Newseum stands by controversial honor for cameramen with Hamas-run TV station

May 11, 2013

The Newseum building in Washington, D.C. (Kris Connor/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM -- At dusk on Saturday, the Washington, D.C.-based Newseum will project, on the 74-foot wall outside its building that bears the text of the First Amendment, the names and photos of brave journalists killed over the past year while covering news.

The tribute to the 84 journalists who lost their lives in 2012 (plus a handful from 2011) includes a special ceremony on Monday, in which the Newseum will add their names to a permanent memorial in the museum. But the museum found itself under fire this week for including two journalists with al-Aqsa TV, which is run by Hamas, an officially designated terrorist group that runs the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

The names of Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al-Kumi, killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza last November, sparked immediate controversy when the Newseum published its official list of honorees.

Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which holds its annual policy summit at the museum, was quoted by BuzzFeed as saying on Thursday, “I’ll be putting in a call to the CEO of the Newseum first thing tomorrow morning. ... I’m hoping he’ll tell me there’s been a misunderstanding -- or a re-thinking once it became clear that these ‘journalists’ were members of designated terrorist organizations.”

On Twitter, the Newseum came under further attack for including the two men, with many arguing that a Hamas-run outlet could not be considered a legitimate news organization:

Some pointed out that Hamas, and al-Aqsa itself, are considered by the U.S. government to be terrorist entities:

A January post on the Israel Defense Forces blog, titled "Hamas Terrorism 101," was mentioned frequently by critics. The article includes a list of several inflammatory clips from al-Aqsa.

Despite the criticism and the pressure to remove Salama and Al-Kumi from the list, which also includes the New York Times’ Anthony Shadid and the Sunday Times’ Marie Colvin, both of whom died while covering the Syrian civil war, the Newseum issued a statement Friday, Buzzfeed reported, saying that it is sticking to its initial decision:

The Newseum Journalists Memorial recognizes 2,246 journalists who died or were killed while reporting the news. To be listed on the memorial, an individual must have been a contributor of news, commentary or photography to a news outlet; an editor or news executive; a producer, camera operator, sound engineer or other member of a broadcast crew; or a documentary filmmaker.

Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al-Kumi were cameramen in a car clearly marked “TV.” The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers all consider these men journalists killed in the line duty.

The Journalists Memorial selection committee conducts case-by-case reviews using the above criteria.

Also included in the memorial this year are 82 other journalists who died in 2012 and six additional journalists who died in previous years. For a complete list of journalists on the memorial, visit the online Newseum Journalists Memorial database.

Ruth Eglash is a correspondent for The Washington Post based in Jerusalem. She was formerly a reporter and senior editor at the Jerusalem Post and freelanced for international media.
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Max Fisher · May 11, 2013