UNITED STATES NEWS

Media watchdog says it was just ‘raising questions’ with insinuations about photographers and Hamas

Nov 9, 2023, 4:52 PM | Updated: 5:48 pm

The executive director of an Israeli media watchdog organization says it was simply “raising questions” by publicly wondering whether Palestinian photojournalists who documented the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel — and sent some of the first images of its aftermath to a watching world — had been tipped off in advance that it would happen.

The report by the group HonestReporting, however, had serious ramifications at a time of war.

It led two Israeli politicians to suggest the journalists be killed. Several of the world’s biggest news organizations — CNN, The New York Times, The Associated Press and Reuters — issued statements Thursday denying they knew about the attack ahead of time.

HonestReporting, which describes itself as an organization devoted to fighting media disinformation about Israel and Zionism, did not specifically make those accusations against the companies. It did, however, suggest that freelance photographers whose work from that day was used by the outlets might have known.

“Is it conceivable to assume that ‘journalists’ just happened to appear early in the morning at the border without prior coordination with the terrorists?” HonestReporting wrote on its website Wednesday. “Or were they part of the plan?”

Photos that moved that day showed Hamas escaping to Gaza with kidnapped Israeli citizens, Hamas attackers climbing on a disabled Israeli tank, images of Hamas invaders outside a kibbutz and buildings burning.

Gil Hoffman, executive director of HonestReporting and a former reporter for The Jerusalem Post, admitted Thursday the group had no evidence to back up that suggestion. He said he was satisfied with subsequent explanations from several of these journalists that they did not know.

“They were legitimate questions to be asked,” Hoffman said. Despite the name “HonestReporting,” he said, “we don’t claim to be a news organization.”

The New York Times said that Yousef Masoud, whose photographs of an Israeli tank captured by Hamas were used by the newspaper and AP, did not know. His first photographs that day were filed 90 minutes after the attack began.

Reuters used pictures credited to Mohammed Fayq Abu Mostafa and Yasser Qudih, two freelancers it had no prior relationship with. Its first photo was published more than 45 minutes after Israel said gunmen had crossed the border, the news agency said.

It was clear that morning from the first launch of missiles from Gaza into Israel that something serious was happening, said Julie Pace, senior vice president and executive editor of the AP.

“It was a fast-moving development in a very small territory,” Pace said.

“We carried out a very typical news-gathering process when a big event, a big moment, is happening and we need to figure out what it is and inform the world about it,” she said. Part of that involves fielding calls from freelancers who have photos and video to offer.

Besides Masoud, the AP used photos that day credited to Hassan Eslaiah, Ali Mahmoud and Hatem Ali.

The Times said the accusation that anyone at the newspaper had advance knowledge of the attacks or accompanied Hamas was “untrue and outrageous,” and put journalists in Israel and Gaza at risk. Rushing into danger in conflict zones already puts freelance photojournalists at risk, the newspaper said.

“This is the essential role of a free press in wartime,” the Times said in a statement. “We are gravely concerned that unsupported accusations and threats to freelancers endangers them and undermines work that serves the public interest.”

Israeli politicians Danny Danon, Israel’s former U.N. ambassador, and former defense minister Benny Gantz condemned any journalists who knew about the attacks ahead of time. Any who stood idle while killings took place that day “are no different from terrorists and should be treated as such.”

At least 39 journalists and media workers have been killed in the conflict so far, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That’s the deadliest month-long period for journalists since the committee began keeping track in 1992.

For journalists to have known about the Hamas plans in advance presents a complicated ethical question. Journalists have often been embedded with military forces in the past, and keep potential plans secret, said Nina Berman, a professor and expert in photojournalism ethics at Columbia University.

Hoffman said that “some people with an agenda” had made HonestReporting look bad. “They acted as if we were stating facts instead of asking questions,” he said.

With much attention now on Israel’s military action in Gaza, Hoffman said HonestReporting wanted more attention focused on the Oct. 7 attacks, which resulted in an estimated 1,400 deaths in Israel.

“We raised questions and it led the media outlets to clarify the truth,” he said. “Great, that’s what we do.”

Both AP and CNN said Thursday that they would no longer work with Eslaiah, one of the freelance photographers. HonestReporting posted a photo of Eslaiah being kissed by Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

United States News

Associated Press

Maui Fire Department report on deadly wildfire details need for more equipment and mutual aid plans

HONOLULU (AP) — When wildfires broke out across Maui last August, some firefighters carried victims piggyback over downed power lines to safety and sheltered survivors inside their engines. Another drove a moped into a burning neighborhood again and again, whisking people away from danger one at a time. But despite devoting nearly all the personnel […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Senate to convene Mayorkas impeachment trial as Democrats plot quick dismissal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats could end the impeachment trial of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday before arguments even begin. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to call votes to dismiss two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas after senators are sworn in as jurors midday, a move that could scuttle the trial […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Bob Graham, ex-US senator and Florida governor, dies at 87

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who chaired the Intelligence Committee following the 2001 terrorist attacks and opposed the Iraq invasion, has died. He was 87. His family announced the death Tuesday in a statement posted on X by his daughter Gwen Graham. Graham, who served three terms in the Senate, made […]

7 hours ago

Jordan Rasmussen 
pictured on July 23, 1973, the day his first child, David, was born. Jordan was m...

Amy Donaldson/KSL Podcasts

The Letter podcast debuts second season on 1982 murders

The Letter podcast rolls out its unexpected second season Tuesday, highlighting generational questions about trauma and forgiveness stemming from the 1982 murders of two young fathers.

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Four people shot — one fatally — in the Bronx by shooters on scooters

NEW YORK (AP) — Four people were shot — one fatally — on a street corner in the Bronx Tuesday evening by shooters riding on scooters, police said. About 10 shots were fired after two scooters pulled up to the intersection after 6 p.m. and passengers on the back of each pulled out guns, Assistant […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Voting technology company settles lawsuit against far-right news outlet over 2020 election claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — A voting technology company targeted by bogus fraud claims related to the 2020 presidential election settled a defamation lawsuit Tuesday against a conservative news outlet. The settlement between Florida-based Smartmatic and One America News Network is the latest development in a larger legal pushback by voting equipment companies that became ensnared in […]

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

Media watchdog says it was just ‘raising questions’ with insinuations about photographers and Hamas