Gaza-based photojournalists employed by the world's leading news agencies who captured images of the Hamas massacre on October 7 in Gaza-border communities, and who appear to have had foreknowledge of the planned attack were accomplices in crimes against humanity; their actions were contrary to professional ethics," according to the Prime Minister's Office.
The National Public Diplomacy Directorate in the Prime Minister's Office also said in a statement issued on Thursday morning that it "views with utmost gravity that photojournalists working with international media joined in covering the brutal acts of murder perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on Saturday October 7th in the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip."
The directorate demanded that immediate action be taken by the media outlets, including the Associated Press, Reuters, CNN and The New York Times.
Overnight the Government Press Office issued an urgent letter to the bureau chiefs of those media organizations that employed these photographers demanding explanations "regarding the disturbing findings in the Honest Reporting report on the involvement of their photographers in the events of October 7th, which crosses every red line, professional and moral."
Four photographers who work for these networks - Hassan Eslaiah, Yousef Masoud, Ali Mahmud and Hatem Ali - documented the horrors perpetrated by the Hamas terrorists after they broke through border fence with Israel. They filmed the murder of civilians, the abuse of bodies and the abduction of men and women.
Eslaiah, a freelance photographer who also works for CNN, crossed into Israel, took photos of a burning Israeli tank, and then captured photos of Palestinian infiltrators entering Kibbutz Kfar Aza.
HonestReporting presented screenshots of Eslaiah’s now-removed X posts in which he documented himself standing in front of the Israeli tank. He did not wear a press vest or a helmet, and the Arabic caption of his tweet read: “Live from inside the Gaza Strip settlements.
In the wake of the report, CNN cut ties with Eslaiah, telling Ynetnews first, early on Thursday, that: "We are aware of the article and photo concerning Hassan Eslaiah, a freelance photojournalist who has worked with a number of international and Israeli outlets. While we have not at this time found reason to doubt the journalistic accuracy of the work he has done for us, we have decided to suspend all ties with him."
A search of the CNN international website shows no article about the HonestReporting report, nor the fact that it felt the need to sever ties with the photographer.
HonestReporting responded to the Ynetnews report on the X social media platform, writing: "Not employing journalists who appear to be complicit in a massacre is the absolute lowest bar. Regardless of 'accuracy.'"
HonestReporting also posted a photo on X of Eslaiah being kissed by Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.
Government minister Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet and chairman of the National Unity party, came out strongly against the foreign media photographers who documented the massacre on October 7 and did not intervene, in a statement he posted on X.
"Journalists found to have known about the massacre, and still chose to stand as idle bystanders while children were slaughtered - are no different than terrorists and should be treated as such," the post said.
The AP said in a statement: "The Associated Press had no knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks before they happened. he first pictures AP received from any freelancer show they were taken more than an hour after the attacks began. 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. 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 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."
Reuters denied on Thursday in a statement that it had prior knowledge of the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians and soldiers.
"We are aware of a report by HonestReporting and accusations made against two freelance photographers who contributed to Reuters coverage of the Oct. 7 attack," Reuters said in a statement. "Reuters categorically denies that it had prior knowledge of the attack or that we embedded journalists with Hamas on Oct 7. Reuters acquired photographs from two Gaza-based freelance photographers who were at the border on the morning of Oct. 7, with whom it did not have a prior relationship. 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."
As of late Thursday morning, the New York Times had not responded to a request for comment from Ynetnews.
Israel's Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi sent a letter to the four news outlets calling for an investigation into the photographers' possible "collusion with the terrorist organization Hamas-ISIS."
He noted that it has come to the attention of his office that the photojournalists "had prior knowledge of these horrific actions, and may have maintained a troubling connection with the perpetrators." He called for a "thorough investigation," including "comprehensive documentary evidence."
"The gravity of the situation demands a swift and thorough response, It is now a time for individuals, journalists, institutions, unions and organizations around the world to make a clear choice. We must decide whether we stand on the side of life and good or on the side of depraved terrorism, inhumanity and evil," he also wrote to the agencies.
Following the release of the report, HonestReporting's website became the focus of a cyberattack that took it off-line for several hours.
First published: 12:18, 11.09.23