One of the cardinal rules of responsible journalism is the independent status of the journalist ? while journalists may belong to political parties, they cannot actively work for a party relevant to the sphere they cover, lest their independence and neutrality be jeopardized.But today, the Jerusalem Post reported that two of the largest wire services ? Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Associated Press (AP) ? have employed journalists with inappropriately close ties to the Palestinian Authority. Majida al-Batsh was a Palestinian affairs correspondent for AFP for many years, while simultaneously being on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority as a reporter for the PA’s official organ, Al-Ayyam.
If this is not evidence enough of impropriety at AFP, last year Batsh announced she would actually run for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority. The Post reports:
Her colleagues claim that shortly before she joined the race [for PA president], Batsh resigned from the news agency, saying she wanted to devote her time to the election campaign. However, they add, this did not prevent her from seeking the agency’s help in her campaign.
“One day she showed up and asked to use the fax machine to send some documents,” reports one coworker. “The agency did not object.”
Batsh isn’t the only AFP reporter receiving a PA salary on the side:
One of the agency’s correspondents in the Gaza Strip is Adel Zanoun, who also happens to be the chief reporter in the area for the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station.
The AFP bureau chief in Jerusalem, Patrick Anidjar, refuses to discuss the issue, saying, “I don’t understand why you have to have the name of our correspondents.” Pressed to give a specific answer, he says: “I don’t want our correspondents’ names to go into print. I don’t want to answer the question. What is this, a police investigation?”
Meanwhile, Muhammad Daraghmeh ? who turns out near-daily reports from Ramallah or Jerusalem for the Associated Press ? also works for the PA’s Al-Ayyam, according to the Jerusalem Post (and a pro-Palestinian site).
This is the equivalent of a network’s Washington correspondent getting paid on the side by the Democrats or Republicans. Imagine the scandal that would produce. Yet with their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, AFP and AP don’t seem to have a problem with it.
HonestReporting has repeatedly demonstrated that the local staff employed by western news outlets contributes in no small way to the problem of anti-Israel media bias. The major media outlets rely on Palestinian cameramen and stringers to tell the tale from the West Bank and Gaza, as the Jerusalem Post reports:
AFP is not the only member of the international news media to employ “journalists” who see themselves as “foot soldiers” serving the Palestinian cause. Other parts of the foreign media frequently allow their stories to be filtered through such fixers-consultants…”I will never work on a story that defames my people or leadership,” boasts a Palestinian “fixer” (mediator/guide/translator) who works on a regular basis with many foreign journalists. “It is my duty to protect my people against Israeli propaganda.”
All this calls to mind the declaration by Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC correspondent in Gaza for the past 10 years, at a Hamas rally in May 2001:
“Journalists and media organizations [are] waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people.”
HonestReporting subscribers are encouraged to write to Agence France-Presse, requesting clarification of its policy regarding AFP reporters working simultaneously for institutions within the Palestinian Authority.