Foreign Press Association condemns Hamas treatment of foreign journalists; Robert Mackey is silent. And some additional media notes

On July 23rd, New York Times blogger Robert Mackey had a post about  “intimidation” of foreign correspondents in Israel.   He reprinted a tweet from the Foreign Press Association of Israel/Palestine condemning “deliberate official and unofficial incitement against journalists working to cover the current warfare.”  But if you read the rest of the post, you find that a handful of random Israeli residents of southern Israel, aggravated by what they see as biased media coverage, were mean to a few reporters.  The worst incident involved a shove and no injuries.  Hardly a major news story.

Mackey also unfavorably compared treatment of foreign correspondents in Israel to their treatment in Gaza, which, he wrote, has “been generally more positive.”

This past Wednesday, the Foreign Press Association (which, as a rule, is distinctly unfriendly to Israel), issued the following formal statement:

The FPA protests in the strongest terms the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month. The international media are not advocacy organisations and cannot be prevented from reporting by means of threats or pressure, thereby denying their readers and viewers an objective picture from the ground. In several cases, foreign reporters working in Gaza have been harassed, threatened or questioned over stories or information they have reported through their news media or by means of social media.  We are also aware that Hamas is trying to put in place a “vetting” procedure that would, in effect, allow for the blacklisting of specific journalists. Such a procedure is vehemently opposed by the FPA.

[UPDATE: A top Hamas official has admitted that his organization threatened and intimidated journalists, and that any journalist who tried to film rockets launched from civilian areas was expelled from Gaza.]

I thought of two things when I read this story. The first is how little we’ve heard from foreign correspondents themselves about “the blatant, incessant, forceful, and unorthodox” measures Hamas has deployed against them, and how it might affect their reporting.

The second was that I wondered if Mr. Mackey, having felt the need to almost immediately blog the non-story noted above, and having made the ridiculous assertion that journalists are better treated in Gaza than in Israel, would feel the need to at least pretend to actually care about journalists’ freedom and safety by blogging about how Hamas is treating foreign journalists.  He might have even noted that foreign correspondents are not  always willing and able to broadcast the full truth from Gaza,  given Hamas harassment, threats, etc.  Four days later, though, all we’ve gotten from Mackey is silence.

A few other media notes regarding Israel/Gaza.

First, yesterday the Times had a reasonably balanced story about potential war crimes investigations of Israel’s actions in Gaza. The article pointed out that “Israel has excoriated the United Nations Human Rights Council over the appointment of Prof. William Schabas, a Canadian expert in international law, to head the council’s commission of inquiry for Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip.” She notes that “Professor Schabas was filmed in New York almost two years ago saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was his ‘favorite’ to be in the dock at the International Criminal Court.” What she doesn’t note is that the context was Operation Cast Lead in 2008, when Netanyahu wasn’t even in the Israeli government.  To put it bluntly, anyone who takes the U.N.H.R.C. investigation seriously is a fool.

Second, the BBC silently watered down its story about the unreliability of casualty counts in Gaza.  It did so after a public campaign by Chris Gunness of UNRWA, the U.N. agency that runs schools and other services for Palestinian “refugees” (in quotes because only a small percentage of the people it serves are actually refugees–Palestinians are the only group in the world that inherit refugee status).  One might wonder why the head of UNRWA is getting involving in politicking in favor of media outlets accepting a particular narrative about civilian casualties emanating from Hamas-controlled sources that have not been independently confirmed.  But instead of wondering, just remember that when journalists claim they are providing objective information because they are getting it from U.N. sources in Gaza, they are are either lying or ignorant of UNRWA’s nature.

Third, the Post still has its “Gaza counter” up based on unreliable statistics coming out of Gaza, though now its accompanied by a link to an Israel rebuttal, along with links to three article, including from the Post itself, discussing the statistics’ unreliability.

Finally, the New Statesman reported about a young man from Gaza whose entirely whose entire family–eight siblings and two parents–had been killed when an Israeli bomb hit his house.  Except it turns out, as  reporter Donald MacIntyre acknowledges in an update, that none of those people were actually killed, but the reporter instead got misinformation from the patients’ doctors.  What led him to believe that a patients’ doctors would know the fate of the patients’ entire family?  MacIntyre doesn’t say, and he certainly isn’t apologetic about feeding the public misinformation from a dubious source.

 

David Bernstein is the George Mason University Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA. His latest book, Lawless: The Obama Administration's Unprecedented Assault on the Constitution and the Rule of Law, will be published in November.

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Jonathan H. Adler · August 15, 2014