Journalists face conflict when covering Israel-Gaza attacks
Journalists have been wounded, censored and prevented from leaving the Gaza strip while covering five days of air strikes and bombings from both sides of the Israel-Gaza conflict.
CNN's Anderson Cooper reacted on the air Sunday to a nearby explosion in Gaza City. Eight journalists in Gaza were wounded earlier when an Israeli aircraft hit two media buildings, reports Reuters.
The attacks were aimed at Hamas communication devices located on the buildings’ roofs, the Israeli military said.
The military accused Hamas of using reporters as shields for their operations, and said the journalists using the buildings were not the target.
The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem said it was “concerned” by the attacks, according to The New York Times. The organization referenced a United Nations resolution that “journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilians, to be respected and protected as such.”
Journalists using the two buildings include a Hamas television channel, al-Quds TV, Sky News and ITN. Germany's ARD, Kuwait TV and the Italian RAI also used the buildings.
In addition to the attacks on the two media centers, the Israel military took over broadcasts from two local Gaza radio stations, the Times reported. Israel interrupted the stations’ broadcasting, instead airing a warning message:
“We recommend that you stay away from the places of terrorists and the infrastructure of Hamas. Hamas is playing with fire and putting you at risk.”
The Israelis aren’t the only ones interfering with journalists and news coverage. The Israel Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that Hamas prevented 22 foreign journalists from leaving the Gaza Strip.
The New York Times reported Monday that a drone attack "killed the driver of a taxi hired by journalists and displaying 'Press' signs, although it was not clear which journalists hired it, Palestinian officials said." Drivers and fixers frequently face danger on behalf of outside journalists, who rely on them for local access.
Covering the conflict
Reporters on the ground in Gaza face a series of challenges, including frequent power outages and ongoing air strikes.
Viewers saw a glimpse of these challenges when NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin hosted a Google+ hangout session from Gaza City. The screen went black twice during the broadcast as Mohyeldin lost power.
"Between the power cuts and the Israeli airstrike, that’s just a very small glimpse of what daily reality has become here in the Gaza strip," Mohyeldin told viewers.
New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren told "The Sisterhood," a blog for Jewish women, one of the most noticeable changes is a lot of female reporters covering the conflict.
When the sirens went off in Jerusalem today, I had a bit of bonding with a colleague who also has a young child — in her case, really a baby, just 1 year old, and her husband is also a journalist, which makes it more complicated. But its not like we’re gabbing about tampons and pedicures. ...
Working in an Islamic place — similar to working in an Orthodox Jewish place — does make gender more relevant sometimes, like there are all-male spaces where you can’t go, but there are also all-female spaces where male colleagues couldn’t go. I think having women cover wars probably will lead to a little more coverage of how women fare during wars, and that seems like a good thing.
Slate's Dahlia Lithwick is in Jerusalem on book leave and has resisted writing about the conflict.
We should be doing better because, much as I hate to say it, the harrowing accounts of burnt-out basements and baby shoes on each side of this conflict don’t constitute a conversation. Counting and photographing and tweeting injured children on each side isn’t dialogue. ...
I am worried about our friends here who are being called up. I am worried about my friends here who are war correspondents. I am worried about terrified children in Gaza. I am also worried about how I will explain to my sons why we are staying, but I’m more worried about what I would tell them if we left. I am crazy-worried about my parents who live in the south, where 1400 rockets have been fired since January. I am worried about how this can possibly ever end if just tweeting about peace is an international act of aggression.
The Associated Press issued a “correction” tweet Friday changing a reference to “Israel’s capital” to “Israel’s self-declared capital.”
As Politico pointed out, there’s only one line in the AP Stylebook on Jerusalem: “The city in Israel stands alone in dateline.”
AP spokesperson Paul Colford told Politco the AP had alternated between writing “capital” and “self-declared capital” in previous copy, but now describes the city as “claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians as a capital.”
While the AP is the keeper of the stylebook, it’s not the only news organization struggling with how to describe the city. The New York Times in a story Friday referred to the city as one “which Israel claims as its capital despite objections from the city’s large Palestinian population and others throughout the Middle East."
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama urged the Democratic Party to change the wording in its platform to label Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. The Democrats restored the language of the 2008 platform, which stated “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” – a line that Democrats had tried to remove this time around.
The social media battle
The Israel Defense Force has flooded Twitter, YouTube and Facebook with updates since beginning airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. But why?
According to a Washington Post blog, the goal in giving the conflict a voice on social media is to seek not just support but participation from its followers.
The @IDFSpokesperson Twitter account, encouraging followers to show support for the strikes, tweeted Wednesday: “More than 12,000 rockets hit Israel in the past 12 years. RT if you think #Israel has the right to defend itself.” More than 5,500 people have retweeted it. On Facebook, a flier-style image with a similar message has been shared 18,000 times.
As Poynter's Jeff Sonderman wrote, the IDF YouTube channel has almost 48,000 subscribers and 24.8 million video views. The channel includes videos of attacks, "as well as several videos intending to diffuse criticism by showing efforts to avoid civilian casualties.”
It remains to be seen whether this social media takeover is changing public perception, or just allowing those who side with IDF to broadcast their views on the internet.
While many have commented on IDF’s use of social media, blogger Laura Goldman sought out IDF spokesman Captain Eytan Buchman for an explanation.
Buchman, a Chicago native, explains the reasoning behind the IDF’s increased social media activity. “We learned from Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009 that there were potential new audiences that we could target rather than the traditional media,” he said. “There is so much misinformation coming out of Gaza. Videos show a man be carried into an ambulance, but don’t show the same man walking out of the ambulance a few minutes later. Hamas falsely claimed to have hit an Israeli naval vessel. Social media allows everyone to see for themselves what is happening and make their own decisions.”
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch spawned a firestorm when he tweeted about the media's coverage of the conflict: "Why Is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?"
The tweet presumes media organizations have Jewish owners and editors. It also presumed, writes Peter Beinart, that Jewish reporters and editors are making decisions based on their religion, not their role as journalists.
“The implication is that Jewish media owners do indeed let their Jewishness define their Israel coverage," Beinart said.
Murdoch later backed away from the statement in another tweet:
",Jewish owned press" have been sternly criticised, suggesting link to Jewish reporters.Don't see this, but apologise unreservedly.
— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) November 18, 2012