Research studies

Manipulation of Paratexts and Exploitation  of Subtitling Guidelines for Advocacy Purposes


Prepared by the researcher : Abrar Samir Ghanem Al-Quds University, Hebron. Palestine

Democratic Arab Center

Arabic journal for Translation studies : Third Issue – April 2023

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
ISSN 2750-6142
Arabic journal for translation studies

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This article studies some of the articles published by PMW (Palestinian Media Watch), which is a research institute that studies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The articles report events that took place between 2014 and 2015. The focus of these events is on two main incidents that were the cause of other related struggling incidents; the kidnapping of Muhammad Abu Khdeir and the Duma arson attack. The two events were the cause of other known incidents that took place during that time but were reported independently and out of the context of the two mentioned events, like Gaza 2014 war. Articles are translated from Arabic into English, and combine different paratextual elements in each. The articles aim at situating these events in a new frame by manipulating either the texts, or the paratexts they contain. The frame is the same in all PMW’s content. The frame, as this study suggests, depicts Palestinian people as ‘terrorists’ and Israel as a ‘state fighting terrorism.’ The content is ideologically motivated and framed; it follows in the footsteps of certain agenda.


Centuries ago, translation was viewed as a literary practice dedicated to the study of “important texts” either for “scholarship” or for “religious purposes” (Munday, 2016: 10-11). Translation gained much attention then with the late 4th Century production of The Vulgate version of Holy Scripture, a translation into the common Latin of the day, by St Jerome (347–420 AC). St Jerome is considered the ‘Father of Translation’ (the patron saint of translation and archaeology in the Roman Catholic tradition), and he together with Cicero (106–43 AC), originated the continual debate of “whether translations should be literal (word-for-word) or free (sense-for-sense)” (Munday 2016: 30-55). Translation since St Jerome and until the first half of the twentieth century was viewed as a mere linguistic act and language-learning act, or as “transferring a text from one language to another” (Kuhiwczak and Littau, 2007: 23).

Translation since St Jerome, and until the end of 1960s; after the appearance of the functional approaches, focused on the source text (ST) and source reader (SR). However, with the cultural turn in the 1990s and the emergence of postcolonial, descriptive, and sociological approaches in the 1970s, 1970s-1990s, and 1990s consequently, the focus has turned on the target text (TT) and TR, and on the translator and his agency. Translation is now seen as a communicative act with communicative purpose(s) and communicative function(s). In other words, it is seen as “textual transfer” and “meaning transfer” (Kuhiwczak and Littau 2007: 23-40). The cultural turn in the field of Translation Studies (TS) is mainly due to the emergence of pragmatics and semiotics, among other reasons, that caused the emergence of numerous new concepts. These concepts include intervention, manipulation, advocacy, ideology, etc. This means that the focus is on the TR’s reception and perception of the intended message(s) of the (TT) (Baker and Saldanha 2009: 204-205). In addition to the new concepts, some existed concepts in the field have also been questioned regarding translation and politics, such concepts are mainly related to ethics, truthfulness, and faithfulness.

The appearance of the new concepts in the field of (TS) and the questioning of the existed ones, from the point of view of this article, are the result of personal interpretations that advocate certain agendas, and of ideological manipulation by media and advocacy groups. An advocacy group is defined as “an organization that campaigns on a particular issue” (Collins Online Dictionary). In the field of (TS), advocacy groups campaign by translating news, and intervening in the STs. Media and news, within the field of (TS), are criticised for being a main tool for political intervention and manipulation. News serves certain agendas that are ideologically led and framed. For this reason, the field of translation and media draws the attention of many scholars, especially after the cultural turn, and move the lens from textual concerns to cultural concerns. Scholars now study and are more interested in “broader contextual factors” (Kung, 2009: 123) that initiate the translation process. These factors are mainly the result of power relations between cultures and the ideological political dimension of these relations.

This dimension is mostly represented in paratexts. Paratexts are texts embedded in bigger ones. They tell much about the agency and ideology of the translator, which are hidden behind language. Paratexts are analysed as a form of rewriting that manipulate the (ST) (Koş, 2008: 59) to advocate certain governments, and their agendas. The translators, editors, and commissioners carry this manipulation. It is a collective responsibility by the agency that is considered a whole one body responsible for “shaping the way the translated text is received by the target culture” (Haroon, 2017: 102). Media Agencies are the initiators of building false narratives, by mistranslating news and manipulating articles, which misrepresent events and people.

This study suggests that the mistranslated or manipulated (TT), distorts the communicative and cultural act translation should play. The study also suggests that the distortion of the role of translation can be linked to Aristotle triangle of persuasion. Aristotle argues that the process of achieving persuasion is the process of appealing to ethos, pathos, and logos. That is appealing to the reputation of the author, to readers’ emotions, and to reasoning. In the current study, ethos is embedded in the agency itself; the research institute (PMW), including its translators, editor, and commissioner or director. Pathos is embedded in the enhancing of ethos and its goal, by appealing to different certain translational strategies, especially in this study case, the changing of meanings of words in the (TT), and the creation of some others. Nonetheless, logos is embedded in the frame of pathos; that is the images and videos chosen to represent the certain words. Pathos and logos reveals ethos goal. In other words, the selective images and videos chosen by the corpus of this study, and the certain words they contain, represent the goal the corpus has.

Paratexts were first viewed by Genette (1987); they are everything that surrounds the text and add information to the (ST). Paratexts construct different narratives than that of the (ST) and play crucial role in the understanding of the text and have an equal role of the text itself. In the corpus of this study, different forms of paratexts are employed by a research institute that studies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, named: PMW. These paratexts include titles, images, videos (news videos), subtitles, explanatory comments, and expository intertitles. Added information in selective paratexts provides any agency or any advocacy group with the visibility they aim at. This visibility is dedicated to reflect and impose certain ideologies on one side and manipulate texts in a way to encounter ‘The Other’ narratives, on the other.

Narrative analysis reveals political propagandas that aim at engaging nations in politics and reveals the process of narrative construction. Narrative analysis reveals intentionally manipulated texts, and how this manipulation is framed to constitute alternative narratives. It also reveals how the same narrative can be framed differently and in diverse ways by a different agency, which serves certain personal agendas. The Narrative Theory reveals the actual meaning and reasons behind the use of the notion of ‘terrorism’ as narrated by pro- government agencies (Harding, 2012: 303).

  1. Advocacy in Translation Studies

Translators working in areas facing conflicts and wars advocate their cultures and ideologies by all possible means of intervention. Translators are not neutral; as they are part of a greater narrative they help to construct. Thus, translators are strongly and inevitably engaged in politics for advocacy purposes, to support certain ideologies and serve certain agendas. Translation is the best tool used by governments to achieve and serve their agendas through manipulated propagandas. Media and translation agencies are not questioned of the oral and written products they produce, since dominant governments help in the establishment of such agencies and fund them. Hence, censorship has often been questioned in the scholarship of Translation and Media studies and much research in the field comes out with the fact that censorship is politically motivated and controlled. This is a result of the absence of a censored and joint international translation laws and norms. Specifically, legislation governing censorship issues. Even though interventional means are many and different within the field of (TS), the corpus of this study focusses on the massive use of paratexts by a research institute, called PMW.

Baker (2007) focusses on the Narrative Theory in the analysis of MEMRI and Watching America. Her study aims at showing how the translations provided by MEMRI and Watching America manipulate the original narratives related to Arabs and Muslims and construct a different political reality. It does so by analysing examples of the titles, images, endnotes, and subtitles certain agencies choose. The examples analysed are considered tools that serves certain narratives. Baker (2010) also studies MEMRI and the narratives it promotes from a broader angle. She studies MEMRI’s ‘About Us’ page, and analyses its vision and goal, which Baker sums up as the promoting of terrorism and security agenda. Baker (2010) mentions other smaller organisations, such as MEMRI, which serve the same agenda and ideology; Middle East Strategic Information (MESI), The Medialine, and the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). Al Sharif (2009) and Hijjo (2017) examine the narrative account of Palestinians, Palestinian women, and Daesh offered by MEMRI, analysing some of its deliberate choices in titles, prefaces, headings, endnotes, glossaries, and images. In addition to examining the translation strategies MEMRI uses; omission, addition, word choice, grammatical shifts, and the certain labels. Their analysis aims at showing the role of the different framing strategies MEMRI uses, in portraying Palestinians and Muslims in negative frames, and in embedding these frames within terrorism and security narratives they typically deploy. This current study examines PMW. PMW is an Israel-based agency with Israeli editors, commissioners, and other hidden translators. The content of PMW is only Palestinian-based that aims at negatively portraying Palestinians as; ‘The Other’. However, and unlike all previous studies that deal with issues of bias in MEMRI or other institutes, this study is only a paratextual one that focusses the most on images and videos. It aims first at revealing questions of trustworthiness with respect to the paratexts employed by PMW, which tell the incidents that took place between 2014 and 2015. Second, it aims at revealing how subtitling guidelines are exploited for political and advocacy purposes.

1.1 Paratextual Elements

Paratexts are non-verbal and verbal elements that surround the main text and establish the manner in which the textual content is to be received and interpreted by the reader. In translation theory, paratexts can serve various political purposes. In other words, paratexts naturalize or normalize a certain ideological framework and substantiate certain political perspectives necessary for achieving a ‘new reality’ or ‘new narrative’. Paratexts, as defined by Genette, are “those liminal devices and conventions, both within the book (peritext) and outside it (epitext), that mediate the book to the reader” (Genette 1997: 18). Genette divides paratexts into two types: peritexts and epitexts. Peritexts include titles, prefaces, dedications, epigraphs, and notes, while epitexts include interviews, letters, and marketing material (Pellatt 2013: 14). Both types of paratexts, according to this study, have a social and a political function; they help “constructs the reader’s horizons of expectation” (ibid: 15) and limit his ability to challenge that vision of reality that is promoted by content provider. For Genette, paratexts have four functions: “designating or identifying; description of the work (content and genre); connotative value; temptation” (Genette, 1997: 12). However, none of the functions is innocent; paratexts are used by the translator and his agency to communicate or transfer their point of view. Paratexts have an ideological persuasive dimension. The current study suggests that paratexts are the translator and his agency’s fingerprint that exist in the final product. In other words, paratexts, from a political point of view, provide the agency and its agents with the desired transnational visibility they aim for. Koskinen (2000) suggests three types of visibility: textual visibility; includes translation strategies, paratextual visibility; includes additions of (ST), and extratextual visibility; includes press releases, criticism, interviews dedicated to translators (ibid: 99). Linking Koskinen’s suggestion of the three types of visibility and Genette’s identification of the four paratextual functions, this study concludes that media and advocacy groups, use all possible means of persuasion, to reach a certain level of transnational visibility.

Rovira-Esteva (2016) views a set of paratexts that show the misrepresentation of the (ST) by the misuse of paratextual elements in Chinese translated literature. She also views the power relations between cultures and literary systems. She views the concept of paratranslation. Paratranslation aims at analysing and communicating what surrounds the text, it emphasises the ultimate role of editors and publishers in the process of ideology transfer. Rovira-Esteva’s study shows how publishing houses select material to be translated, according to their own ideological presuppositions and to what they believe serves their communities’ interests. Her study also shows how ideological manipulation can be carried by paratextual elements, including front and back covers, preface and postface, table of contents, chapter titles, and layout and presentation. Manipulation, as Rovira-Esteva says, aims to present an accepted final product to the target audiences. Koş’s (2008) case study of the Turkish translations of the French feminist activist and writer Simone de Beauvoir is similar to Rovira-Esteva. In other words, the two studies examine literary works related to feminism and woman’s issue in conservative cultures. Koş studies the Turkish translations of French feminist literature, the ideological stances of it on the Turkish culture, and the paratextual strategies employed by Turkish translators and publishers to adapt the translated work for their readers. However, Rovira-Esteva studies the banned Chinese book “Beijing Doll” by the Chinese writer Chun Sue. Rovira-Esteva tries to explain the reasons underlying the selection of certain literary works to be translated, as resulting from unequal power-relations that consider Chinese literature peripheral. She explains that the manipulation of paratextual elements is conducted to ensure the Chinese authorities-related narratives regarding freedom and “Oriental femme fatal” (ibid: 16). In other words, Rovira-Esteva study shows how the selection of literary works and the manipulation of paratextual elements misrepresent ‘the Other’ through “shifts in the narratives” (ibid: 18). However, both studies of Koş (2008) and Rovira-Esteva (2016) examine the issue of translated literature by strong, independent and dominant countries from also a strong, independent and dominant countries. This means that both studies lack the particular and sensitive issue of using paratextual elements in non-literary texts for ideological purposes and to advocate successfully for certain agendas in areas facing conflicts. This study views the issue of manipulating news and narratives by media, using different paratextual materials; titles, images, videos, explanatory comments, and expository intertitles.

Paratexts hold contrasting functions and have several types. Paratexts are the translator’s notes on different subject matters that reflect his “own judgement of the needs of their target readers” (Haroon, 2017: 102). Haroon (2017) studies the (TT) prefaces in English literary texts that were translated from Malay in Malaysia. She explains that prefaces in translated literary works provide information about the translation process itself, the translator, the (ST), and certain individuals to whom the translator expresses his or her gratitude. Her study focusses on paratextual analysis rather than on textual analysis, with the intention of showing how added prefaces by translators provide useful information for other translators or trainees. She says that paratexts show “some of the difficulties faced by the translator and their choice of translation approach and procedures” (ibid: 112). Haroon reviews the functions of prefaces as viewed by Dimitriu’s (2009) study on the subject matter in which she emphasises on three preface functions. The functions are explanatory, normative /prescriptive, and informative /descriptive (ibid: 111). However, Haroon’s study does not account for ideological choices made by translators, the reasons underlying certain literary prefaces from Malay into English, or the reasons behind the selection of certain literary works selected for translation into English in Malaysia. Her study lacks the ideological and narrative analyses of paratextual elements. Haroon points out that prefaces contain certain information about the (ST) and the (TT) title. However, her study lacks the ideological and narrative accounts of the (ST) information and (TT) title, which can be derived in paratextual elements.

Buendía (2013) studies translators’ notes from another angle and a wider perspective. She includes in her study, the spatial-temporal status of translator’s notes, their authors (senders) and readers (receptors), and their functions within the process of paratranslation. She views the translator’s notes as:

Statements of variable length which are always connected to more or less definite segments of the text and they are usually found printed at the bottom of the page or in its margins, although they can also be included at the end of each chapter or book. (Buendía, 2013: 150-151)

Buendía mentions the two types of paratexts as discussed by Genette (1997) in relation to senders; authorial paratexts and allographic paratexts. Authorial paratexts are produced by the author of the text, while allographic paratexts are produced by translators or editors. Readers of paratexts from a translational point of view, are those who read the (TT) not the (ST).

Buendía views two types of notes in relation to their functions that affect the understanding and interpreting of the TT; Informative/explanatory and discursive/commentary (ibid: 156-161). She describes these notes as “the footprints of a rewriting process that affects the source text” (ibid: 161). She says that paratexts are useful in the “understanding of the translation policies and translation norms in force at a specific moment in time” (ibid: 161). Buendía says that paratextual elements are the “result of a norm-governed decision” (ibid: 150). However, her study does not reveal the political motivations behind the in-text intervention and off-text intervention. She says that translators “must know what the rational thing to do is in a specific context and with a specific goal and within the particular circumstances surrounding the production and reception of the text” (ibid: 156). She explains that these circumstances “depend on several factors, such as the cultural distance between the (ST) and the (TT), the requirements of the target text potential reader, the type of text, the expected degree of translator’s visibility, ideology, the context, etc.” (ibid: 156).

However, and like Haroon’s study, Buendía’s study lacks the cultural or ideological analysis implicit in the translator’s notes as well as attention to the underlying questions and answers related to the translator’s paratextual intervention. And although Buendía’s study shows the separate locations of notes, whether in the text, on the margins, or at the bottom (footnotes). It lacks answers with regard to the ostensible reasons behind the location of the notes. The abovementioned paratextual studies are literature-based: they tackle the issues of paratextual change, linguistic manipulation, and other considerations involved in the translation of literary works. Nonetheless, the above studies lack either the ideological analysis, or the narrative analysis. The type of analysis that characterizes the studies mentioned above is descriptive; it stops at the descriptive level and lacks clear and detailed ideological-narrative analysis behind paratextual changes. The current study tackles the issue of paratextual manipulation and ideological manipulation. It adopts CDA and certain forms of narrative theory as a particularly apt method of analysis of selective paratextual elements in the context of transnational political and military conflict.

1.2 AVT from a Sociocultural Perspective: The New Century’s Method for Manipulative Intervention

A linguistic or discourse analysis of news media can be vital in coming to understand both the kind and the degree of manipulation operating in key sources of information and in understanding the concepts of power and ideology through the lens of the translator. From a socio-cultural point of view, it is particularly important to study reasons behind any “ideologically motivated changes” (Díaz-Cintas 2012b: 285) in audiovisual products and disclosing the political choices they contain. These changes aim at playing a “role in the political process” (Ayyad, 2012: 2). Manipulation in (AVT) occurs since there are no fixed and valid (AVT) norms and laws that control or prohibit the process of narrative construction or narrative change. Manipulation in news videos aims at spreading certain ideological constructs and hiding others. Rhetorical or linguistic manipulation also attempts to provide “more political weight to one of the parties at the expense of the other” (ibid: 259). News translators have their own beliefs and ideologies, and whether intentionally or not, their translations are ideologically inscribed. In other words, wittingly or unwittingly, translators function as active political agents whose representations of events cannot be separated from those ideological assumptions that are expressed in the dominant discourse.

In the field of (TS), intentional and ideological change, as Lefevere (1992) puts it, is the process of ‘rewriting’ (Lefevere, 1992: 2-8, as cited in Munday 2016: 199). Rewriting can occur not only be in words, texts, or books, but also in the paratextual elements employed. Media, advocacy groups, or research institutes employ enormous numbers of paratextual elements that aim at ‘rewriting news; ‘news rewriting.’ This issue is strongly linked to translation ethics and norms; the process of decision making.

Translation ethics are defined by Robinson as the ability translators possess to “keep the meaning of the source undistorted” (Robinson, 2003: 25, as cited in Alwazna, 2014: 51). Norms on the other hand are defined by Toury as translators’ considerations for the target society expectations and values (Alwazna, 2014: 53). In other words, norms are the considerations translators make regarding what their societies consider “right or wrong” (Baker, 1992: 275). Baker defines ethics and morality as the “ability to make decisions on the basis of what we believe to be morally right or wrong in a specific context” (ibid: 275). Baker explains rights and wrongs in the light of two terms, unethicality, and imprudence. Baker exemplifies this issue and says that it is unethical to kill or “rape,” but it’s imprudent “not to brush one’s teeth regularly, or study for an exam” (ibid: 275). She further says, in relation to translation and conflicts, that rights or wrongs are built on our personal assessments, rather than on what is happening around us all the time (ibid: 275). This explains why Baker says that “[t]ranslators can never be absolutely neutral or objective, since every act of translation involves an interpretation” (Chesterman, 2008: 1). This interpretation is personal and built on the translator’s perception or interpretation of the meaning of the text. On the other hand, Pym says that neutrality was created ‘as salvation’ of the problems of loyalties (Koskinen, 2000: 71). Thus, ethicality is linked to the translator’s ideology or perception of the text. Ideology is defined by Pérez (1997) as “the set of ideas, values and beliefs that govern a community by virtue of being regarded as the norm” (Pérez 1997: 35, as cited in Flynn 2016: 47-48). Içöz (2012) states that unethical translations may emerge when the translator misrepresents or misinterprets the (ST) text, offers suspicious claims based on identifiable ideological systems, or causes the (ST) to lose its value due to misinformation whether on purpose or by mistake (Içöz 2012: 134).

There has been much contribution to the genre of (AVT) and its guidelines. However, little attention has been made to instances of exploitation of (AVT) guidelines for political purposes, or for maintaining certain ideologies. The current study is an attempt to fill the void. Two of the most important and recent studies, which provide the field with detailed (AVT) norms or guidelines, are Karamitroglou (1998) and Schwarz (2002). They view temporal and spatial guidelines, specific text strategies, syntactical strategies, semantical strategies, punctuations guidelines, stylistic guidelines, culture specific strategies, among other issues. The two studies aim at making the final target audiovisual product well received by the audience and making it as much close to the original as possible. Much research in the field is inspired by, and built on, issues related to following of these guidelines by translators. For example, Thawabteh (2017) studies the subtitles of an Egyptian series written by twenty MA students, who had little knowledge or experience with (AVT) guidelines. He points out that translation trainees and students face different problems; linguistic, cultural, and technical. He also states that students lack “technical competence” (ibid: 37); that is “the ability to deal with the sheer practical demands of the job as it appears to most working subtitlers: use of software, line breaks, positioning on the screen, time and space restrictions, use of italics, etc.” (Skuggevik, 2009: 198, as cited in Thawabteh, 2017: 37). This study is one of many that focuses on (AVT) guidelines, and (AVT) problems and mistakes, based on Karamitroglou (1998) and Schwarz (2002) studies. Nonetheless, these studies do not address the ideological and political reasons behind (AVT) ‘mistakes’. This study addresses the issue of intended exploitation of (AVT) guidelines for political and ideological purposes, by professional and well-trained translators, editors, and commissioners.

Many researchers are now interested in (AVT) as a genre in (TS) that has different modes; subtitling, dubbing, and voiceover. However, a few research has been published on manipulation in (AVT), although this genre is strongly and powerfully linked to ideology and culture. AVT is a mean of cross-cultural influence that can be highly manipulative; it is used by governments and their agencies to manipulate history, impose ideologies, and serve certain agendas. This can be seen in the word choice employed and the careful terminology used, and in the different paratexts added or discourses and scenes omitted. In a study by Díaz-Cintas (2012), the issue of translation and intervention is discussed. He focuses in his presentation on showing the power struggle between different translation parties and how this struggle affects the final translated product. He says that this struggle is “based on power, dominance, and ideology” (Díaz-Cintas, 2012a: 276), and exists in the translation of taboo language, and in religious, sexual, and political references. Díaz-Cintas tries to study (AVT) from an unresearched point of view; from a socio-cultural point of view. He says that:

AVT has often been studied from a professional point of view, with research focusing mainly on its mechanics, on technical issues such as time and space constraints, lip synchronisation, spotting or cueing of subtitles, and so on. (Díaz-Cintas, 2012a: 275)

Díaz-Cintas authored another study on the manipulative intervention in (AVT). He differentiates between technical manipulation (positive manipulation) and ideological manipulation (negative manipulation). However, he focusses on ideological manipulation throughout his study. He says that ideological manipulation in (AVT) incorporates any change in the (TT) “(including deletions and additions) that deliberately departs from what is said (or shown) in the original.” (Díaz-Cintas, 2012b: 283). According to Díaz-Cintas, the motivation behind any act of translation stems from political hegemony and power relations, rather than from linguistic asymmetries between languages. He adds that “translation practice is never a neutral act of communication” (Díaz-Cintas, 2012b: 282). During his study, Díaz-Cintas carries the concepts of patronage and censorship to further analyse hidden manipulation in (AVT). He states that patronage acts as extralinguistic factor “connected to the socio-economic and ideological forces” (Díaz-Cintas, 2012b: 283). His work focuses on subtitling, which he describes as a “mean of global acculturation exploited by the big multinationals and a tool for local empowerment” (Díaz-Cintas, 2012b: 288). His study contributes much to the field of TS and (AVT), particularly given that the field has contributed little to the use of (AVT) for political purposes. Nonetheless, his study lacks attention to the use of ideological manipulation in news videos and lacks the translation strategies used by media in (AVT). The current article studies subtitles from a different perspective. It directly addresses the use of subtitles for advocacy purposes. It focusses on news videos, how and why they are used in certain manner, and how they are translated, by examining a research institute that studies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Additionally, and unlike any previous research in the field, this study illustrates the issue of exploiting subtitling guidelines for ideological purposes. It studies news videos, and their added expository intertitles and explanatory comments they have. This study views what it calls (video-based articles); the articles that contain only a subtitled video(s). Video-based articles aim to attract more (TRs), to affect the way they see the world, and to influence public perceptions and opinions regarding political conflicts.

Alfaro de Carvalho (2012) studies (AVT) from a more normative angle. Her study is based on the (AVT) industry in Brazil in relation to censorship, guidelines, and linguistic and stylistic policies that govern cable TV subtitling and dubbing. She traces dubbing and subtitling evolution by the quality control processes that include, inter alia, the grammatical and stylistic norms of the languages involved, space and / or time constraints, content and programming, and target audiences. Her study aims at understanding the reasons behind subtitling guidelines and norms used by Brazilian broadcasters and video producers. Alfaro de Carvalho concluded that the Brazilian history is the reason there appear to be language control in subtitles, and why some terms are changed or omitted. Her study is technologically-based and features Díaz-Cintas concept of ‘technical manipulation’. Unlike this current study that views the concept of ‘ideological manipulation’ in connection with the Narrative Theory. Alfaro de Carvalho’s study fails to consider the potential importance of ideological analysis of dubbing and subtitling. However, this study focusses on the ideological-narrative analysis of subtitles used in media or media research institutes, and not in film or program productions. It focusses on the use of subtitles in news videos as one category of the paratextual elements employed by media. The study shows that news videos support certain agendas and advocates for certain ideological positions instead of identifying subtitles as one mode of (AVT).

It is important in the field of (TS) to ideologically and politically analyse audiovisual products to reveal the embedded ideological concepts and ideas. The audiovisual industry offers its translated products that advance different ideological concepts. Politics, according to this study, is the reason behind audiovisual products; it aims to control or reframe narratives, and to influence the audiences’ beliefs and perception of the world. Flynn (2016) focusses on the role of dubbing in the cross-cultural transfer of ideological values, and the effect of French American pre- and post-conflict disagreements on the formation and sustainability of ‘national identity’. She says that “manipulation could be discussed within a context of peace and within a context of conflict” (ibid: 123). She emphasises that even ostensibly non-political Hollywood films articulate ideologically concepts and information. She views the role of dubbed Hollywood films in the representation of cultural differences, by viewing the hidden political shifts in some films. She focusses on humor generally and comedy films in particular in which the originally English ideological concepts and satirically-minded content, are removed when the work is dubbed for the French audience. She views the issue of the audience size and composition of these Hollywood films, who belong to distinct cultures, and who may receive ideological material in distinctly different ways. Flynn studies dubbing from an ideological point of view and focusses on the terms used in the (ST), and how they are dubbed in the (TT). She views the history of the French and American disagreement over the issue of the Iraq War, and how this disagreement affects film production. However, this study focusses on subtitling as a type of the paratextual material commonly used in the news media. The current study gives weight to the fact that commercial media and corporate news broadcasts influence the development of audiovisual products. In other words, the kinds of text and the rhetoric they deploy in film production are influenced by internationally-current socio-cultural and political trends as articulated and disseminated by local and international media agencies.

For example, constructs such as ‘terrorism’ and the ubiquitous ‘war on terror’ are offered to the world by media in a frame identifying Muslims as ‘terrorists’, and the West and their allies as ‘fighters’. This frame, and its conceptual foundations is the motivational factor behind countless books and films. This study seeks to combine subtitling with other paratextual materials, as one selective whole used by powerful government agencies to frame and reframe the present narratives. Flynn’s study addresses only the hidden anti-French ideological concepts in Hollywood dubbed films and stops short of analysing other elements that affect the reception of these films. This study focusses on subtitled news videos and related elements; addition to expository intertitles and explanatory comments, which are used for political and advocacy purposes. The study also addresses the exploitation of subtitling norms and guidelines, in addition to other paratextual elements, such as titles, and images.

  1. Data Analysis

2.1 Titles

In addition to the selective news items PMW selects as relevant, it tends to (re)frame more than one image and/or video under one title, that depicts Palestinians as ‘terrorists’ and Palestine as ‘terrorist state.’ Titles are highly manipulative whether by the terminologies used, or by other external elements, such as double inverted commas.  The following are examples of manipulative titles:

Example one July 2, 2014 Fatah to “Sons of Zion”: “Blood for blood”

Fatah incites violence:

“An oath in the name

of the Lord of the Universe,

O sons of Zion: blood for blood”

Example two Nov 25, 2014 Israel’s shooting of 5 terrorists is an “attack against our people”
Example three Oct 23, 2015 Fatah Facebook depicts Netanyahu and Israel as ISIS terrorists
Example four Oct 23, 2015 Fatah Facebook post depicts Jewish settlers as terrorists equivalent to ISIS
Example five July 15, 2014 Hamas video celebrates 2011 missile attack that murdered 16-year-old
Example six Aug 26, 2014 PA TV: Israeli bombing of building in Gaza was “terror” equal to 9/11
Example seven Aug 10, 2014 Hamas TV: “Even the Jihad fighters… are actually Palestinian civilians”
Example eight July 27, 2014 Abbas calls for “war for Allah” and the West Bank erupts in violence
Example nine July 9, 2014 Fatah: “One God, one enemy, one goal” unites Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad

All the above titles are manipulated by two main strategies; 1. literal translation that is used as a mean of miscommunication by the suspicious choice of words. 2. Double inverted commas that are employed to quote directly or to add certain words which PMW wants them to (standout). The two strategies are used to allow the Israeli narrative and ideology to be internalized even before the (TR) moves on with the article, and thus constructing a new frame about Palestinians. In addition to that, all these titles contain different paratextual elements; images or videos, which are the mere component of all the articles. In other words, selective images and videos are shaped by the strategic choice of words selected for the titles. The narrative or the vision PMW sees, is framed by two main features it has: selective appropriation and a lack of relationality.

The above examples claim that they report what has occurred between 2014 and 2015 in Palestine. They also report reactions to events that are unmentioned in the article itself.  Titles like those in Examples 2, 3, 4, and 6, have phrases or words such as “Fatah incites violence”, “erupts in violence”, “depicts”, and “murdered”, that justify PMW’s narrative about Palestinians and impose its ideology. The imposing of its ideology is also seen through the avoidance of using emotionally-charged yet singularly accurate language such as (burning) or (burning alive). In addition to the translation strategy employed; the use of certain paratextual elements under selective titles, and the reporting of causes without actions.

Moreover, describing a group of people or a nation as (terrorists), and mocking them when they use the same word (terror) or (attack) by putting these two words between double inverted commas, show that PMW, or any pro-government media agency, justifies killing actions and wars by hiding the killing actions and wars (the reason), and reporting what people think and their opinions on what happens against them by the use of satire. The paratextual elements in which the above titles contain are further discussed below.

2.2 Images

In an article published on July 2, 2014, which is the day that Muhammad Abu Khdeir was kidnapped, murdered, and burnt, PMW says that ‘Fatah’ posted the following image on its official Facebook page. PMW also says that the image was posted “One day before Abu-Khdeir was found burnt and tortured”. The image is found in an article that contains another two images.

Image 1

ST هنا القدس، هنا الثورة.
TT [Facebook, “Fatah – The Main Page,” July 2, 2014]


A third image, posted by Fatah today, showed riots in Jerusalem and the text:

“Here is Jerusalem, here is the revolution.”

Image 1 above is the last of three images published in an article titled: (Fatah to “Sons of Zion”: “Blood for blood”). Manipulation and intervention in this image are not in the translation or in the (TT), but in the image description it has. Two issues to be discussed here. First, there is no doubt that PMW has the same ideology of Israel and takes advantage of every incident to impose the Israeli narrative about Palestinians by portraying them as ‘terrorist’. This is part of the Israeli agenda, in which media is the doer of. It can be seen from the use of the Hebrew word (מְחַבֵּל = terrorist/ saboteur) by Israeli media describing (Palestinian), and the translation of (ثورة = revolution) or (مقاومة = resistance) into English as (riot) or (terror/ violence).

Second, the mixing of the Abu Khdeir’s incident in Jerusalem with the incident of the three Israeli teenagers in Hebron by collecting three images from a Facebook page, that were posted on different dates is suspicious for two reasons. One, the first and second images that can be found in the same article, were posted “One day before Abu-Khdeir was found burnt and tortured”; July-1st, 2014. The two images report a Palestinian party’s reaction towards the incident of the three Israeli teenagers. But the third image was posted on the following day; July-2nd, 2014. It was posted on the same day Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and burnt. Suspicion here lies in the third image; image 1 above, with the date (July 2, 2014) appearing beneath it reporting ‘riots in Jerusalem’, but not public reactions toward what happened to Abu Khdeir. In other words, the three images appear under one title in order to support the terrorism narrative, by reporting the incident of the three Israeli teenagers. However, the incident of Abu Khdair is mentioned only in a (note-like) to emphasise the dates. Two, trying to create a pattern of relationality of certain narrative by conflating two terror stories together and justifying one with the other to convince the readership of that narrative, is clearly and egregiously unethical.

Image 2

Image 2 is published under the title (Fatah Facebook depicts Netanyahu and Israel as ISIS terrorists) on Oct 23, 2015 and it is the only content of the article. The article has a short image description and image translation below it, in addition to four paragraphs explaining the four main figures in it; the Dawabsheh family (Duma arson attack), Muhammad Abu Khdeir, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, and Moaz Al-Kasasbeh. The translation of this image is preceded by a brief description as follows:

The photos on the left show Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was killed three extremist Jews [sic], Jordanian pilot Moaz Al-Kasasbeh, who was captured by ISIS in Syria and burned alive in a cage, and the Dawabsheh family of whom three were killed in a fire suspected to have been started by extremist Jews who threw Molotov cocktails through the windows of their home. The photos on the right are the “murderers”: an ISIS terrorist, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, and some ultra-orthodox Jews.
Text on photo:
On left side of page: “They burned them with foreign fire; the same perpetrator, but different mask”
On right side of page: “ISIS = Israel”

The translation of this image is accurate; (أحرقوهم بنار أجنبية/ نفس الفاعل لكن القناع إختلف) is the equivalent of (They burned them with foreign fire; the same perpetrator, but different mask). These words can be found on the left side of Image 3. The manipulation here is not in the translation itself, but in what surrounds it, in the image description. The first line of the description; “The photos on the left show Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was killed three extremist Jews”, aims to ostensibly tell and confuse the story. This can be clearly seen from “who was killed three extremist Jews”. Readership who may not know the tragic story of Abu Khdeir, and may be confused about it because of the language error this sentence has. Omitting the preposition (by) may be a source of confusion in that it may confuse the doer with the object, in (TRs) minds. Such grammatical errors by professional translators and linguists are never unintentional, and are therefore ideologically-based manipulations, and are journalistically unethical.

A further egregiously unethical practice associated with this description lies in the third line; “and the Dawabsheh family of whom three were killed in a fire suspected to have been started by extremist Jews who threw Molotov cocktails through the windows of their home”. Here, PMW used the preposition (by) but used the words (killed) and (fire), instead of (murdered), (arson), (burnt), or (burnt alive). The words (kill) and (fire) do not stir the (TR) emotions, compared to the words (murder) and (arson) do. The word (killed) does not show intention, and does not show that the Dawabsheh family were (intentionally killed) or (were burnt alive). Such words reduce the ugliness of the murder of the Dawabsheh family. On the other hand, these words support other narratives related to the fight against terrorism and ‘doing or ensuring justice.’

2.3 Videos and Subtitles

Videos with their subtitles are among the more important paratextual elements used by PMW. Videos represent another strategy employed by advocacy groups with the intention of attracting more (TRs). However, PMW subtitles fail to contain accurate translations of the Arabic audio-visual texts. The subtitles do not represent close translations of the original videos, nor do they convey the intended underlying messages. They convey an alternative, manipulated messages regarding terror and the global fight against it.

Screenies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7

                      Screenie 1                                                    Screenie 2

                   Screenie 3                                                       Screenie 4

                  Screenie 5                                                     Screenie 6

                     Screenie 7

Screenies 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are taken from a video that was published on Nov 25, 2014, under the title: (Israel’s shooting of 5 terrorists is an “attack against our people”). The video and its description with a transcript appearing below it is the only component of the article. The video reports part of the consecutive and related events occurring in mid-2014; the Israeli teenagers and the Abu Khdeir murder, the Gaza war, and the multiple stormings of the al-Aqsa mosque.

Screenies 1-4 above are the duration of the video that reports on how the four Palestinians were ‘killed’, according to the Israeli narrative. And the fifth is the photo of another two Palestinians on the ground, who had been shot by the Israeli Police. The photos show Palestinian men who acted in revenge for the practices and policies of Israel. Particularly, to revenge for Abu Khdeir, Gaza 2014 war, and the multiple stormings of the al-Aqsa mosque, according to the Palestinian narrative. The video is very manipulative in five ways relating to word choice, subtitle time duration, subtitle font size, boldface, and colour, subtitle position on screen, and cut scenes of the original; deletion of scenes. The subtitles in these examples are translations of the (ST), with the explanatory comments the (TT) has. However, they are not explanatory as much as they are manipulative. Explanatory comments in subtitling by any advocacy group or media research institute, are likely to serve an ideological intent or purpose and allow for more opportunities for intervention. Words such as ‘terrorist’ and ‘terror attack’ conceal half of the narrative that should be reported to the (TRs) and emphasizes those elements of the narrative that serve the intended ideological purpose. The time allocated for all the subtitles in this video is short, 2-3 seconds for 2-3 subtitle lines. In other words, time duration is too short for the (TRs) and has potential to cause confusion. The aimed time duration is evidently the main goal; which is to focus the eyes on the (added) explanatory lines instead of the lines that include translations of the original. However, time duration dedicated in Screenie 5 is 4 seconds for two short lines, more time that is necessary to serve a legitimate purpose.

Colour is also a factor, and the dark background; yellow and black, in Screenie 5. Schwarz (2002) argues that subtitles must maintain synchronization between the translated (TT), “the spoken source language (SL) dialogue, and the corresponding image” (Baker 1998, as cited in Schwartz 2002: Para. 5). Schwarz explains that “the main problem in this type of translation is caused by the difference between the speed of the spoken language and the speed in reading” (ibid: Para. 5).

Other factors worth mentioning here is the font size and number of characters, the use of boldface and color of subtitles, and subtitle position on screen. In the Screenies above, the font is used in varied sizes; it is inconsistent and follows no particular guidelines, except that it serves certain goal. The number of characters is also confusing, whether because they exceed, or not, the number of characters allowed in subtitles, thirty-eight characters at maximum. Or, whether because they consider time duration and synchronization. The number of lines is also a problem; both cover more than 2/12 of the screen and prevents (TRs) from seeing the scenes behind. And as can be seen from Screenies 2 and 4, there is no space on the horizontal axis and the viewers’ eyes have “to travel a long distance along the sides of the screen” (Karamitroglou, 1998: 2). Lacking space on the horizontal axis is likely to cause confusion because viewers will not be able to read the subtitle lines, especially given the duration of time allotted and they are likely to be focused on only certain words. Consequently, readers are likely to understand the point of the video through the prism of these few, selected words.

Subtitling colour is also an issue; all of the subtitles referred to above are done in a “flashy” white. And Screenie 5 is subtitled in dark yellow against the black of the box instead of a more neutral “grey see-through “ghost box”” (Karamitroglou, 1998: 3). In addition, subtitles are in boldface, and boldface in subtitles is not normally permitted (Karamitroglou, 1998: 6). One final point to be addressed here is the cut scenes. The original video has more scenes than the one edited by PMW, but PMW chose to include only those scenes in which certain goal(s) can be served.

The exploitation of subtitling guidelines aims at preventing the (TRs) from seeing the background image appropriately and preventing their eyes and minds from seeing the intended image together with the message of the original. The strategy is simply to create the conditions in which the eyes are drawn to specific words and images. The exploitation of guidelines common to translators occurs at the level of both the image and the word. This means that the eschewing of subtitling norms is ideologically motivated on one hand. On the other hand, translation inaccuracy is purposefully made to achieve certain political objectives. This can also be seen from Screenies 6 and 7 with the explanatory comments added to a video published by Hamas on July 15, 2014 during the war on Gaza under the title (Hamas video celebrates 2011 missile attack that murdered 16-year-old). However, the video was published outside of its original context, the war, and was instead linked to a context and narrative related to the War on Terror.


The media try to influence people by certain predictable rhetorical means. They appeal both to reason and to emotion by narrating events from a deceptive angle.  In other words, media enact the Aristotelian rhetorical triangle of ethos, pathos, and logos to attract as much readers as possible, while manipulate them with misinformation. The current study shows that even if media present an account of what occurs in the world we inhabit, and seem to provide evidence in support of the narratives they construct, and use positive images there may still be interventions that are at odds with a broader truth. Media aims at limiting the ability of its (TRs) to think freely, by presenting manipulated facts supported with pictures, videos, notes, or footnotes. News and information agencies often wish to distract readers or viewers from competing claims, positions that are contrary to their own. They want to distract readers from certain issues or news, by focusing on some certain others; to “claim that they are objective, non-partisan and a trustworthy source of information” (Baker, 2010: 347). This means that news agencies and advocacy groups have same ideologies and goals as their governments. These ideologies and goals are hidden beneath a cloak of ‘Credibility.’

Media and advocacy groups tend to have their personal explanations of the texts they adopt. This, according to the current study, can be attributed to Lefevere’s (1992) process of rewriting. The process of rewriting that certain agencies adopt, can be called, according to this study, ‘news rewriting’ or ‘paratextual rewriting.’ The motivation behind such processes is ideological. In other words, ideologies drive the processes of translation and decision making, that often causes mistranslations. Mistranslations or ‘Translation Errors’ are inescapable, since they depend on the falsity of narratives, and on the personal ideological interpretations of events that advocate certain governments and serve certain agendas.

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