israeli bias in its coverage of events in Lebanon. This is especially true of radio and television which open their nightly newscasts from Lebanon by stressing the immense suffering caused Lebanese civilians by the Israeli bombardment of west Beirut. Targets hit by the Palestinians are never pin-pointed. Dutch newspapers carry daily front page photographs of women and children bombed out of their homes in west Beirut, Tyre and Sidon.