News outlets respond to report insinuating Gaza journalists were embedded with Hamas

Hamas militants parade at a rally just over a week after a cease-fire was reached in an 11-day war between Hamas and Israel.
Hamas militants parade at a rally just over a week after a cease-fire was reached in an 11-day war between Hamas and Israel. | Middle East Images via AFP via Getty Images/Hosam Salem

CNN and multiple news outlets have denied the insinuations raised by a media watchdog in a recent expose that questioned the presence of photojournalists as Hamas breached the border out of Gaza on Oct. 7. 

Israel has been at war with the terrorist group since it attacked civilian communities in southern Israel last month. Hamas' assault resulted in the deaths of at least 1,400 people, while thousands more were injured and around 240 were seized as hostages. 

In a Wednesday expose, the media watchdog Honest Reporting questioned why Gaza photojournalists who freelance for CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times and Reuters appeared to be at the border early in the morning before the attack. 

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The media watchdog also highlighted one journalist in particular, Hassan Eslaiah, a freelance photographer used by AP and CNN. Other journalists listed in the report included Yousef Masoud, Ali Mahmud and Hatem Ali.

Honest Reporting shared screenshots of Eslaiah standing in front of an Israeli tank in a now-deleted X post that read: "Live from inside the Gaza Strip settlements." Another photo shared by the media watchdog showed Eslaiah standing with Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader behind the Oct. 7 assault.

The Israeli government demanded answers from the media outlets on Thursday, requesting that the news companies respond to the allegations raised.

In response to a Thursday inquiry from The Christian Post, a spokesperson for Reuters denied that the outlet had prior knowledge of Hamas' invasion or that it embedded journalists with the terrorist group on the day of the attack. 

"Reuters acquired photographs from two Gaza-based freelance photographers who were at the border on the morning of October 7, with whom it did not have a prior relationship," the spokesperson said. "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 statement continued. "Reuters is committed to reporting news fairly, accurately and independently in keeping with the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles."

An AP spokesperson directed CP to the outlet's Thursday statement in response to the allegations. AP also denied that it had any knowledge of the Oct. 7 attack, and it revealed that it had cut ties with Eslaiah, who the outlet said occasionally freelanced for it and other international news organizations in Gaza.

"AP uses images taken by freelancers around the world. When we accept freelance photos, we take great steps to verify the authenticity of the images and that they show what is purported," the statement read.

"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," AP continued.

On Thursday, CNN reported that it had also cut ties with Eslaiah, and it shared a quote from one of its spokespeople, stating that the outlet did not know about Hamas' plan to attack Israel. The spokesperson also claimed that Eslaiah was not working for CNN at the time of the terrorist invasion.

The New York Times responded to CP's inquiry by directing the outlet to a statement denying that Yousef, one of the journalists mentioned in the report, was working for the outlet on the day of the attack. However, the outlet noted that Yousef has done "important work" for the company in the past.

"There is no evidence for Honest Reporting's insinuations," The New York Times stated. "Our review of his work shows that he was doing what photojournalists always do during major news events, documenting the tragedy as it unfolded."

CNN did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment.

In a Friday X Post, Honest Reporting clarified the questions raised by its report, stating that the media watchdog was not raising concerns about whether the media outlets had prior knowledge about Hamas' attack. Instead, the media watchdog said that it was concerned that these mainstream media outlets did not appear to have vetted the freelance journalists they hired. 

"It is well known that Hamas tightly controls the media within Gaza," Honest Reporting stated. "So we ask again: What did these people know? When did they know it? And why are these outlets deflecting?"

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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