Media monitoring group stands by ‘legitimate questions’ about Palestinian photojournalists

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Media monitoring group stands by ‘legitimate questions’ about Palestinian photojournalists

HonestReporting says answers from Reuters, New York Times, CNN and Associated Press raise more questions

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist


A dispute looks set to continue between the HonestReporting media monitoring group and four leading media outlets — Reuters, CNN, Associated Press and the New York Times — about the role of Palestinian photojournalists on October 7.

HonestReporting says it stands by “the legitimate questions we raised”, and that the “answers we received only raised more questions that have yet to receive a response”.

Last week HonestReporting ran an online article asking questions about freelance Palestinian photojournalists, who had supplied pictures to the four media outlets of the start of the murderous Hamas attacks on Israel.

In their initial response, the four companies said they did not have prior knowledge of the attacks. Gil Hoffman, HonestReporting’s executive director, told Reuters: “I was so relieved when all four of the media organisations said they didn’t have prior knowledge”, but added: “We raised questions, we didn’t give answers. I still very much think that the questions were legitimate and the answers were adequate from the media organisations themselves.”

Reuters said it had acquired photographs from two Gaza-based freelance photographers who were at the border on the morning of October 7 and with whom it did not have a prior relationship.

The HonestReporting article sparked a furore among Israeli government ministers, some of whom appeared to believe that the Palestinian photojournalists – and thus the media outlets — had known about the Hamas attacks in advance. The Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter/X that the use of the various images by the four media groups was “a serious violation of journalistic ethics”.

Gil Hoffman, Honest Reporting

The Prime Minister’s Office went further, accusing the journalists of being “accomplices in crimes against humanity”, while Likud politician Danny Danon escalated the row by declaring that Israel would “hunt down” the Palestinians “together with the terrorists”.

But Hoffman distanced HonestReporting from the government response. He told Reuters: “There are those who took our story and pretended that they knew the answers — the Israeli government, cabinet ministers, various Twitter personalities — we didn’t claim to know”.

Hoffman said he had been “shocked” to read Danon’s comments. He also said: “There are clearly things in the prime minister’s office statement that are not based on fact. We did not say anything firmly.”

This week, however, HonestReporting went on the attack, asking: “Why did the AP and CNN continue to work with Hassan Eslaiah despite his prior public picture and affection for Yahya Sinwar, mastermind of the October 7 Hamas massacre? Did the New York Times fact-check Yousef Masoud when he explained that he was able to document the October 7 massacre in real time because rockets woke him at 5:30am, despite the rocket fire not beginning until 6:30am?”

The group said it had not accused the four outlets “of having advanced knowledge of the massacre”. Instead, it said it had raised “several questions related to the facts and ethics connected to the freelancers who appeared to accompany an internationally-recognised terrorist organisation on a cross border raid to rape, pillage, murder, and abduct Israeli civilians.

“These outlets chose to attack HonestReporting’s intentions and credibility, despite the AP and CNN cutting ties with Eslaiah after our exposé. They accused HonestReporting of putting journalists at risk due to “baseless speculation” and lack of evidence”.

The group declared: “Photojournalists being in the ‘right place at the right time’ to document a surprise murderous attack on a random Saturday morning is enough to raise questions. And, as more evidence comes to light, it only supports our original questioning”.

Gil Hoffman said that his subsequent conversations with Reuters and AP “were misconstrued and taken out of context in an attempt to discredit our original exposé. To avoid the uncomfortable question of their freelancers’ activity on October 7, the media tried to reframe the conversation. They denied having advanced knowledge of the attack (which we did not claim), and then accused HonestReporting of spreading misinformation. We wholeheartedly reject this baseless assertion”.

He added: “HonestReporting does not take direction from any government, nor they from us”, and said he “regretted commenting on the response of the Israeli government”.

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