Several journalists in Gaza have been harassed and threatened by Hamas, intimidated into reporting only what the terrorist group deems suitable. Israeli officials stated that members of the international media have been bullied out of reporting incidents which demonstrate Hamas abuses of its own civilian population.
As reported by the Times of Israel, several photographers who had photographed Hamas members in “compromising positions”, such as firing weapons from within civilian structures or fighting in civilian attire, had their equipment forcibly taken from them by Hamas members.
One Israeli official lamented, “Whenever they’re here [in Israel], they [foreign journalists] complain about restrictions and censorship and so on. But when they get bullied in Gaza, they’re too scared to say anything, and so this is swept under the rug.”
Indeed, advocacy group Reporters Without Borders recently published an article complaining about the treatment by Israel of journalists covering the conflict with Gaza, but makes no mention of their (mis)treatment by Hamas while in the strip.
Rocket launched from behind a live broadcast of France24 journalist
A number of incidents were reported, then retracted or removed by the people behind them. The Wall Street Journal‘s Middle East correspondent, Nick Casey, tweeted his take on Gaza’s Shifa hospital, saying Hamas uses it “as a safe place to see media”, but he later removed the tweet. According to the Washington Post, Shifa has “become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.”
The Israeli official who spoke to the Times of Israel added, “We know that downstairs there is a Hamas command and control center and that Hamas leaders are hiding there. No reporter is allowed to go anywhere downstairs. They’re only allowed to work upstairs to take pictures of casualties, the pictures that Hamas wants them to take.”
In another case, also taking place at Shifa, a French journalist was interrogated by Hamas. The reporter, who works for French daily Ouest France, spoke to Libération, another French paper, about the event.
“A few meters from the emergency room, where the injured from the bombings kept on coming in, in the outpatient ward, [the reporter] was received in ‘a small section of the hospital used as an office’ by a group of young combatants,’” the article read. “Surprisingly, they were all well-dressed, ‘in civilian clothing, with a gun under the shirt, and some had walkie-talkies.’”
According to the article, the journalist was made to remove his shirt and belt and empty his pockets before being taken to a hospital room which functioned as a command office.
“Who are you? What’s your name? What are you doing?” the journalist was asked, as well as whether he spoke Hebrew or had any ties to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. “The young Hamas supporters insistently ask the question: ‘Are you a correspondent for Israel?’” Despite assurances that he worked only for French and Algerian media, the reporter was told to stop working and leave Gaza.
After appearing on Libération’s website, the article was removed at the request of the journalist in question, who was identified therein by name.
Another journalist, this time from Finland, reported about rockets being fired from civilian positions, but became indignant when pro-Israel sources circulated the video. Aishi Zidan, a reporter for Helsingin Sanomat, was reporting about the state of civilian victims in Shifa hospital.
“My story was about the Palestinian civilians who were victims of war,” Zidan posted on her Facebook page. “My article started with a story of four little boys who were killed on the beach the same day. The Shifa hospital was full of women and children who were victims of this ugly war. I described their stories in detail.
“During the night someone launched a rocket somewhere behind the hospital. Now this sentence from my article is spreading in the pro-Israeli medias. I mentioned this in my article because I’m a professional journalist. I try to cover the events truthfully as I see them and I strongly condemn these kind of actions.
“But I find it very disgusting how this one sentence was taken out context to be used as an excuse to target civilians in Gaza. My story became quickly a tool of propaganda. The people sharing this story are not even trying to understand the situation as a whole. They are just looking for excuses to Israeli actions in Gaza. I refuse to be part of this kind of propaganda.”
Zidan is lucky she was able to report freely on the occurrence. “We have no doubt that Hamas, through coercion and violence, limits the freedom of foreign journalists in Gaza,” the Israeli official told The Times of Israel. “Walking around Gaza with a camera and asking people what they think is not like walking around New York or London. People are not free to say their true opinions. It’s a bit like asking Syrians in government-controlled areas of Damascus if they like President [Bashar] Assad.”