Sunday, May 22, 2016

22-May-16: (Alleged) harassment of journalists as news-management strategy: The Hamas model

Gaza: Hamas works the news-reporting media
Two summers ago, when war was raging here between the Islamists of Gaza and the IDF, an odd aspect of the way the media was covering events caused us to post here ["11-Aug-14: So did Hamas intimidate reporters or not?" and "13-Aug-14: A lesson about war-time nonsense from the New York Times"]. 

We were struck - astounded really - by how the then-bureau chief of the New York Times engaged publicly in a stark dismissal of some very serious criticisms of Hamas made by her professional colleagues and others. In fact, the things said at the time by the Foreign Press Association, and utterly rejected by Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times, about how the Islamist terrorists thugs strong-armed their way to changing how the news, and especially the images, of the fighting inside Gaza were covered, were about as serious and consequential as journalistic criticism ever gets

We said then:
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... [here]
and we backed up our amazement with some concrete examples.

Other voices, much better informed than we and closer to the events, gave some invaluable context to what the news media did and not do, and what was and was not done them. We're thinking in particular of Matti Friedman, a long-time AP correspondent in the field, who wrote this at around the same time:
The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues... ["An Insider's Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth", Matti Friedman, Tablet, August 26, 2014]
Some Gaza images seem to be more published than others [Image Source]
A lot of time has passed. That seriously critical public review never happened - it's hard to know why. Jody Rudoren moved on to become a Deputy International Editor at NYT, so can we assume her time as Jerusalem Bureau Chief got high marks back in New York City?

But in Gaza, it's sadly clear that not much has changed as a news report from yesterday shows:
Israel’s Foreign Press Association has condemned the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers for “thuggish behavior,” after the terror group detained a photographer for several hours and banned her from returning to the coastal enclave.
“On Thursday, FPA member Heidi Levine, a photographer for SIPA Press, was detained by Hamas security men for more than three hours before she was allowed to leave Gaza,” the umbrella group representing foreign journalists working in Israel and the Palestinian territories said in a statement Thursday night. As she exited, Hamas security told Levine she was banned from the territory, claiming her work “reflects badly on Gaza.” It provided no examples of the work that allegedly upset it.
“The FPA strongly condemns the thuggish behavior of the Hamas security and the implication that Hamas should judge what is or isn’t acceptable coverage of Gaza,” the group said.
“Unfortunately, this incident is not isolated. A number of FPA members have reported being forced to undergo uncomfortable questioning by Hamas security forces while entering or exiting Gaza in recent months. We call on Hamas to end these practices immediately and urge the group to give journalists unfettered access in and out of Gaza.”
...During the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, the FPA condemned Hamas for attempts to intimidate journalists and interfere with their coverage of the fighting in Gaza... As well as targeting journalists in Gaza, the FPA said it was aware that Hamas had also been taking steps to vet those media personnel it doesn’t approve of and to prevent them from reporting in Gaza. “Such a procedure is vehemently opposed by the FPA,” the statement said. The FPA asserted that “in several cases, foreign reporters working in Gaza have been harassed, threatened or questioned over stories or information they have reported through their news media or by means of social media.”
A numbers of reporters working in Gaza reported on Hamas’s use of civilian infrastructure for military means, but said they were only able to do so once out of the Strip, for fear of Hamas reprisals.
A week after the FPA complaint, a Hamas spokeswoman boasted on Lebanese TV that the terror group contacted those whose work was “immoral” and made them change “one way or another,” and also booted out journalists who sought to “film places where missiles were launched.” ["Foreign press group blasts Hamas’s ‘thuggish behavior’", Times of Israel | May 21, 2016]
How nice it would be if the New York Times deputy international editor were to now publish a reflection, looking back, on what she meant when she tweeted this:
Extracted from our August 11, 2014 post
And did we mention that in rejecting the idea of Hamas harassment and calling it nonsense, Ms Rudoren of the New York Times confessed she had not even been physically present in Gaza at any of the relevant times?

What is it that makes some parts of the news reporting industry abandon all good sense and principle when it comes to reporting on murder-minded, thuggish Islamists?

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