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Oct. 7 survivors of Nova Music Festival massacre sue AP as NYT journalist embedded with Hamas wins award

People visit the site of the Nova music festival massacre, in Re'im, near the Israeli-Gaza border, Dec. 31, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several survivors of the Nova Musical Festival massacre and families of murdered victims have filed a lawsuit against the world news agency Associated Press for supporting terrorism.

On Wednesday, the National Jewish Advocacy Center (NJAC), which is representing the victims, announced the lawsuit claiming that the Associated Press "(AP) materially supported terrorism through payments that they made to known agents of Hamas.”

These payments were made in exchange for photographs taken by freelance photojournalists, who, according to NJAC, were embedded with terrorists who invaded southern border communities in Israel on Oct. 7.

According to NJAC’s complaint, the AP purchased the work of four freelance photographers “known Hamas associates who were gleefully embedded with the Hamas terrorists during the October 7th attacks.”

The four freelancers – Hassan Eslaiah, Yousef Masoud, Ali Mahmud and Hatem Ali – allegedly captured some of the earliest images of the Hamas attacks, as terrorists stormed through the Israel-Gaza border, making it highly likely that they knew about the planned invasion in advance.

Eslaiah was mentioned in a November report by media watchdog Honest Reporting, according to which he took photos of both a burning IDF tank and of terrorists invading Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where dozens of civilians were massacred. According to the report, Eslaiah posted photos to his 𝕏 account showing him in front of the burning tank with a since-deleted tweet: “Live from inside the Gaza Strip settlements.”

Eslaiah appears to have been close to the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, who could be seen kissing Eslaiah in an image posted Sinwar on Jan. 9, 2020.

Yosef Masoud, who worked with the New York Times and AP, captured photos of several Israelis being kidnapped, among them German-Israeli Shani Louk, who was confirmed to have been murdered. He sent his first photos from the Oct. 7 massacre to both news outlets just 90 minutes after the invasion began, however, NYT denies that Masoud knew anything in advance about the planned massacre. According to Honest Reporting, Masoud claims that “he was woken by rocket fire at 5:30am” despite Honest Reporting noting the first rockets were fired an hour earlier at 6:30 a.m.

On Tuesday, Masoud, along with another freelance NYT photojournalist, were each granted the prestigious George Polk Award for “chronicling Israel’s bombardment and invasion of their homeland, Gaza. The two photographed the conflict from its opening hours on Oct. 7 until they escaped the territory exactly two months later.”

The lawsuit says that AP’s freelance photographers not only knew in advance but participated in the Oct. 7 mass terror attack that resulted in 1,200 deaths and at least 240 kidnapped into Gaza.

“There is no doubt that AP’s photographers participated in the October 7th massacre, and that AP knew, or at the very least should have known, through simple due diligence, that the people they were paying were longstanding Hamas affiliates and full participants in the terrorist attack that they were also documenting,” the NJAC suit alleged.

AP VP of Corporate Communications Lauren Easton flatly denied all allegations as “baseless.”

“We must be clear that a lawsuit filed Wednesday against AP for its reporting on the attacks is baseless. AP had no advance knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks, nor have we seen any evidence – including in the lawsuit – that the freelance journalists who contributed to our coverage did. Allegations like this are reckless and create even more potential danger for journalists in the region,” Easton said.

“No AP staff were at the border at the time of the attacks, nor did any AP staffer cross the border at any time. We are no longer working with Hassan Eslaiah, who had been an occasional freelancer for AP and other international news organizations in Gaza.”

NJAC Director Mark Goldfeder argued that the news media outlet will not be allowed to act with impunity and feign ignorance.

“Media organizations do not have any special right to act with impunity and pretend that they don’t know whom they are paying,” he said.

“And as other cases have made clear, it does not matter that the people AP was paying, with whom they had longstanding relationships, were freelancers and not employees; the issue is that AP was furnishing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, not in what capacity the terrorists were cashing the checks.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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