Israeli authorities have demanded an explanation from several major Western media outlets on Thursday, after a non-governmental organization accused six Palestinian photographers who documented the October 7th attack of being accomplices of Hamas. The Israeli Government Press Office, Nitzan Chen, asked AP, Reuters, CNN, and the New York Times to address what he called the “involvement of their photographers in the events of October 7th, which crosses every professional and moral red line.”
The pro-Israeli group Honest Reporting published research identifying six Palestinian photojournalists that they claim “filmed the murder of civilians, the abuse of bodies and the abduction of men and women” after Hamas attacked Israeli settlements and outposts. Chen cited this research and called on the media outlets to address the situation.
Honest Reporting insinuated that the photographers were somehow in on the group’s plans for the surprise attack and suggested they were participants in the October 7 attack. The group zeroed in on several photographers, including Hassan Eslaiah who has worked as a freelancer for both AP and CNN. They posted a video of Eslaiah – without any signs he was a journalist – filming a burning Israeli tank, and a photo of him with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, taken in 2020.
The group also pointed to three more AP stringers, as well as two Reuters photojournalists, who they accused of collaborating with Hamas in order to get images. According to the organization, the presence of these photographers alongside the Hamas militants as they breached the border “raises serious ethical questions.”
Danny Danon, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, and a member of parliament from the ruling Likud party, stated that the photographers will be added to the list of those to be “eliminated.”
Reuters has denied having prior knowledge of the Hamas attack and responded that the agency bought photos from two Gaza-based reporters “with whom it did not have a prior relationship.” CNN has responded by firing Eslaiah, stating they have decided to suspend all ties with him. The Associated Press denied having prior knowledge of the attack, and stated that Eslaiah “has been an occasional freelancer for AP and other news organizations.”
The New York Times has called the accusations “untrue and outrageous.” They insisted that they had no advanced knowledge of the attack or accompanied Hamas militants, and expressed concern that unsupported accusations and threats to freelancers endanger them and undermines the important work they do.
Freelance photojournalists working in conflict areas often risk their lives to provide first-hand witness accounts and to document important news. This is an essential role of a free press in wartime, and accusations without evidence can put them in danger.
In conclusion, the ongoing situation is causing tensions between Israeli authorities and Western media outlets, and it’s essential for all parties involved to thoroughly investigate the accusations made and to ensure the safety and integrity of all journalists involved in documenting such events.