Ethical questions are now being raised about Gaza-based freelance photojournalists from major media who were embedded with the Hamas terrorists on October 7, documenting their horrific deeds. One media watchdog asked whether the photojournalists and their employers had foreknowledge of the attacks.
Honest Reporting, a media watchdog, reported that many of the photos and reporting by major media outlets were provided by “reporters” who were embedded with Hamas and appeared to have prior knowledge of the October 7 attacks.
Honest Reporting reviewed the images of the attack published by AP, CNN, The New York Times and Reuters and raised questions about at least four Gaza-based journalists credited: Hassan Eslaiah, Yousef Masoud, Ali Mahmud, and Hatem Ali.
Eslaiah, a freelancer who also works for CNN, crossed into Israel, took photos of a burning Israeli tank, and then captured infiltrators entering Kibbutz Kfar Azza. HonestReporting published screenshots of Eslaiah’s now-removed tweets standing in front of an Israeli tank that was destroyed by Hamas terrorists and its crew murdered. Eslaiah was not wearing a press vest or a helmet, and the Arabic caption of his tweet read: “Live from inside the Gaza Strip settlements.”
Honest Reporting also discovered an earlier photo of Eslaiah with Hamas leader and mastermind of the October 7 massacre, Yahya Sinwar.
CNN said in response that it “decided to suspend all ties with Hassan Eslaiah”. “We are aware of the article and photo concerning Hassan Eslaiah, a freelance photojournalist who has worked with a number of international and Israeli outlets. 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.”
Honest Reporting cited several photos taken during some of the more horrific moments of the attack on Israel.
“Interestingly, the names of the photographers, which appear on other sources, have been removed from some of the photos on AP’s database,” Honest reporting noted. “Perhaps someone at the agency realized it posed serious questions regarding their journalistic ethics.”
“It is now obvious that Hamas had planned its October 7 attack on Israel for a very long time: its scale, its brutal aims and its massive documentation have been prepared for months, if not years. Everything was taken into account — the deployments, the timing, as well as the use of body cams and mobile phone videos for sharing the atrocities.
“Is it conceivable to assume that “journalists” just happened to appear early in the morning at the border without prior coordination with the terrorists? Or were they part of the plan?
“Even if they didn’t know the exact details of what was going to happen, once it unfolded did they not realize they were breaching a border? And if so, did they notify the news agencies? Some sort of communication was undoubtedly necessary — before, after or during the attack — in order to get the photos published.”
After Honest Reporting’s shocking article, a spokeswoman for the Associated Press quoted by the Daily Wire denied any advance knowledge of the attack.
“The Associated Press had no knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks before they happened,” said Nicole Meir. “The role of the AP is to gather information on breaking news events around the world, wherever they happen, even when those events are horrific and cause mass casualties. AP uses images taken by freelancers around the world, including in Gaza.”
Honest Reporting noted that it did not make such accusations.
The New York Times made a similar denial.
“The accusation that anyone at The New York Times had advanced knowledge of the Hamas attacks or accompanied Hamas terrorists during the attacks is untrue and outrageous,” they stated. “It is reckless to make such allegations, putting our journalists on the ground in Israel and Gaza at risk. The Times has extensively covered the Oct. 7 attacks and the war with fairness, impartiality, and an abiding understanding of the complexities of the conflict.
“The advocacy group Honest Reporting has made vague allegations about several freelance photojournalists working in Gaza, including Yousef Masoud. Though Yousef was not working for The Times on the day of the attack, he has since done important work for us. There is no evidence for Honest Reporting’s insinuations. Our review of his work shows that he was doing what photojournalists always do during major news events, documenting the tragedy as it unfolded.”
The Israeli government took the Honest Reporting revelations seriously. A statement by the Prime Minister’s office read:
“Gaza-based photojournalists employed by the world’s leading news agencies who captured images of the Hamas massacre on October 7 in Gaza-border communities, and who appear to have had foreknowledge of the planned attack were accomplices in crimes against humanity; their actions were contrary to professional ethics.”
Government minister Benny Gantz, a member of the cabinet and chairman of the National Unity party, came out strongly against the journalists.
“Journalists found to have known about the massacre, and still chose to stand as idle bystanders while children were slaughtered – are no different than terrorists and should be treated as such,” Gantz tweeted
Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi sent a letter to the four news outlets calling for an investigation into the photographers’ possible “collusion with the terrorist organization Hamas-ISIS.”
“I write to you with deep concern regarding recent reports about your employees’ alleged involvement in the tragic events in southern Israel,” Karhi wrote. “It has come to our attention that certain individuals within your organization, including photographers and others, had prior knowledge of these horrific actions and may have maintained a troubling connection with the perpetrators.”
“I urgently request a thorough investigation into this matter,” Karhi wrote. “The gravity of the situation demands a swift and thorough response.”
Following the release of the report, HonestReporting’s website became the focus of a cyberattack that took it offline for several hours.
It is interesting to note that CNN and NYT, along with other major media outlets, reported that an Israeli military strike hit the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, killing 500 people. Soon after these reports were published, Israeli intelligence produced video and audio proof showing that the explosion was caused by an errant Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket fired from inside Gaza. Later images showed that the hospital Israel had reportedly destroyed was still standing. The IDF reports that up to one-third of the rockets fired from inside Gaza fall short and land inside Gazan territory.
It should be emphasized that the only source of information about the number of casualties inside Gaza is the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Despite evidence that the casualties at the hospital were caused by a PIJ rocket, no Gazan casualties have been attributed to Hamas or the PIJ by any media.