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News organizations deny photojournalists had prior knowledge of Hamas attack

A journalist looks on as the sun sets over the Gaza Strip off a position across the border in southern Israel on Nov. 8, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

The Associated Press, Reuters and The New York Times have denied suggestions their photojournalists had prior knowledge of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, after Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi demanded an investigation into “the possible actions and/or collusion of (their) employees” with Hamas.

Karhi published an open letter on Thursday expressing his “deep concern regarding recent reports about (the outlets’) employee’s alleged involvement in the tragic event in southern Israel” early last month when more than 1,400 were killed.

The letter, addressed to the AP, Reuters, the New York Times and CNN, was referring to a story published Wednesday by the advocacy group HonestReporting that raised questions about the presence of “Gaza-based photojournalists” working for the outlets at the “breached border area” in the early hours of Oct. 7.

The organization — a New York-based media watchdog whose goal is to “combat ideological prejudice in journalism and the media, as it impacts Israel” — said photos taken at the time of the attack suggest the photographers may have had advance knowledge of the deadly assault.

“What were they doing there so early on what would ordinarily have been a quiet Saturday morning? Was it coordinated with Hamas? Did the respectable wire services, which published their photos, approve of their presence inside enemy territory, together with the terrorist infiltrators?” the article read.

Karhi, when requesting the news outlets conduct “a thorough investigation into this matter,” said Israel was aware that “certain individuals within your organizations, including photographers and others, had prior knowledge of these horrific actions and may have maintained a troubling connection with the perpetrators.”

The New York Times slammed Honest Reporting’s “vague allegations” made against freelance photographer Yousef Masoud. After reviewing his work, the outlet found he was simply doing what photojournalists do: “documenting the tragedy as it unfolded.”

“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,” the outlet said, adding the “reckless” allegations put “our journalists on the ground in Israel and Gaza at risk.”

The AP said it had “no knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks before they happened,” adding the first images it received were taken more than an hour after the attacks began.

Reuters “categorically” denied the allegations, saying it had no prior relationship with the Gaza-based freelance photographers. The photos were taken “two hours after Hamas fired rockets across southern Israel and more than 45 minutes after Israel said gunmen had crossed the border,” the organization added.

On Thursday, HonestReporting said on X it hadn’t accused Reuters of collision, but rather “raised some serious ethical issues regarding news outlets’ association with these freelancers and asked important and relevant questions that everyone deserves answers to.”

CNN said it had “no prior knowledge” of the attack, but in a statement to Mediaite, the network announced it had “severed all ties” with freelance photojournalist Hassan Eslaiah.

Speaking with the network’s staff in a Thursday morning call, CEO Mark Thompson called the allegations “unfortunate news.”


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