Journalists Restricted By Hamas Rules and It's Reflected in Their Coverage

On August 6, Cliff May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies charged that while the media have filled their stories on the current conflict in Gaza with “pictures of neighborhoods reduced to rubble, with Palestinian men, women and children in desperate circumstances,” they have been negligent in telling their audiences that Hamas has been “deploying civilians as human shields, storing missiles in mosques and UN schools, setting up command posts in hospitals, using ambulances to ferry terrorists to battle, and children to dig tunnels.”

One reason for this bias, according to May, is Hamas’ intimidation of journalists. May relayed that when one Spanish journalist was asked why TV viewers weren’t seeing more footage of Hamas fighters the reporter responded: “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.”

Aside from the occasional tweet about this censorship journalists haven’t told their viewers about these restrictions that, as documented by the MRC in recent weeks, have clearly swayed American network and cable reporters into making Israel look like the bad guys in the conflict. (videos after the jump)

 

Networks Condemn Attack on U.N. School in Gaza, Ignore Hamas Hiding Rockets in Schools

 


MRC’s Kyle Drennen reported that “While all three networks denounced the shelling of a U.N. school in Gaza on [July 25] NBC, ABC and CBS all failed to report on similar U.N. schools in the war-torn territory being used to hide Hamas rockets.”

On NBC Nightly News, chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel proclaimed: “This school was a designated refugee center run by the U.N. The U.N. says it was hit without warning and that there's no evidence weapons were inside.” He talked to United Nations Relief and Works Agency operations director Robert Turner and asked: “Were militants operating inside this school?” Turner replied: “No, we are very, very strict about the neutrality of our installations. It's just civilians.”

Engel never challenged the claim of “strict neutrality” despite Hamas rockets having been found in other U.N. schools just days earlier.

On ABC's World News, anchor Diane Sawyer described “a strike on a U.N. shelter, where families were huddled inside.” In the report that followed, correspondent David Wright declared: “They had sought refuge from this war at a U.N. school. Today their safe haven came under attack.”

Like NBC, a sound bite was featured of Turner from UNRWA lamenting: “Where else can these people go? We are the refuge of last resort for them. If they are not safe with us, where are they safe?”

Again, no mention of U.N. facilities being used by Hamas to store weapons.

Opening CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley announced: “Tonight, death in a safe haven. Shells hit a U.N. school in Gaza where civilians had taken shelter from the war.” Correspondent Barry Peterson stated: “Eight days ago, residents took shelter at the U.N. school as a safe haven. Some were still there after the attack. The U.N. said it gave GPS coordinates of the school to both Hamas and the Israelis to help arrange a humanitarian cease-fire for an evacuation.”

No mention of rockets in U.N. schools, but Petersen did find time to dismiss Israel's suggestion that Hamas may have been responsible for the bombing: “...it’s sort of inconsistent with what we were hearing from the survivors....We asked Hamas, and Hamas said the eyewitnesses say it was Israeli artillery and, says Hamas, they speak the truth.”

 

NBC Touts Palestinian Teen Praising Justified Hamas Terror Attacks on Israel

 


On the July 30, Today show Drennen also noted NBC’s Richard Engel highlighted a Palestinian teenager celebrating Hamas’s attacks: “In Gaza, many see these attacks as justified. 16-year-old Farah Bakkar has developed a following online after live tweeting as [Israeli] bombs fell....Farah never supported Hamas before, but does now.” A sound bite ran of Bakkar proclaiming: “When I see the [Hamas] rockets getting to Israel, I start loving them more and more and I pray for them.”

 

Will Israel Achieve Military Victory, But Lose The Battle of Wider Public Opinion

 

 

 

On August 3, MRC’s Jeffrey Meyer reported how NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, on Meet the Press, used the one-sidedness of the images to pressure Israel to back down.

Moderator David Gregory introduced a taped segment with Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, by pondering “whether Israel may achieve victory, but lose the battle of wider world opinion.”

Mitchell began her piece by insisting that “as the violence continues, the civilians trapped in the middle, Israel’s strategy of self-defense is becoming less defensible in world opinion.” 

 


How Long Can Israel Withstand This Kind of International Pressure?

 


The bias has shown up on the cable networks as well. The MRC's Scott Whitlock reported that on July 16 Mitchell, on her eponymously named MSNBC show, followed up a story on four children who were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza by marveling, “How long can Israel withstand this kind of international pressure?”

While talking to reporter Martin Fletcher, she noted that Hamas had rejected an Israeli cease fire and insisted, the militant group is “getting the emotional and political benefit, if you will, of the horror of the deaths of their population.”

 

Journalist Thinks Good Coverage = Israel “Losing the Media War”


On July 22, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes probably best summed up the impact the Hamas restrictions and biases of his liberal colleagues were having on public opinion.

“I think our network, this time around, and I think the media more generally — and now I’m talking about the New York Times and other places — have been doing a much better job in this conflict. I think the image that most Americans are seeing from this conflict, by in large, are images of the destruction in Gaza. I think that’s been the defining feature of this, and in fact, there’s all these people talking about how the Israelis are losing the media war for the first time.”

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.