Two Boston Globe journalists have signed an open letter that criticizes the Western media for their coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas. According to The Washington Post (free link), more than 750 journalists from dozens of media outlets have signed the letter, which begins:
Israel’s devastating bombing campaign and media blockade in Gaza threatens newsgathering in an unprecedented fashion. We are running out of time.
More than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s four-week siege. Included in the mounting death toll are at least 35 journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in what the group calls the deadliest conflict for journalists since it began tracking deaths in 1992. Scores more have been injured, detained, gone missing or seen their family members killed.
As reporters, editors, photographers, producers, and other workers in newsrooms around the world, we are appalled at the slaughter of our colleagues and their families by the Israeli military and government.
We are writing to urge an end to violence against journalists in Gaza and to call on Western newsroom leaders to be clear-eyed in coverage of Israel’s repeated atrocities against Palestinians.
The Globe journalists who signed the letter are Peter Bailey-Wells, a multi-platform editor on the Express Desk, and Sahar Fatima, a digital editor for metro coverage. Another signer, Abdallah Fayyad, recently left the Globe’s opinion section to take a position at Vox. “My hope for this letter is to push back on the culture of fear around this issue, and to make decision-makers and reporters and editors think twice about the language that they use,” Fayyad told the Post.
Although the letter makes reference to Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, in which more than 1,400 people were killed and 200 were taken hostage, the emphasis is on the way that Israel has conducted its campaign against Hamas in Gaza. As the Post notes, “Most strikingly, the letter argues that journalists should use words like ‘apartheid,’ ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’ to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.”
The letter may also raise issues at news organizations that ban their journalists from taking sides on controversial matters, although this may prove to be less of an issue than it might have at one time. Several years ago news organizations like NPR and the Globe loosened some of their restrictions on political activities, especially those that advocated racial justice.
Frankly, if I worked at the Globe I would not have signed the open letter because I don’t think it sufficiently acknowledges the suffering of Israelis or their right to self-defense. But it doesn’t strike me that Bailey-Wells’ or Fatima’s journalistic fairness will be compromised because they chose to sign.