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Foreign press gives mixed accounts of Hamas intimidation in Gaza
By LAHAV HARKOV
08/07/2014
Some journalists denied being threatened while reporting from Gaza, though other accounts from recent days paint a different picture.
 
Some journalists from international news outlets denied being threatened or intimidated by Hamas while reporting from Gaza, though other accounts from recent days paint a different picture.

Indian television station NDTV broadcast a report by Sreenivasan Jain on Tuesday showing rockets being assembled and fired from a tent next to his hotel, in what seems to be the only video of the sort coming out of the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

In the text that accompanied the video report on NDTV’s website, Jain wrote that it was published “after our team left the Gaza Strip – Hamas has not taken very kindly to any reporting of its rockets being fired. But just as we reported the devastating consequences of Israel’s offensive on Gaza’s civilians, it is equally important to report on how Hamas places those very civilians at risk by firing rockets deep from the heart of civilian zones. “ Two days later, Jain published an article on NDTV’s website with the story behind his report, explaining that his team waited days before airing the video clip due to “fear of reprisals from Hamas against us and those who worked with us, [and] fear of inviting an Israeli response on the spot.”

As for intimidation by Hamas, Jain said “there are no easy answers,” and asked the following questions: “How long do we self-censor because of the fear of personal safety in return for not telling a story that exposes how those launching rockets are putting so many more lives at risk, while the rocket-makers themselves are at a safe distance? More so when we have rare, first hand proof of how it works?” Still, Jain wrote that he found it distressing and disingenuous that “the story had become Israel’s ‘I told you so’ moment,” which, in turn, provoked pro-Palestinian people who had praised his earlier reporting to accuse him of betrayal. He explained that he feared his “report could end up serving the goals of propagandists,” but that “to let this fear cripple our work would amount to erasing the difference between journalism and propaganda.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, NPR’s Jerusalem Correspondent Emily Harris took part in an AMA or “ask me anything” forum on the social network reddit, in which she denied that her reporting was restricted in any way by Hamas.

“I felt that I personally could report on whatever I wanted. I posted some photos of rocket smoke across the sky and put the audio of the one rocket launch I managed to record in a piece, noting that it was fired in the middle of Gaza City,” Harris wrote.

Still, she added that “for your own safety you might not want to hang out with militants” and that Hamas “called in” Palestinian journalists who work with foreign press if Hamas is not happy with stories being pursued.

“During the war and over the year prior that I’ve been periodically reporting from Gaza, there have been times that people seemed uncomfortable with certain questions,” she said. “For example, at a house crushed by an Israeli air strike, asking if someone in the house belonged to Hamas or Islamic Jihad. But if you talked to people in private, they’d tell you what they knew, or at least had heard...

Sometimes people show up who make interviewees appear nervous.”

As for the Hamas command center below Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Harris wrote: “I didn’t try to go see it and I don’t know if it exists.” Still, when she asked people at the hospital how they feel about Hamas spokespeople using it to talk to the press, a doctor “seemed uncomfortable with the question,” but another young Palestinian said, “Why shouldn’t Hamas choose a safe place to speak?” When asked directly on Twitter whether she felt Hamas tried to intimidate her or prevent negative coverage, AFP reporter Sara Hussein responded “short answer is no, not least because they weren’t around and in a position to do so.”

The New York Times – which had 37 images in three slide shows about the conflict but not one of a rocket launch or Hamas fighters using civilian areas – told JTA reporter Uriel Heilman that it doesn’t have any photos of such things.

Times Vice President for Corporate Communications Eileen Murphy wrote to JTA that out of hundreds of pictures submitted by the team in Gaza led by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Tyler Hicks, “our photo editor...

found two very distant, poor quality images that were captioned Hamas fighters...

It is very difficult to identify Hamas because they don’t have uniforms or any visible insignia; our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun.

“I would add that we would not withhold photos of Hamas militants. We eagerly pursue photographs from both sides of the conflict, but we are limited by what our photographers have access to,” she said.

On Wednesday, the Christian Broadcasting Network aired an interview with Archbishop Alexios, whom reporter George Thomas called “Gaza’s most prominent Christian leader.” CBN estimates there are 1,500 Christians living in Gaza.

Alexios said Hamas used his church to fire rockets, but he would not discuss details on camera for security reasons.

On Sunday, the Government Press Office will hold an event for foreign press meant to battle disinformation coming out of the Gaza Strip, in which two “distinguished European journalists who returned from Gaza in the last few days will share with us their personal testimonies and their views on what it is like to report from Gaza under Hamas’ close watch.”

The testimonies will be off the record, meaning journalists attending the event will not be able to report on it – “for obvious reasons,” the GPO invitation reads.

Niv Elis contributed to this report.
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