We heard it from the Foreign Press Association as well as Israeli media that had spoken to their fellow journalists. It was confirmed by Pål T. Jørgensen of Norway’s TV 2. But now a Hamas spokesperson has admitted in an interview on Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV on August 14 that foreign journalists were intimidated in Gaza and those who filmed or photographed rocket launch sites were deported.
Here is the interview, posted and translated by MEMRI:
Interviewer: How did you manage to maintain contact with the foreign journalists, and how did you convey your point of view to them?
Isra Al-Mudallal: Since the beginning of the aggression against the Gaza Strip, a state of emergency was declared at the border crossings, especially at the Beit Hanoun Crossing, also known as the Erez Crossing, and journalists were allowed in without any bureaucratic procedures, except for registration to guarantee their safety.
Our problem was that [we didn't know] who was entering the Gaza Strip. Who were they? Most of them were freelancers, and the others were from news agencies.
Fewer journalists entered the Gaza Strip during this war than in the previous rounds, in 2008 and 2012. Therefore, the coverage by foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip was insignificant compared to their coverage within the Israeli occupation [i.e., Israel]. Moreover, the journalists who entered Gaza were fixated on the notion of peace and on the Israeli narrative.
So when they were conducting interviewers, or when they went on location to report, they would focus on filming the places from where missiles were launched. Thus, they were collaborating with the occupation.
These journalists were deported from the Gaza Strip. The security agencies would go and have a chat with these people. They would give them some time to change their message, one way or another.
The Israeli missiles do not distinguish between fighters, civilians, or children.
We suffered from this problem very much. Some of the journalists who entered the Gaza Strip were under security surveillance. Even under these difficult circumstances, we managed to reach them, and tell them that what they were doing was anything but professional journalism and that it was immoral.
Jonathan Tobin addresses this in Commentary magazine:
But the frustrating thing about this situation is not just that the foreign press was forced to tell only part of the story that was happening in Gaza. It is that most of them seem to think there was nothing wrong with their coverage. Indeed, many seem not to have needed a talking-to from Hamas thugs in order to agree with al-Mudallal that the only proper thing to do in Gaza for a journalist was to take as many pictures of injured Palestinian civilians while ignoring the fact that they were put in harm’s way by terrorists shooting and tunneling from within their midst, including the vicinity of schools, hospitals and mosques.
. . .
This blatant media bias isn’t bothering most Israelis who long ago gave up on the idea of getting a fair shake from a foreign press corps that often arrives in the region deeply prejudiced against Zionism and determined to find stories that fit with their pre-existing biases about the Palestinians. But it should profoundly upset those who care about the profession of journalism. We’ve heard a lot in the last weeks about whether Israel and its friends have drawn the proper conclusions from this war as pundits warned them that the coverage of Palestinian casualties would cost them dearly in the court of public opinion. But we’ve heard very little soul searching from journalists about the crisis in their profession that the failure of reporters operating in Gaza highlights.
In response to Isra Al-Mudallal’s revelations, HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams stated:
If journalists were reporting under duress from Gaza, they had a professional obligation to make this clear at the time. That so many of these journalists are still hiding behind anonymity when it comes to revealing the truth shows that they value their access to Gaza more highly than they value the truth.
While Hamas should be condemned for their treatment of foreign journalists, the media that acquiesced in hiding the images of rockets launched from within civilian areas and the Hamas terrorists operating there are complicit in the demonization of Israel. Their lack of professionalism and transparency in promoting the Hamas agenda by showing one-sided pictures of dead and injured children at the expense of all else has caused immeasurable damage to Israel and Jewish communities around the world.
For this, they should hang their heads in shame.
Image: CC BY-NC-SA HonestReporting, flickr/Surian Soosay, Jared Rodriguez/truthout (via flickr), flickr/Eneas De Troya