Hamas, the ruling terrorist organization of the Gaza Strip, temporarily issued new restrictions on media coverage of the conflict in Gaza, representatives of international media in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza revealed on Tuesday.
The Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza reportedly sent messages with media-reporting instructions to local Gazans who work for international news outlets.
The overall purpose of the directive was to increase pressure on the international media to embrace a narrative that exclusively blames Israel for the conflict.
Reporters would be expected, therefore, to ignore that several Gazan civilians were killed by some of the 200-plus rockets that landed in Gaza after being misfired by the Islamic Jihad this weekend. Hamas explicitly ordered the international media to cover up the story.
In addition, Hamas also pressured the foreign media not to report on the Gaza-based terrorists’ military capabilities and simply to blame Israel for all the violence.
While the latest information restrictions ultimately were scrapped, they represent Hamas’ long history of influence when it comes to favoring an anti-Israel narrative in the international news.
Islamic Jihad fired around 1,000 rockets against Israel during the latest round of fighting. Approximately 20% of these rockets reportedly fell inside the Gaza Strip. The result was that more civilian Gazans were killed by misfired Islamic Jihad rockets than by the surgical Israeli airstrikes aimed at taking out PIJ leaders.
Misfired Islamic Jihad rockets were reportedly responsible for 15 of the 26 civilians killed in Gaza during the latest round of fighting with the Israeli army.
The Foreign Press Association, an umbrella organization that represents international news outlets, said the new formal directives were eventually scrapped after talks with local Hamas officials.
The FPA eventually released an official statement, declaring “such a move would have constituted a severe, unacceptable and unjustifiable restriction on the freedom of the press, as well as the safety of our colleagues in Gaza.”
Salama Marouf, director of the Hamas regime’s media office in the Gaza Strip, claimed there are no media-reporting restrictions in Gaza.
“There are no restrictions. We welcome all foreign journalists and media into Gaza and we call on them to come,” Marouf said.
While Hamas might have officially rescinded the latest media restrictions in the Gaza Strip, international media outlets are still expected to embrace selective reporting that fits Hamas’ anti-Israel narrative. Over time, Hamas has become an increasingly sophisticated manipulator of Middle Eastern news coverage.
With the official unemployment rate hovering around 50% in the impoverished Gaza Strip, local Gazan journalists risk losing their financial livelihood if they alienate the Hamas rulers and get their work permits revoked.
While the situation in Gaza is particularly difficult for locals working for international media, the Hamas regime has also used carrots and sticks to influence the reporting of foreign journalists.
In 2014, Hamas threatened and bullied foreign journalists who exposed Hamas authorities’ systematic abuse of local Gazan civilians.
Fully aware of the fact that the Israeli army goes to extreme lengths to avoid targeting civilians, the Hamas leadership has cynically embedded much of its political and military assets in civilian areas in Gaza, such as schools, hospitals and mosques.
While Hamas deliberate uses Gazan civilians as human shields and consistently targets Israeli civilians – both constitute war crimes – most in the international media have not held Hamas accountable for its systematic crimes.
However, a few international media outlets, such as The Washington Post, have exposed the Hamas regime’s cynical storing of weapons inside schools, hospitals and mosques in Gaza.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.