JERUSALEM, Nov 10 (Reuters) – The executive director of Israel’s media advocacy group HonestReporting said on Friday he accepted as “adequate” denials by four media outlets that they had no prior knowledge of the Hamas attack against Israel on October 7, adding that he was “so relieved.”
Reuters, the Associated Press, CNN and the New York Times issued categorical denials after HonestReporting published an article on Thursday questioning whether Palestinian photojournalists informed the four media outlets that used their images.
Gil Hoffman of HonestReporting told Reuters that his organization did not claim to know that news groups had knowledge of the Hamas attack.
“I was so relieved when all four media outlets said they had no prior knowledge,” Hoffman said in a telephone interview about the article.
“We asked questions, we didn’t give answers,” he said. “I remain convinced that the questions were legitimate and that the responses from the media themselves were adequate.”
He added that there was nothing “problematic” with the two photojournalists from whom Reuters acquired images.
Reuters said it acquired photographs from two Gaza-based independent photographers who were at the border on the morning of October 7 and with whom it had no prior relationship.
HonestReporting also distanced itself from accusations from the Israeli government sparked by its article.
“There are those who took our story and claimed to know the answers – the Israeli government, ministers, various Twitter personalities – who we did not claim to know,” Hoffman said.
In reaction to the HonestReporting article published on
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office wrote on X: “These journalists were complicit in crimes against humanity; their actions were contrary to professional ethics. »
Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party and former Israeli envoy to the United Nations, wrote on X after the publication of the HonestReporting article that Palestinian photojournalists should be eliminated.
“We will hunt them down with the terrorists,” he wrote.
Hoffman said he was “shocked” to read Danon’s comments. He also said: “There are clearly elements in the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office that are not based in fact. We have not said anything firm.”
Danon and the Israeli government did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment in response to Hoffman’s remarks.
“We are deeply concerned by HonestReporting’s irresponsibility in publishing such damaging accusations. Its executive director acknowledged there was no evidence to support the inflammatory insinuations contained in the report,” Reuters said in a statement. communicated.
“The baseless speculation contained in HonestReporting’s post, presented as ‘raising ethical questions,’ has put journalists in the region, including those working for Reuters, at serious risk,” the news agency added.
The AP, CNN and the New York Times referred to their previously published statements, which included denying knowledge of the October 7 attack.
Hoffman, who was a veteran reporter for the Jerusalem Post newspaper before joining HonestReporting, defended his group’s decision to publish his article without first seeking comment from the named news organizations.
He said that after the article was published, he asked his team why they didn’t solicit comments before publication.
“They said ‘well, we don’t pretend to be a news agency,'” he said. “With media monitoring, it’s usually more effective (to ask for a response) after the fact.”
HonestReporting describes itself on its website as “a charitable organization” with a mission to “combat ideological bias in journalism and media as it impacts Israel.”
Hoffman said he believes international media coverage of the ongoing war against Hamas no longer places importance on the events of October 7, when Hamas killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped 244 others, according to an Israeli count.
Since then, the Israeli counter-offensive in Gaza has killed more than 11,000 people, according to Palestinian figures.
“(Our) article published two days ago brought the international public discourse back to October 7. That in itself is a very important achievement,” he said.
Despite HonestReporting’s suggestions that the Palestinian photojournalists had secured their images in coordination with Hamas, he said he was “happy” that their photos had been published. “I absolutely want the world to know what happened on October 7,” he said.
After speaking to Reuters, HonestReporting released a statement saying: “We unequivocally condemn calls for violence or death threats aimed at genuine media workers. »
Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Edmond Blair
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