Caught in the frame: Australian media portrayal of Israeli and Palestinian casualties during the Gaza War of 2014

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


School of Arts and Humanities


Mhanna, M. (2015). Caught in the frame: Australian media portrayal of Israeli and Palestinian casualties during the Gaza War of 2014. presented at Australia & New Zealand Association of Communication Annual Conference, Queenstown, New Zealand.


At one stage of the long lasting Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel launched a military operation, Protective Edge, on the Gaza Strip in July - August of 2014. As a consequence, approximately 2,200 people died and over 10,000 people were injured, the majority of them Palestinian civilians (including children and women). These numerous casualties resulted in a pronounced interest in this particular event by international media such as CNN and the BBC, as well as other Western media including the Australian media.

While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not usually a priority in international news coverage, news related to the Gaza War was paramount in Australian print, broadcast and online media, with both Palestinian and Israeli casualties receiving many headlines and broad news coverage. However, similar to news coverage of other conflicts and wars, the overall news coverage of the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza was problematic. The reporting of casualties from both sides of a conflict calls into question how politics, attitudes, and editorial policies shape representations of those casualties. This may result in a media bias in favour of a specific side of a conflict through, for instance, focusing on some aspects of related events and neglecting other contexts including historical, political and humanistic contexts. This paper will investigate how Australian print and online media portrayed the Israeli and Palestinian casualties during the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza. Specifically, it will com-pare how the casualties were represented by four Australian news sources: two Australian newspapers - The Australian, the national newspaper published by Newscorporation, and The Sydney Morning Herald, published by Fairfax media; and two Australian news websites ABC, a public online news website and the independent news website Crikey. In addition, this paper will investigate whether Australian media representations of casualties reflected a bias in news coverage of the casualties during the Gaza War.

Based on the concept of framing theory (a crucial technique used to shape an event or issue, reflecting the power embedded in media texts), the paper will analyse news items and commentaries published in Australian mainstream media during the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza to identify the frames employed in reporting Israeli and Palestinian casualties. In other words, the framing of international news coverage of conflicts and wars can be revealed in media discourse by the use of certain words or phrases, the employment of certain sources, and the focus on certain aspects and contexts of events over others.

Ultimately, this paper will attempt to explain how Australian media discourse on casualties during the Gaza War was shaped by the inclusions and exclusions of related con texts, and how the language used in these representations reflects the power embedded through the medium of various actors who took part in this conflict - the Israeli Army, Hamas and the victims. Hopefully, this will aid a deeper understanding of how the Australian media reports war casualties with the intention of encouraging balance when portraying the humanistic aspects of war casualties in international news coverage.

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