Wednesday, August 13, 2014

13-Aug-14: A lesson about war-time nonsense from the New York Times

Women, children: Gaza war images [Image Source]
Two days ago, we wrote here ["11-Aug-14: So did Hamas intimidate reporters or not? Seems to depend on whose Tweet stream you believe"] about an odd situation in which the organization that represents locally-based reporters here in Israel complained publicly and bitterly about Hamas intimidation (and worse) of their members in the Gaza Strip over the past month while the local New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief seemed to be saying via Twitter that the media people with whom she was speaking thought this was "nonsense".

Nonsense or sense, there's something disturbing going on. Today in Haaretz, Matthew Kalman ["Foreign press divided over Hamas harassment"] takes a closer look:
When Jodi Rudoren, Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times, read Monday’s statement from the Foreign Press Association in Israel and the Palestinian territories, she couldn’t believe her eyes. The association, representing some 480 resident correspondents and hundreds more visiting Israel/Palestine each year, protested “in the strongest terms the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month." The FPA said it knew of journalists who were “harassed, threatened or questioned over stories or information they have reported through their news media or by means of social media” and accused Hamas of “trying to put in place a ‘vetting’ procedure that would, in effect, allow for the blacklisting of specific journalists.”
Not content with disparaging the Foreign Press Association's protest, Jodi Rudoren now says (according to Haaretz) in an email exchange with the FPA that the statement it released is "dangerous". We are still seeking clarification about whose lives she claims are endangered by it.

Meanwhile Kalman quotes the previous FPA chairman, former Jerusalem bureau chief for Reuters, Crispian Balmer:
We would certainly never issue broad statements condemning the behavior of one side or the other if we did not feel that a good number of our members had been impacted.
Kalman notes as well that Isabel Kershner who is a colleague of Rudoren's in the Jerusalem bureau of the NY Times was
one of the FPA board members who approved the statement. How could two colleagues from the same newspaper observing the same sequence of events come to such different conclusions?
How indeed. But note that Rudoren in fact "wasn't actually there" in Gaza, in Kalman's words. Or in her own: "I was not in Gaza during the height of the hostilities..." Nonetheless, she has now publicly stuck her neck out with minimizing whatever treatment it was that Hamas dealt out to the reporters and photographers in Gaza. She says:
There have been a few anecdotes re Hamas people shooing photographers away from fighters' faces at the hospitals, asking people not to shoot this or that, and yes, names and phone numbers were taken down in a spiral notebook of who was here, but nothing that these veteran war correspondents consider unusual... I have not heard about harassment, intimidation, censorship or threats. 
Why would Rudoren say that when others certainly have heard of threats, harassment and worse? In Haaretz' words, the experience was
enough to convince the FPA that they were not isolated incidents. Unfortunately for Hamas, they included prominent FPA members. So many of them complained that when the board met in Jerusalem on Monday and looked at confirmed information about a series of troubling incidents there wasn’t a single dissenting voice – only a discussion about just how fierce the protest should be... Some reporters received death threats. Sometimes, cameras were smashed. Reporters were prevented from filming anti-Hamas demonstrations where more than 20 Palestinians were shot dead by Hamas gunmen. In perhaps the most serious incidents considered by the FPA, Hamas began firing mortars right next to the location of foreign reporters, in what may have been an effort to draw Israeli retaliatory fire
And note this key observation:
One European reporter told Haaretz how Hamas officials prevented photographs being taken of any wounded or dead fighters at Al-Shifa hospital, even though their presence there was common knowledge. Only images of wounded or dead civilians were permitted. The journalist said Hamas repeatedly issued warnings to local translators that blatantly interfered with reporting. Other correspondents had similar experiences.
How plainly true this is can be seen from the total absence of published news photos in the past month of alive, dead, injured or healthy Hamas rocket firers and gunmen. We Tweeted about this ten days ago:

Perhaps in some parallel universe in the future, there will be some seriously critical public review of how it can be that a vast and incredibly influential medium like the New York Times aligns itself with the interests of the child-murdering Hamas.

To illustrate: when challenged as to why not a single photo of Hamas combatants has appeared in most of the media, including the pages of the New York Times, since this latest Gaza war got underway, a high-ranking NYT official - Eileen Murphy, the Times’ vice president for corporate communications, unbelievably speaking with a straight face - said this to a reporter:
Our photo editor went through all of our pictures recently and out of many hundreds, she found 2 very distant poor quality images that were captioned Hamas fighters by our photographer on the ground. It is very difficult to identify Hamas because they don’t have uniforms or any visible insignia; our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun... We are limited by what our photographers have access to. [Times of Israel, August 1, 2014]
Meanwhile the criticism of Hamas intimidation of the news industry comes from voices like that of a Palestinian Arab, Samer Shalabi - a news photographer who is now chairman of the FPA. He said to Haaretz.
“If there is any kind of harassment or pressure we are willing to stand and support our members, whoever they are, whatever they are, whatever nationality they are.”
And a final thought about the danger to which Jodi Rudoren refers: could she have meant the danger that the news organization whose Jerusalem bureau she heads might potentially be excluded from future news-reporting opportunities in which Hamas or some other arm of Jihad International is engaged? For some, that would certainly qualify as a war crime.

Further reading: 13-Aug-14: Now don't get me wrong say the reporters

1 comment:

Five Minutes for Israel said...

Some journalists don't need to be intimidated. Following the Hamas line is as natural as breathing.