CNN, the New York Times, the Associated Press and Reuters said that they had no prior knowledge of the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, after the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu seized on allegations that freelance photographers may have been embedded with the terrorist group.
CNN and the AP also said that they are no longer working with a freelancer who was identified by a watchdog group has having been in the Israel-Gaza border area on the day of the attack.
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Honest Reporting, which monitors media bias against Israel, posted photos and video of the freelancer, Hassan Eslaiah. The images included one of Eslaiah with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and another they said was taken after Eslaiah crossed into Israel and took photos of a burning Israeli tank.
Honest Reporting also identified other photographers who were at the Israel-Gaza border area on the day of the attack, with their work picked up by Western news outlets.
In a statement posted on X/Twitter, the prime minister’s office said, “The National Public Diplomacy Directorate in the PMO views with utmost gravity that photojournalists working with international media joined in covering the brutal acts of murder perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7th in the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip. These journalists were accomplices in their crimes against humanity; their actions were contrary to professional ethics.”
The prime minister’s office also said that it released an “urgent letter to the bureau chiefs of the media organizations that employed these photographers and sought clarifications on the matter.”
In a statement, the AP said that it had
“no knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks before they happened. The first pictures AP received from any freelancer show they were taken more than an hour after the attacks began. No AP staff were at the border at the time of the attacks, nor did any AP staffer cross the border at any time.
The AP said that it was no longer working with Eslaiah.
A CNN spokesperson said they “had no knowledge of the October 7 attacks.” The spokesperson said Eslaiah was a freelance journalist working for CNN and many other outlets, but “was not working for the network on October 7th. As of today, we have severed all ties with him.”
Reuters also denied that it has prior knowledge of the attacks.
“Reuters acquired photographs from two Gaza-based freelance photographers who were at the border on the morning of October 7, with whom it did not have a prior relationship. The photographs published by Reuters were taken two hours after Hamas fired rockets across southern Israel and more than 45 minutes after Israel said gunmen had crossed the border. Reuters staff journalists were not on the ground at the locations referred to in the HonestReporting article.”
The New York Times said that “the accusation that anyone at The New York Times had advance knowledge of the Hamas attacks or accompanied Hamas terrorists during the attacks is untrue and outrageous.”
“It is reckless to make such allegations, putting our journalists on the ground in Israel and Gaza at risk,” the Times said.
The Times also defended one of the photographers named by Honest Reporting, Yousef Masoud, saying that though he 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,” the Times said. “Our review of his work shows that he was doing what photojournalists always do during major news events, documenting the tragedy as it unfolded.”
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