In reports from Gaza that appear in major Western media outlets—as the journalist Matti Friedman has pointed out—it is extremely rare to see a photograph of a Hamas or Islamic Jihad missile launcher, or of a wounded jihadist. Reporters refrain from including such images lest they spark the ire of Hamas, which can take away their journalistic privileges, or worse. As a matter of policy, the Associated Press has stated that it keeps mum about Hamas’s intimidation of its employees, which helps to ensure that this intimidation achieves its goal. But something very unusual happened during the recent flare-up between Israel and Islamic Jihad, as Toby Dershowitz writes:
In a stunning exposé, a recent Associated Press article revealed a Hamas directive to journalists not to report on Gazans killed by Palestinian rockets that misfired and killed local families rather than their intended Israeli civilian targets. Reports indicate Palestinian Islamic Jihad killed more Palestinians in the early August Gaza-Israel conflict than did Israel.
Hamas also requires all visiting reporters to hire a local “sponsor,” a fixer or stringer, often a Palestinian journalist or translator. Hamas’s media directive says sponsors will be held responsible for what the journalists produce.
Let this sink in: if Hamas judges sponsors to have failed, they and perhaps their families will be punished. Punishment is not merely revoking licenses. Palestinian reporters have been subject to physical violence. Sponsors will make the consequences clear to reporters they assist: . . . the sponsors were warned that they must “defend the Palestinian narrative and reject the foreigner’s bias to the Israeli narrative.” If you’ve had confidence in reporting from Gaza, this interference should shake that confidence.
During the May 2021 Gaza war, publications used Hamas-provided images of people outlets had reported were killed in the ten-day conflict, who in fact were not. Should media outlets now conduct thorough investigations of statements, images, and statistics from Hamas-run ministries that were used in their coverage?