Gaza’s media manipulation: The truth behind muddled Middle East coverage

October 23, 2023

By Tim Worstall

The Israeli missile that destroyed a hospital and killed 500 turned out to be a malfunctioning Islamic Jihad missile that hit the car park and killed 30. That’s 30 too many, of course it is, but it’s also a very different story. So why did everyone leap to the conclusion that it was Israel, the whole hospital and hundreds dead? 

Why did the New York Times front page have a large picture of a destroyed building that wasn’t even a hospital, let alone the one claimed to be destroyed?  

We can go on from these past few days. AP reports that Israel has isolated Gaza – without mentioning that Egypt controls the land border at Rafah. The top AP reporter in Gaza has just been suspended for quite obviously not being impartial in the slightest -more than something of an antisemite.

So why is this happening? The dirty little secret here is that outside full-on emergencies, like right now, there are no Western reporters in Gaza. All of the coverage comes from locals. What are called “stringers” (or freelancers), perhaps, or full employees of Western news outlets. But they will be locals who live locally, meaning they and their families are under considerable pressure from Hamas regarding what they report and how.

Over the years and decades, this has become an open secret. The Washington Post:

“Mansour said these cases have changed the risk calculations for international journalists — leaving local photo and freelance journalists to do the job of covering conflict in Gaza and the West Bank.”

As we say, locals. But locals might have the attitudes and biases of other locals. Or they might have bias imposed upon them. Which has for nearly 20 years now been a complaint about Hamas. The New York Times from 2007:

“Hamas seems confused about how to quash Fatah protests and simultaneously deal with the news media. Trying to nurture a reputation for honesty and legal behavior since they conquered Gaza in bloody fighting in June, Hamas’s leaders promise journalists freedom of action while the police intimidate them. One result is a kind of self-censorship, local journalists say, that goes beyond what they traditionally practiced under Fatah, which also tried to pressure, manipulate or own the Palestinian press.”

Or Human Rights Watch from 2016:

“The Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza are arresting, abusing, and criminally charging journalists and activists who express peaceful criticism of the authorities.”

As we say, there are some directly employed, some stringers:

“Outside journalists have been unable to enter Gaza since the Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7. The sole entry point for journalists, Israel’s Erez crossing, was attacked in the rampage and remains closed. A handful of news organizations had maintained a regular presence with bureaus there, including The Associated Press, the BBC, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Al-Jazeera, with a network of stringers helping others.”

Six of those BBC reporters have just been taken off the air for their social media posts supporting Hamas against Israel. 

There’s even this AP report from last year:

“Palestinians who work with foreign journalists were first informed of the new rules earlier this week in messages sent by the Hamas-run Interior Ministry. They were ordered not to report on Gazans killed by misfired Palestinian rockets or the military capabilities of Palestinian armed groups, and were told to blame Israel for the recent escalation.”

Although that’s a year old now, it’s quite a coincidence.

Again, from last year:

“On Oct. 23, Hamas-affiliated security forces in civilian clothes stormed the family house of Ramzi Herzallah, a Palestinian activist residing in Belgium and an opponent of Hamas’ rule in Gaza, threatening his family if he does not stop criticizing Hamas’ policies.”

Think about it. Gaza is ruled by those who just, entirely happily, went and killed 1300 people, from babies through kids, at a music festival for peace, just for the crime of being of the wrong religion and citizenship. And you won’t be a journalist living under Hamas and be critical of them? Break the reporting rules that they insist upon?

That’s before we get to the point above, where too many locals hired as journalists will have those local biases and prejudices about the situation as a whole.

We’re simply not getting unbiased journalism out of Gaza. We won’t until Gaza itself is free. Very few of us believed the journalism that came out of the Soviet Union; none of us do what comes out of North Korea now. We shouldn’t believe reporting directly from Gaza for the same reason.

Gaza is ruled by Hamas, bloodthirsty murderers of innocents. They’re not going to let anyone speak the truth from inside their area of power now, are they?


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