Freelance photographers documented the October 7 carnage for AP, Reuters, CNN, and the New York Times
Israeli authorities demanded an explanation from several major Western outlets on Thursday, after a NGO accused six Palestinian photographers who documented the October 7 attack of being accomplices of Hamas.
The head of the Israeli Government Press Office, Nitzan Chen, asked AP, Reuters, CNN, and the New York Times to address the “involvement of their photographers in the events of October 7th, which crosses every professional and moral red line.”
Chen cited the research by the pro-Israeli outfit Honest Reporting, published on Wednesday, which identified six Palestinian photojournalists who “filmed the murder of civilians, the abuse of bodies and the abduction of men and women” after Hamas struck out from Gaza at nearby Israeli settlements and outposts.
According to Honest Reporting, the presence of these photographers alongside the Hamas militants as they breached the border “raises serious ethical questions,” insinuating that the men were somehow in on the group’s plans for the surprise attack. If the four outlets had people on the ground who “actively or passively collaborated with Hamas to get the shots, they should be called out to redefine the border between journalism and barbarism,” Honest Reporting said.
The group zeroed in on Hassan Eslaiah, who has worked as a freelancer for 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.
Honest Reporting also pointed to three more AP stringers – including the one who photographed German-Israeli concert-goer Shani Louk in a Hamas pick-up truck – as well as two Reuters photojournalists “who also happened to be at the border just in time for Hamas’ infiltration,” one of whom “took photos of a lynch mob brutalizing the body of an Israeli soldier who was dragged out of the tank.”
Israel considers the photographers participants in the October 7 attack and they will be added to the list of those to be “eliminated,” according to Danny Danon, former Israeli ambassador to the UN and a member of parliament from the ruling Likud party.
Reuters “categorically” denied having prior knowledge of the Hamas attack or embedding journalists with the group. The agency said it bought photos from two Gaza-based reporters “with whom it did not have a prior relationship.”
CNN responded to the Israeli inquiry by firing Eslaiah. “While we have not at this time found reason to doubt the journalistic accuracy of the work he has done for us, we have decided to suspend all ties with him,” the US outlet said in a statement to Ynet.
“The Associated Press had no knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks before they happened,” the agency said, adding that Eslaiah “has been an occasional freelancer for AP and other news organizations” and that the agency’s job is to cover breaking news events “even when those events are horrific and cause mass casualties.”
The New York Times called “untrue and outrageous” the accusation that anyone at the outlet had advanced knowledge of the Hamas attack, or accompanied “Hamas terrorists,” adding that such claims are “reckless” and put their journalists in Israel and Gaza at risk.
Yousef Masoud, the Gaza freelancer named by Honest Reporting, “was not working for The Times on the day of the attack” but has “done important work for us” since, the outlet said, insisting there was “no evidence” for Israeli insinuations.
The Times also said it was “gravely concerned that unsupported accusations and threats to freelancers endangers them and undermines work that serves the public interest.” Freelance photojournalists working in conflict areas often “rush into danger to provide first-hand witness accounts and to document important news,” which is the “essential role of a free press in wartime,” the US newspaper of record added.