Israel accuses Palestinian photojournalists of complicity in Hamas offensive, threatens to 'eliminate all participants'

AFP , Friday 10 Nov 2023

Major international media outlets strongly denied Israeli allegations that their Gaza photographers had prior knowledge of the Al Aqsa Flood on 7 October.

Members of the international press gather on a hill in Sderot, Israel, with a view of the Gaza Strip, on October 28, 2023. Photo courtesy NYT


The vehement denials came after Israel's prime minister accused Palestinian journalists of being complicit in the attack while a former Israeli diplomat announced security agencies in his country would "eliminate all participants" -- including photojournalists who recorded the offensive.

Denials have been published by US media outlets The New York Times and CNN, as well as global news agencies AP, Reuters and AFP.

The controversy started with an online post by HonestReporting, an organisation that highlights media coverage considered unfavourable to Israel.

HonestReporting said the speed with which certain Palestinian photojournalists in Gaza responded to the attack, and their degree of access to the violence, raised "ethical questions".

Its claims were taken up by the Israeli government.

"These journalists were accomplices in crimes against humanity; their actions were contrary to professional ethics," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Thursday on X (formerly Twitter).

Danny Danon, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and senior lawmaker for Netanyahu's Likud party, went further.

"Israel's internal security agency announced that they will eliminate all participants of the October 7 massacre. The 'photojournalists' who took part in recording the assault will be added to that list," he wrote on X.

HonestReporting's claims were strongly denied by the Western media mentioned in the article.

"The Associated Press had no knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks before they happened," AP said in a statement.

The New York Times called the allegations against its freelance photographer "untrue and outrageous", and accused HonestReporting of recklessly "putting our journalists on the ground in Israel and Gaza at risk."

Reuters said it "categorically denies" having prior knowledge or embedding journalists with Hamas.

CNN suspended ties with the freelance photographer implicated by HonestReporting, but said "we have not at this time found reason to doubt the journalistic accuracy of the work he has done for us."

AFP was not among the media organisations accused by HonestReporting, but faced similar accusations on social media in France.

AFP said its journalists in Gaza were woken by the sound of artillery and rocket fire and headed towards the fence with Israel, with the first photos taken more than an hour after the attack started.

"By the time the first photos arrived, it was clear a major news story was already under way. We covered it as we would cover any major news story," said Phil Chetwynd, AFP's global news director.

"They were simply following the breaking news story as it unfolded on the ground.

"Any suggestion of collusion between our journalists in Gaza and Hamas is disgraceful and defamatory and we reserve the right to take any action, including legal action, as a result," Chetwynd added.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online

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