On Thursday, the Associated Press, CNN, the New York Times, and Reuters all responded to allegations from media advocacy group HonestReporting that their freelance photojournalists in Gaza were embedded with Hamas terrorists for the October 7 attack and may have had foreknowledge of the attack. Their reactions ranged from cutting ties with the photojournalists in question to defending their work.
In their original report, HonestReporting identified six photojournalists who had their images used by the above organizations (Hassan Eslaiah, Yousef Masoud, Ali Mahmud, Hatem Ali, Mohammed Fayq Abu Mostafa, and Yasser Qudih). But only two of them (Eslaiah and Masoud) were mentioned by name in the various denials put out by the four organizations.
In a statement, the AP insisted that they “had no knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks before they happened” and “The first pictures AP received from any freelancer show they were taken more than an hour after the attacks began.”
“We are no longer working with Hassan Eslaiah, who had been an occasional freelancer for AP and other international news organizations in Gaza,” they added. “The role of the AP is to gather information on breaking news events around the world, wherever they happen, even when those events are horrific and cause mass casualties.”
In a statement to NewsBusters, CNN said they are no longer going to work with Eslaiah. “We had no prior knowledge of the October 7th attacks. Hassan Eslaiah, who was a freelance journalist working for us and many other outlets, was not working for the network on October 7th. As of today, we have severed all ties with him,” a CNN spokesperson said.
A new video had surfaced that allegedly showed Eslaiah riding on the back of a motorbike with men brandishing grenades. He also appeared to have a personal relationship with Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas’s operations in Gaza.
Yo, @AP, @Reuters, @cnn - what your freelancer in Gaza Hassan Eslaiah is doing on a motorbike with a grenade, on his way to the massacre of women and babies? Is a grenade part of the equipment you provide? pic.twitter.com/jU85KEo7Ec— עמית סגל Amit Segal (@amit_segal) November 9, 2023
The New York Times was more combative. “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 statement read. The paper also accused HonestReporting of “putting our journalists on the ground in Israel and Gaza at risk.”
They went on to openly defend Masoud’s work for them:
The advocacy group Honest Reporting has made vague allegations about several freelance photojournalists working in Gaza, including Yousef Masoud. Though Yousef 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. Our review of his work shows that he was doing what photojournalists always do during major news events, documenting the tragedy as it unfolded.
And for their part, Reuters wrote up an article about their own statement. “Reuters categorically denies that it had prior knowledge of the attack or that we embedded journalists with Hamas on Oct. 7,” they said.
Reuters did admit that they “acquired” images from people they “did not have a prior relationship" with, who were at the border, but they did not mention if they illegally crossed the line. They also tried to play games with when the pictures were taken:
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 October 7 attack lasted hours and it took days for the Israeli Defense Forces to secure the towns Hamas attacked and hid in. And the fact that Hamas was slaughtering civilians by the hundreds meant there must have been a reason they didn’t touch the supposed non-combatants in their midst.