On media self-censorship in Gaza

One of those stories behind the story has been building in recent days as relates to the media coverage of the current engagements in Gaza. Are some of the reporters on the scene going a bit further than usual in cheerleading for one side or the other during their on air segments – as well as their social media interactions – and how are their bosses handling it? One of the more blatant examples comes in the form of reporter Diana Magnay and her rather unrestrained views on Israel.

CNN has removed international correspondent Diana Magnay from Israel after she referred to a group of Israelis as “scum.”

Magnay, who was covering the Israeli missile attack on Gaza, tweeted Thursday, “Israelis on hill above Sderot cheer as bombs land on #gaza; threaten to ‘destroy our car if I say a word wrong’. Scum.”

In a statement, a CNN spokesperson said Magnay had been “threatened and harassed” but “deeply regrets the language used.”

So CNN pulled her off the coverage almost immediately and issued an apology – of sorts – but also delivered some CYA discussion. The story goes that Magnay and her crew had been threatened in some fashion by Israeli forces and her comments were specifically directed towards them. Clouding the issue further is the fact that her removal didn’t seem terribly punitive in nature, since she was immediately reassigned… to Russia.

A second, though a bit more confusing example centers on Ayman Mohyeldin, a reporter for NBC News who was removed from the Gaza Strip.

Although Israel’s preparation of a ground invasion was given as the reason for his departure, Glenn Greenwald — who broke the story of his removal at The Intercept — insinuated the move was due to Mohyeldin’s witnessing of four Palestinian boys being killed on a Gaza beach by Israeli artillery fire, and his “powerful” coverage of the conflict had angered the pro-Israeli side.,,

Before he was removed from Gaza, Mohyeldin posted a now-deleted comment to social media sites, relating that a U.S. State Department spokesperson said Hamas was ultimately responsible for the Israeli shells that killed the four boys because it did not accept the cease fire. “Discuss among yourselves,” he wrote on Facebook.

On this one I wasn’t even sure if Mohyeldin was criticizing Israel or Hamas, but that may not matter. The question about NBC’s actions gets quickly diluted by two things. First, at the time he was pulled out, the network was simultaneously moving one of their senior foreign correspondents, Richard Engle, into the same assignment, so this may have been a normal rotation of staff. And second, as of today, Mohyeldin is being sent back into the Gaza Strip for more assignments.

But the bottom line question I’d have for both networks is where should they draw the line in terms of supposed hard news journalists venturing off into the business of giving opinions while covering a breaking story? While working on this story I was watching CNN’s morning crew, featuring Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul, doing an interview with a woman speaking on behalf of the Palestinians. (No video available at this time.) She was sitting there and flatly stating that Israel was purposely targeting women and children, as well as saying that there was no point in a cease-fire unless the US and other western nations were prepared to “hold Israel accountable.”

The hosts, for their part, had no comment other than to say that an Israeli representative would be coming up in the next segment to offer a different point of view. Should they have pressed her on these claims, or would that have crossed the line into opinion territory? A lot of the coverage of this episode of the ongoing conflict has been, as usual, terrible. On the cable news evening shows you can find no end of commentary on both sides, but what about the allegedly unbiased reporting of just the facts, ma’am? It seems to me that the wrong people are getting put on a shorter leash at times while the rest of the supposedly hard news gets lost in the mire.