Hamas' media policy and treatment of journalists

 Hamas' media policy and treatment of journalists

    During the operation, foreign and local correspondents followed Hamas' policy guidelines, for the most part, and mainly reported on the suffering of the local population and other civilian aspects of the fighting.​
  • Copyright: Courtesy ITIC
    Source: ITIC report

    Hamas' media policy forged duringOperation Protective Edge restricts local and foreign correspondents covering the fighting in their reports on military-combat activity or military-related information (especially regarding rocket fire and the use of civilians as human shields). During the operation, foreign and local correspondents followed Hamas' policy guidelines, for the most part, and mainly reported on the suffering of the local population and other civilian aspects of the fighting.

    During the first days of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas established a policy for media reports to be implemented by local and foreign correspondents covering the fighting. Its objectives were to prevent reports that would prove Israel's claims of Hamas use of Gazan civilians as human shields, and to reinforce the propaganda theme that Israel deliberately attacked civilians and committed "war crimes." As a result, during the first days of the fighting the information bureau of the Hamas-controlled ministry of the interior in Gaza issued instructions on how the social networks in the Gaza Strip were to report events (YouTube, July 10, 2014).

    Instruction number five read, "Do not publicize [information about] and do not share pictures or video clips showing rocket launching sites or the movement of resistance [operatives] in Gaza." Those responsible for news pages on Facebook were told "don't use close-ups of heavily armed masked operatives, otherwise your Facebook page will be closed for incitement to violence." 

    Hamas issued similar instructions to correspondents in other ways. For example, the Palestinian Journalist Bloc, a media group in the Gaza Strip affiliated with Hamas, instructed the media and correspondents in the Gaza Strip not to photograph or publicize information about rockets fired by military-terrorist operatives belonging to the various organizations so as not to play into the hands of Israeli public diplomacy(Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV, July 8, 2014).

    The local and foreign media reports generally followed Hamas policy. They emphasized civilian suffering, the many civilian casualties and the increasing humanitarian distress, while severely criticizing Israel's conduct. On the other hand, reports of the military aspects of the fighting and the sensitive issue of the use of the civilian population as human shields received relatively scant coverage.

    A foreign correspondent, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Yedioth Aharonoth's Daniel Batini (August 7, 2014) that "First, Hamas said its spokesmen could only be interviewed in the courtyard of the Al-Shifa'a Hospital in Gaza City. That meant there were long lines of correspondents waiting for interviews, and as a result they watched the bleeding wounded arriving at the hospital for treatment. That [system] created exactly the impression Hamas wanted, of an immediate emergency situation and a human and humanitarian catastrophe. Second, Hamas never allowed foreign correspondents access to military sites attacked by Israel, whether they were bases, rocket launching sites or other targets. The organization's dead and wounded operatives were not photographed and therefore, from a media point of view, they do not exist. All that serves Hamas' objective of representing all the casualties as civilians. Third, it was obvious that Hamas was firing rockets from civilian areas, but Hamas operatives forbid camera teams from filming them, because they did not want to reveal the tactic or the locations of the launch sites." (ITIC translation from Hebrew and emphasis)Mumbai Pictures

    Foreign Press Association in Israel protests Hamas methods

    On August 11, 2014, the Foreign Press Association in Israel issued the following statement:

    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 international media are not advocacy organisations and cannot be prevented from reporting by means of threats or pressure, thereby denying their readers and viewers an objective picture from the ground. 

    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. 

    We are also aware that Hamas is trying to put in place a "vetting" procedure that would, in effect, allow for the blacklisting of specific journalists. Such a procedure is vehemently opposed by the FPA.

    Established in June 1957 by 31 enterprising journalists, the Foreign Press Association in Israel - known as the FPA - attempts to fulfill the same task today as it did at its inception - working to assist our members in covering the Middle East conflict…. The FPA numbers some 480 members representing TV, radio, photojournalists and print media from 32 countries reaching from Australia to Qatar, Africa to Europe, China to the USA.​