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American Media Outlets Are Unwittingly Collaborating with Hostile Global Actors

Chillin' @ Choo's

The Associated Press’s Hamas office-mates proved it. It’s time to take action to sever the relationship.

May 27, 2021

God Bless You

Freedom of the press around the world is facing a grave new threat. The specter of Western news organizations colluding — through either coercion, ideology, or financial interest — with authoritarian states and non-state actors presents a challenge to American national security and global democracy.

When interest, ideology, or intimidation are brought to bear on news organizations, the result is often political and humanitarian disaster. Looking around the world today, we see these forces exerted by major powers such as China and Russia, but also by terror groups, such as Iran-proxy Hamas, which apply the principles of asymmetric warfare to managing one of today’s most important battlefields: the media.

We learned just how serious this threat is in the latest war between Israel and Hamas. Israel, responding to thousands of rockets rained on its population centers, bombed a Gaza tower employed by Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In the wake of the attack, the world discovered that the building also served as local headquarters for some of the world’s most powerful news agencies, including The Associated Press.

The attack on an empty building provoked an outcry by Israel critics, who seized on the opportunity to lob heavy-handed criticism at the region’s only democracy. The outrage, however, obscured the much more disturbing reality, which is that Hamas has honed sophisticated methods of influencing the global news agenda — in this case, by effectively holding international journalists hostage.

More worrying is that the world has known about this trend for nearly a decade (at least). In 2014, during the last major battle between Hamas and Israel, a former Associated Press reporter named Matti Friedman wrote about what might amount to complicity by the media organization in the terror group’s activities:

The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby—and the AP wouldn’t report it, not even in AP articles about Israeli claims that Hamas was launching rockets from residential areas. Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it.

It is exceedingly rare that journalists deliberately attempt to carry water for an authoritarian regime or other bad actor. Instead, these governments and groups employ a heavy-handed approach to swaying coverage. The calculus is brutally simple: If reporters stay within the boundaries of acceptable coverage, they are unharmed and, in some cases, get crucial access to sources. But if they don’t, they risk losing access to sources, the ability to report from places like Gaza, and even their lives.

More important, this trend of downward pressure on media organizations shows how much some have corrupted important institutions. One notable example this week came from the watchdog NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which is ostensibly devoted to protecting journalists (and which frequently does this important work very effectively).

Rather than inquiring as to why international reporters had (by the AP’s explanation) unwittingly shared a building with a U.S.-listed terror group for up to 15 years, RSF chose to try to influence the powerful and notoriously anti-Israel International Criminal Court (ICC) to pursue a war-crimes probe against Israel. In purposely ignoring the well-documented dangers to journalists in Gaza by the ruling forces for many years, RSF has shown that media-industry watchdogs are also susceptible to undue influence by anti-democratic forces such as Hamas….

national review

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