Sunday, January 20th | 14 Shevat 5779

June 8, 2016 6:26 am

The Committee to Protect Journalists and HonestReporting

avatar by Anne Klausner

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CPJ publications. Photo: Facebook/The Committee to Protect Journalist.

CPJ publications. Photo: Facebook/The Committee to Protect Journalist.

An interesting news item caught my eye the other day. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) was denied press credentials at the UN, as the Times of Israel reports:

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A United Nations committee voted Thursday to deny consultative status to the Committee to Protect Journalists, effectively keeping the press freedom group from accessing UN bodies and processes.

The committee voted 10-6 with three abstentions on Thursday to deny CPJ’s application, which was first made in 2012.

South Africa, China and Russia were among the countries that voted against accreditation for the New York-based organization that seeks to protect press freedoms around the world and in conflict zones….

Azerbaijan, Burundi, Cuba, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Sudan and Venezuela also voted against CPJ’s application.

There is no surprise at those voting against. These are all third world or totalitarian states where press freedom is anathema to the authorities. Similarly, it is to be expected that Israel, along with the US, voted in favor of granting the credentials.

I thought it would be interesting to examine this largely unknown organization and see what its record looks like on Israel and the Palestinians. While I would hesitate to call the CPJ anti-Israel, what I found shows a definite lack of balance in its reporting.

Starting with their list of 16 journalists killed “in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories,” this included several instances of terrorists masquerading as journalists, or journalists otherwise working directly for terror organizations.

For example the Palestinian cameraman Khaled Reyadh Hamad: According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:

Khaled Riyad Muhammad Hamad, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades terrorist operative, apparently also worked for Hamas’ civilian media network. He was described as a “jihad fighter” journalist who was killed covering the fighting in Shejaiya. In the picture his body is wrapped in a green Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades flag. His Press vest and camera rest on the body (Hamas’, July 27, 2014).

Sami Al-Aryan is recorded by the CPJ as a journalist, but HonestReporting found that to be stretching the truth:

In its 2014 report on reporters killed in 2014, the Committee to Protect Journalists included Sameh al-Aryan. He was a cameraman, but he worked for the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV station, which is the terror organization’s mouthpiece. Sorry, CPJ, but al-Aryan doesn’t belong in this tally. Without drawing a moral equivalence, he’s no more a journalist than, say, official White House photographer Pete Souza.

Hussam Salama and Mahmoud al-Kumi are similarly uncovered by HonestReporting as Hamas terrorists. The IDF Blog explains that they were:

Hamas operatives and cameramen for Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television network, which regularly features programming that encourages and praises attacks on Israeli civilians. … Palestinian media reported that the two men were indeed Hamas operatives.

Honest Reporting further commented that:

At best, Al-Kumi and Salama were propagandists employed by a terror group; at worst, they were combatants adept at handling both cameras and Kalashnikovs. This was an ongoing disagreement between Israel and press groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists, which seemed to define journalists as simply anyone driving a car with the letters TV taped to the vehicle.

This methodology employed by the CPJ to report on killed journalists is similar to that employed by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in their report following Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The Meir Amit Center examined the PJS’s list of 17 Palestinian journalists alleged to have been killed by Israel in Operation Protective Edge and described the dishonesty in their report:

The findings of the examination indicate that the Palestinian list of 17 journalists killed during Operation Protective Edge was manipulative: it integrated names of civilians with names of terrorist operatives who served in information and media capacities. […] Manipulating the list of Palestinian journalists killed in Operation Protective Edge is another example of Hamas-led Palestinian tactics of deceit and fraud (as proved by the ITIC’s findings of the examination of the lists of Palestinian fatalities). Thus, distorting the truth about the Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge has become a propaganda weapon in the Palestinian political, propaganda and legal war being waged against the State of Israel.

Given this record of biased reporting on matters pertaining to Israel and the Palestinians, I find myself in rare agreement with the UN for having refused to give accreditation to the CPJ.  Unfortunately the refusal was for the wrong reason – not because of their bias or dishonest reporting but because of “procedural reasons.” This still leaves the door open for eventual accreditation despite having been rejected seven times before.

Nevertheless, we can hope that this will provide an object lesson to the CPJ on how the UN mistreats any country or entity that does not fall into line with its majority of oppressive totalitarian states. Maybe now the CPJ will engage in some self-examination into how it reports on the activities of journalists in the pay of terror organizations. This won’t bring it accreditation, but it will at least make its refusal morally worthwhile.

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