Watchdog: Fiercely Anti-Israel Head of Palestinian Syndicate Reports on Conflict for Major News Outlet Boasting ‘Rigorous Neutrality’
A leading media watchdog organization issued a report on Tuesday strongly criticizing French news outlet Agence France Presse (AFP) for betraying its self-described “rigorous neutrality,” by employing a reporter who was appointed in January to chair the anti-Israel Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS).
According to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Nasser Abu Baker – who previously held the title of deputy chairman at PJS — has been covering Israeli-Palestinian affairs for AFP for more than a decade and continues to do so. This, said CAMERA, is in spite of the fact that PJS is a “leading force for the boycott of Israeli journalists and media.”
To illustrate, CAMERA quoted the following statement made by Abu Baker when he was deputy chairman of the syndicate:
I call upon all male and female colleagues/journalists to boycott any Palestinian official, regardless of how senior he/she is, who conducts an interview with Israeli journalists and Israeli media…this poisonous media whose only goal is to broadcast dissent and incite against our people. Their media, which is directed by their government, is one of the tools of the occupation. Therefore, the time has come for a comprehensive boycott of their media. The Syndicate will have a clear position on this and I plead with all the journalists to abide. We will publish the name of any official who gives an interview to their media from this moment.
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This was in keeping with a report released by Israel-based research organization the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), which described the PJS as “a trade union established in 1979, originally located in Jerusalem…[whose main offices are in Ramallah and it has a branch in the Gaza Strip controlled, in ITIC assessment, by Hamas.”
CAMERA said that the “conflict of interests is clear,” pointing to an example of an AFP article from June 2015, alleging that “[s]ome 17 journalists were killed covering the July-August  Gaza war.” Though AFP did not say what the source for this false information was, the ITIC revealed:
About a week after the end of Operation Protective Edge the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate issued a list of 17 names, allegedly of journalists who had been killed in [the summer 2014 Gaza] operation. The list was published by the PA’s Wafa News Agency, which received it from the Hamas-controlled Gaza office of the ministry of information.
On its website, AFP lists its “core values” as “truth, impartiality and plurality,” stating that “these values guarantee rigorous, verified news, free from political or commercial influence.”
Its definition of “impartiality” is: “pursuing our policy of rigorous neutrality. According to its remit, AFP is independent of the French government and all other economic or political interests. No user of AFP content should detect an opinion contained within the facts presented and AFP journalists resolve to present an account of events free of any form of distortion.”
It goes on to explain what it calls its “pluralism”: “Much of what is reported deals with conflicts and a clash of ideas. Our duty is to present the positions of all parties involved, favouring none.”
CAMERA requested comment from AFP on how employing Abu Baker is consistent with its own stated journalistic values. As of the release of the report, the news outlet had not responded.