Sunday evening, Noah Pollak at the Weekly Standard noted that “Something important is missing from the New York Times’s coverage of the war in Gaza: photographs of terrorist attacks on Israel, and pictures of Hamas fighters, tunnels, weaponry, and use of human shields.”
That’s because Hamas has demanded that such photographs not be circulated. The Times is clearly complying, and without telling its readers that is coverage has been restricted. Pollak believes that the Times really doesn’t mind the overt censorship (links are in original; bolds are mine throughout this post):
All The News Hamas Sees Fit to Print
… It appears the Times is silently but happily complying with a Hamas demand that the only pictures from Gaza are of civilians and never of fighters. The most influential news organization in the world is thus manufacturing an utterly false portrait of the battle—precisely the portrait that Hamas finds most helpful: embattled, victimized Gaza civilians under attack by a cruel Israeli military.
A review of the Times’s photography in Gaza reveals a stark contrast in how the two sides are portrayed. Nearly every picture from Israel depicts tanks, soldiers, or attack helicopters. And every picture of Gaza depicts either bloodied civilians, destroyed buildings, overflowing hospitals, or other images of civilian anguish. It is as one-sided and misleading a depiction of the Gaza battle as one can imagine.
… a check of the Twitter feed of the Times’s photographer in Gaza shows not a single image that portrays Hamas in a negative light. It’s nothing but civilian victims of the IDF.
… Likewise, the Twitter feed of Anne Barnard, the Beirut bureau chief for the Times currently “reporting” from Gaza, is almost entirely devoted to one thing: anecdotes, pictures, and stories about civilian casualties. Perusing her feed, one would think there are simply no terrorists in Gaza who started this war, who are perpetuating it, who are intentionally attacking Israel from neighborhoods and apartment buildings and thereby guaranteeing the very civilian casualties Barnard appears so heartbroken over.
… maybe, in the interest of the safety and access of their journalists, the Times is complying with Hamas instructions. As reported by MEMRI, Hamas published media guidelines instructing Gazans to always refer to the dead as “innocent civilians” and to never post pictures of terrorists on social media. Hamas is currently preventing foreign journalists from leaving the Strip, in effect holding them hostage. These journalists must be terrified—and they also must know that the best way to ensure their safety is to never run afoul of the terrorists in whose hands their fates lie.
It would appear that Hamas’s media instructions have been heard loud and clear at the New York Times, and the response is obedience. But the Times also isn’t bothering to inform its readers that the images they’re seeing of Gaza are only the ones Hamas wants them to see. It’s time for the Times to tell its readers exactly why they are being presented with such a distorted picture of this war.
I can’t help but recall CNN’s Eason Jordan justifying his network’s presence in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in similar terms 11 years ago — and in a New York Times op-ed:
Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN’s Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.
… CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk.
… I came to know several Iraqi officials well enough that they confided in me that Saddam Hussein was a maniac who had to be removed.
… I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me.
But Saddam felt pretty good about it, especially because CNN stayed on, giving him the ability under a constant threat of violence to manage the news the world got to see about his country. CNN would have been better off leaving Iraq, and clearly telling the world why.
Jordan’s take on the truth is highly suspect in any event. At an international conference in 2005, he contended that coalition troops in Iraq had “targeted” a dozen journalists. He resigned from CNN days later after a firestorm of blogosphere-led criticism.
The Times appears not to be alone in failing to disclose Hamas’s media restrictions. Two photos (here and here) at the Associated Press and its Monday morning story on developments in Gaza appear to comply with Hamas’s censorship regime and do not disclose its existence. The AP is an arguably far more influential news organization than the Times.
News organizations which knew of Hamas’s coverage restrictions should not have agreed to place their reporters and photographers in Gaza in the first place — unless they don’t mind, as Pollak contends, allowing themselves to be co-opted as propagandists and placing the fate of their employees and stringers in the hands of terrorists. Twisted coverage which makes savages look good is not an improvement over no coverage.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.