Hamas provides new info on moves to squeeze foreign media

Spokeswoman says pressure meant to ensure ‘fair reporting,’ block information about rocket launch sites

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Media representative broadcasting from the Israel Gaza Border, July 9, 2014 (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Media representative broadcasting from the Israel Gaza Border, July 9, 2014 (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hamas spokeswoman Isra Al-Mudallal, who admitted in an interview last week that her movement obstructed the work of foreign journalists covering Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, gave more information on Sunday about Hamas’s motives in curtailing foreign coverage of its military activities against Israel in Gaza.

“Any measure that is taken against any foreign journalist working in Gaza is based on the extent to which he or she upholds standards of professional journalism and fair reporting,” Mudallal wrote on her Facebook page Sunday morning. “We have seen serious breaches of these standards by a small number of journalists whose main task seemed to be locating the places where Palestinian resistance rockets were launched or reporting on the whereabouts of Palestinian resistance fighters while ignoring reporting on the sheer violence and destruction and bloodshed wreaked by the Israeli occupation army on the Gaza population.”

According to Mudallal, who is the head of foreign relations in Hamas’s Information Ministry, journalists wishing to report on Hamas rocket launches were “unfairly and unjustifiably siding with Israel and parroting Israel’s propaganda machine.” Their reporting, she added, “seems to be telling only half-truths or propagating lies and misinformation, offering sensitive information for free to the Israeli occupation.”

Last Thursday, in an interview with the Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen, Mudallal inadvertently acknowledged that the group had strong-armed journalists in Gaza into a reporting style that suited its narrative, keeping many under surveillance and kicking out of the territory those who sought to film the launching of rockets at Israel.

In the television interview, relayed and translated Friday by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Mudallal complained that “the coverage by foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip was insignificant compared to their coverage within the Israeli occupation (Israel).”

“Moreover,” she said, “the journalists who entered Gaza were fixated on the notion of peace and on the Israeli narrative.” She asserted that the foreign press was focused “on filming the places from where missiles were launched. Thus, they were collaborating with the occupation.”

The Israeli army has said that 600 of the 3,300 rockets fired into Israel over recent weeks were launched from residential areas, including schools, mosques and homes.

“These journalists were deported from the Gaza Strip,” Mudallal said. “The security agencies would go and have a chat with these people. They would give them some time to change their message, one way or another.”

Earlier last week, the Foreign Press Association, an umbrella group representing foreign journalists working in Israel and the Palestinian Authority territories, issued a strongly worded condemnation of Hamas’s intimidation tactics and its interference with their reporting in Gaza.

“The FPA protests in the strongest terms the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month,” the statement said. “The international media are not advocacy organizations and cannot be prevented from reporting by means of threats or pressure, thereby denying their readers and viewers an objective picture from the ground.”

As well as targeting journalists in Gaza, the press organization said it was aware that Hamas had been taking steps to vet those media personnel of whom it did not approve and to prevent them from reporting in Gaza.

“Such a procedure is vehemently opposed by the FPA,” the statement said.

The FPA asserted that “in several cases, foreign reporters working in Gaza have been harassed, threatened or questioned over stories or information they have reported through their news media or by means of social media.”

A numbers of reporters working in Gaza reported on Hamas’s use of civilian infrastructure for military means, but said they were only able to do so once out of the Strip, for fear of Hamas reprisals.

A report by India-based NDTV last week on Hamas assembling and firing a rocket next to a hotel used by journalists was filed hours after the reporter left Gaza, because “Hamas has not taken very kindly to any reporting of its rockets being fired,” NDTV’s Sreenivasan Jain wrote.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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