By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Two Globe journalists are among more than 750 decrying Gaza war coverage

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.

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  1. Bruce M.

    The feckless signing journalists should do some more research on the terms they so blithely throw out to describe Israel. The current crisis was precipitated by the legitimate elected government of Gaza, Hamas, which has sworn to eradicate not just the sovereign state of Israel but also Jews worldwide. The restrictions Hamas places on the flow of information to these same journalists has clearly influenced this one-sided screed.

  2. Ben Starr

    If you were their manager would you seek a conversation to confirm that they will be able to report without bias?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Ben, if they are unable to report without bias now, then they were also unable to report without bias before they signed the letter. I’m not a fan of performative objectivity. Plus, look at their job responsibilities — pretty far removed from covering the war.

  3. John Kelly

    I’m waiting on the Globe’s reaction. If they support them or do nothing…I’m gone as one of the last few subscribers

  4. Mike Rosenberg

    If you want detailed, objective coverage of events as they unfold, as well as meaningful analysis, the only options are the Israeli media, especially The Times of Israel. Just the fact that reporters would consider the use of the word genocide in this context is all you need to know about their professionalism.

  5. Bob Gardner

    By any reasonable standard, the terms “apartheid” and “genocide” are called for. Also, I would expect a blog on journalism to show some interest in the extremely high rate of journalists killed by the Israeli bombing.

    • Neil Carey

      Bob, I’m sorry to say your expectations of informed commentary without rank bias were too high. Mr. Kennedy seems, to my eyes, to be Boston’s reputation personified. Take a look at how differently the Irish, even our politicians and media, see the racist ghastliness of Americans’ denial of Israel’s apartheid, occupation and inhumane oppression of the Palestinians. You will understand why so many of us distance ourselves as much as we can from his types in America.

      I saw how Biden and co. responded to Shireen Abu Akleh’s murder and the template coverup by both governments. An American journalist! Not worthy of so much as a mention on this media blog.

      Israel is taking out Palestinian journalists and their entire families with all the evidence of intentionality and all the disgusting complicity on display here. Shireen’s story alone before this set of massacres showed how the “Israel-Hamas” “war” (don’t dare call it a genocide, even when genocide scholars call it textbook) would be sold to your public. So very dark and shameful.

  6. Stephen Walker

    Old FB friend here.

    Imagine dropping bombs on the North End and pretending that you are only targeting members of the mafia. Netanyahu and Likud are a FASCIST and racist party who want to eradicate all Palestinians. They say this publicly. Israel is the bully in this fight. Hamas is an evil organization that should be destroyed, but not at the expense of 500K innocent people. The best way to destroy Hamas is to give food and water and fuel to suffering people in Gaza.

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