As Brian wrote on Monday, former AP Jerusalem Bureau staffer Matti Friedman has done another excellent job detailing the combination of sloppiness, laziness, and outright bias in what passes for media coverage of Israel. This time, the AP itself has responded, with a written statement from its director of media relations, Paul Colford.
Although Colford attempts to downplay the specific incident Friedman described in which “armed militants entered the AP’s offices in Gaza,” in another part of the same statement, Colford flat out admits that Hamas intimidated AP journalists and other journalists, and that this affected coverage.
Like other media covering this story, we dealt with numerous obstacles, including Hamas intimidation . . . .
Colford did not elaborate further, however, AP is not the first to admit that Hamas intimidates reporters. AP is now probably the biggest media organization to date that has done so, and as such, the admission noteworthy.
Those who have been following the controversy over the mis-reporting on Gaza may recall that in August, the Foreign Press Association issued a statement protesting “the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists.” Although at least four individual journalists (links above) had come forward prior to the FPA press release, New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren responded to it as follows:
@joshmitnick Every reporter I've met who was in Gaza during war says this Israeli/now FPA narrative of Hamas harassment is nonsense
— Jodi Rudoren (@rudoren) August 11, 2014
I wonder if she’s still sticking to that story.
In responding to Friedman’s piece, AP has also apparently produced some articles that it claims contradict Friedman’s assertion that they banned quotes from NGO Monitor and its Director, Gerald Steinberg. It’s worth reading the analysis of those articles at The Blaze and The Washington Free Beacon (spoiler: neither review vindicated AP’s defense). It’s also worth reading the follow-up interview with Friedman’s colleague Mark Lavie in The Jewish Press:
The Jewish Press asked Lavie whether he knew if there was an AP ban on quoting Prof. Gerald Steinberg around the time of Operation Cast Lead.
Lavie said he did.
He said he knew there was such a ban because, when he put a quote from Steinberg in one of his articles sometime in 2009, the AP Jerusalem bureau chief made him remove it. That editor then told him that AP reporters “can’t interview Steinberg as an expert because he is identified with the right wing.”
‘Subsequently it was made clear that NGO Monitor’s reports were not to be quoted, either, because it was pro-Israel or anti-Palestinian or right-wing, however it was put.’
It doesn’t get any more unequivocal than that. Steinberg and NGO-Monitor were banned by the AP, at least according to a decades-long AP journalist.