Hamas Harassment & threats in Gaza. Journalists Protest.

For the past month or so news has been filtering out of Gaza from international journalists that they have been harassed, and even threatened, by Hamas for sending reports and information out which was truthful and not favorable to them.

On 11th August 2014 the Foreign Press Agency released the following Statement

The FPA protests in the strongest terms the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month.

The international media are not advocacy organisations and cannot be prevented from reporting by means of threats or pressure, thereby denying their readers and viewers an objective picture from the ground. In several cases, foreign reporters working in Gaza have been harassed, threatened or questioned over stories or information they have reported through their news media or by means of social media.

We are also aware that Hamas is trying to put in place a “vetting” procedure that would, in effect, allow for the blacklisting of specific journalists. Such a procedure is vehemently opposed by the FPA.

The FPA strongly condemns deliberate official and unofficial incitement against journalists working to cover the current warfare under very difficult circumstances as well as forcible attempts to prevent journalists and TV crews from carrying out their news assignments. While we do not condone the use of invective by any side, outright attacks on journalists are absolutely unacceptable.

July 29. Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati  tweeted:

In other words, having left Gaza, he could say what he could not report whilst he was there.  It was a Hamas rocket, not an Israeli rocket, that killed 10 people, eight of them children, at the al Shati refugee camp along the northern Gaza seacoast.

Israeli filmmaker Michael Grynszpan wrote on Facebook that he had met with a Spanish journalist who had just left Gaza and asked him why TV viewers are not seeing Hamas fighters in action. Mr. Grynszpan said he was told:

“It’s very simple. We did see Hamas people there, launching rockets. They were close to our hotel, but if ever we dared pointing our camera on them, they would simply shoot at us and kill us.”

Channel 9 TV reporter Peter Stefanovic tweeted

“Hamas rockets just launched over our hotel from a site about two hundred metres away. So a missile launch site is basically next door.”,

An account called @ThisIsGaza said this was Stefanovic’s fourth time

“passing and fabricating information to Israel… from GAZA” and threatened to sue him.

Another account, @longitude0 wrote:

You are a cretin. Are you working for the IDF” and “in WWII spies got shot.”

French-Palestinian journalist Radjaa Abu Dagga was

“detained and interrogated by members of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigade at a room in Shifa hospital next to the emergency room.”

He published an account of his treatment in the French newspaper Liberation — but that article has since been “unpublished at Dagga’s request.” Why do you suppose?

John Reed of The Financial Times was threatened after he tweeted about rockets being fired from near that same hospital.

The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Casey posted a photo of a Hamas spokesman being interviewed from a room in the hospital along with this tweet:

“You have to wonder (with) the shelling how patients at Shifa hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to see media.” After “a flood of online threats,” the tweet was deleted. But Twitter accounts “continued to attack Casey, including him on lists of ‘journos in Gaza (who) lie/fabricate info for Israel’ and ‘must be sued for crimes.’”

On August 5th the Washington Times reported.

“If you’ve been following the conflict in Gaza, you’ve seen dramatic pictures of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, their tanks and helicopters. You’ve seen pictures of neighborhoods reduced to rubble, with Palestinian men, women and children in desperate circumstances. What you almost certainly have not seen are the combatants Israelis have been fighting. It’s as though they were fighting ghosts.”

They report that missing are stories about Hamas deploying civilians as human shields, storing missiles in mosques and UNWRA schools, setting up command posts in hospitals, using ambulances to ferry terrorists to battle, and employing children to dig tunnels — with at least 160 killed in the process.

How many stories have you seen about humanitarian supplies flowing from Israel to Gaza in the midst of this bloody conflict and the hundreds of Gazans treated in Israeli hospitals?

The explanation is that  Hamas restricts what journalists in Gaza may film, photograph and even write about. Hamas threatens and intimidates journalists who do not follow what might be called Hamas rules — rules designed to shape media coverage and influence perceptions around the world.

“The journalists covering Gaza are brave. I’m not saying they should be braver — much less reckless. I do think they should be honest with their readers and viewers about the conditions under which they are operating; namely, conditions of coercion, manipulation, restriction and censorship.”

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Foreign journalists receive death threats for ‘fabricating information for Israel,’ accused of informing on terrorists.

Several journalists from around the world reported seeing rockets fired from civilian areas in Gaza in recent days, and received threatening tweets in return accusing them of “informing” the IDF.

Financial Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief John Reed reported seeing

“two rockets fired toward Israel from near al-Shifa hospital, even as more bombing victims were brought in.”

Shifa, in Gaza City, is the main medical facility in the Strip.

In response, @Saritah_91 tweeted:

“We’ll hold you responsible if Israel uses your tweet to bomb the hospital & then justify it.”

Another twitter user, @ Faysal_FreeGaza, said he’s

“subtly justifying and encouraging IDF attacks on hospitals,”

and @Maysara_ ara wrote:

“Get out of Gaza u informant.”

Janis Mackey Frayer, a correspondent for Canada’s CTV, tweeted that, while in

Gaza City’s Shejaiya’s neighborhood, she “saw several Hamas gunmen. One passed dressed in a woman’s headscarf… tip of a gun poked out from under cloak.”

She received threats similar to those sent to other reporters.

Harry Fear, a journalist from the UK reporting from Gaza for RT (formerly Russia Today) television, tweeted last week:

“Early morning Gaza rockets were fired into Israel. A well-known site in W. Gaza City, near my hotel, was among the origins, confirm locals.”

Fear then took on the critics, tweeting soon after that he rejects “loaded complaints that I ‘informed’ Israel about the specifics of Gaza military sites… These sites are well-known among locals and internationals here.”

“Should a journalist only report the noise and ferocity of Israel’s attacks & not the sounds of Gaza’s rockets? Both terrify people,” he tweeted.

Later that day, Fear tweeted:

“Al-Wafa hospital has been hit in the last while; injuries reported – this is the hospital with human shields.”

Reporter: Gazans only want us to show damage, not shooting..reports the Jerusalem Post

The Jerusalem Post attempted on Thursday to contact ten journalists who reported from Gaza in recent weeks. Of the few who responded most declined to be interviewed, even on condition of anonymity, as they plan to return to Gaza to report.

Christian Stephen, founder of “Freelance Society,” a media company specializing in hostile environments and conflict zones, which sub-contracts for The Economist, VICE, Vocativ and other press outlets, agreed to discuss his experience reporting from Gaza, because he is in Israel and heading to Iraq in nine days.

“Hamas can’t get me there,” he quipped.

The Jerusalem Post: Have you been able to take photographs of Hamas fighters or rocket launchers? If not, why not? If yes, can you show us an example?

Christian Stephen: Unfortunately, I don’t have any shots for you. I saw a good amount of buildings releasing rocket fire towards Israel. However, the fighters were more or less ghosts in living rooms.

Not to mention the fact that on more than one occasion of venturing towards a possible Hamas spot, by the time we got there the building was dust, rubble and bodies.

JP
: How would you assess the conditions for foreign journalists in Gaza?


CS:
The conditions within Gaza are as good as can be expected from a densely populated area being bombarded. As far as the access inside, there’s a definite sense of urgency for fixers and civilians to display the situation, for absurdly obvious reasons.

Without being political (if it’s possible in this arena), regardless of motivations for each sides actions, the situation on the ground is a humanitarian apocalypse consisting of buildings becoming time bombs, the streets becoming morgue runways and the limbs of the dead and the dying marking the street stops. If you put aside the politics, it’s a chronologically challenged mass grave with both sides to blame.

So as far as conditions go for foreign journalists, the fact that a press card is sitting snugly in your pocket doesn’t change the fact that it’s a hellhole.

JP: Have you faced any threats or intimidation from Hamas or Israel?

CS: A fighter inside Gaza city threatened to shoot me in the head if I didn’t stop taking pictures of a group of cars with tarp-covered trunks parked behind a building.

Another young guy near the outskirts of the city was waving an old handgun around screaming at me because he wanted me to take a picture of the dead boy on the ground next to us under the rubble of a building. He was screaming “This is our hell! This is our hell!”

After a minute or so he sat down and kept murmuring the same words in Arabic.

It’s a dichotomy of them needing the situation to be seen, as long as you only show the damage and not the retaliatory measures.

As for the Israeli side, near Netivot there was a firefight near a Kibbutzim. Hamas fighters had come from under the wire through tunnels. An officer tried to take my camera away after the fact, however, instead they insisted I wouldn’t be released until I gave them my SD cards. He argued on the grounds that I was there illegally, although they had been more than happy to smoke and chat beforehand.

The cards were destroyed and I was taken away to a nearby petrol station.

These are obviously isolated incidents, although infuriating nonetheless

JP: Do you fear you will face reprisal from Israel or Hamas when photographing or filming something the authorities may not want made public?

CS: There’s always a danger of being a witness in the midst of these situations. Any journalist who professes to observe without bias, feeling or fear is a liar, as well as any journalist who claims they are without apprehension of the consequences when working in a geographic raw nerve. In all honestly it’s a fool’s errand to even think about appeasing either side. My job is to travel to a location, find a story with as much integrity as the situation can muster, and then bring it back with me. I’m beholden only to the people who read what I write and see what I shoot. The rest is bureaucratic noise.

The reprisals from either side are a threat to be expected; however, in order to do my job properly it’s imperative that I do my utmost to simply show what I’m seeing.

This exclusive video was filmed secretly about 3 weeks ago by journalists from NDTV India. They weren’t able to send it the TV Channel for fear of their safety. It was released this week when they left Gaza.

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3 comments

  1. not even getting a look in on the main stream media, except for andrew bolt.

  2. Unfortunately the mainstream media in most Western countries already have a bias against Israel, so seem happy to take the reports of journalists working from Gaza at face value.

    A free press is what differentiates a democratic country from a totalitarian one. It’s obvious that Gaza is not free, and so responsible journalists should factor this into their reports. The fact that they don’t is testimony to their complete lack of objectivity and professionalism.

    • The point here is Pam that we got very little out of Gaza. It was heavily censored and on pain of death. I heard about Peter Stephanovic being threatened for his tweets.
      An Italian journalist had to escape because he was threatened and had to escape through Egypt. Even then he couldn’t reveal all because of the safety concerns of those left behind.
      Of the 20 the JP asked for an interview, only 2 would talk as they want to go back in.