The Day Reuters Took a Memo from Hamas

This guest article is by a veteran former wire agency reporter.

The Reuters news agency, which banks and brokers the world over rely on for accurate news for their investment decisions, acts like an obedient stenographer taking a memo from the terrorist group Hamas in its reporting on the Gaza conflict.

One egregious example was on October 17, when Reuters issued a series of breaking news stories saying “An Israeli air strike killed at least 300 people at a Gaza City hospital.” The article was attributed to “authorities in the Palestinian enclave”. Reuters reports then increased the death toll to 500 killed.

Reuters never mentioned that these “authorities” in Gaza, who Reuters refers to elsewhere as “the Gaza health ministry” and “medical officials in Gaza”, were actually representatives of Hamas. This listed terror group murdered 1200 people in Israel on October 7 and abducted over 230 people, including babies. The atrocities Hamas committed included gang raping teenagers, setting entire families alight and perhaps even beheading babies and toddlers. 

Yet Reuters apparently believed that while Hamas raped and massacred, it wouldn’t lie. This despite the fact that Hamas leaders have publicly talked about the importance of harnessing sympathetic media coverage for their cause, which is the annihilation of Israel.

Reuters ran with the Gaza hospital story. When an hour or so later, footage appeared showing what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket fired at Israel misfiring and hitting the hospital, Reuters rolled back by adding Israel’s denials. When the evidence became so overwhelming, Reuters eventually wrote more neutrally that hundreds were believed killed in a blast. The U.S., UK and other governments concluded the blast was caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket. Therefore the Reuters story that caused worldwide riots was wrong.

Reuters has a correction policy but it never corrected its coverage of the hospital blast.

There were plenty of red flags. Islamic Jihad had announced minutes before the blast that it had fired long-range rockets at Israel. That Palestinian ‘medical officials’ claimed 300 and then 500 were killed  within minutes or a couple of hours of the explosion should have raised suspicious that Hamas was lying since it would be impossible to determine casualty numbers so quickly.

Asked why Reuters hadn’t issued a correction or editors note, an editor from Reuters Ethics and Standards team said: “We believe we have properly sourced our information and covered the important events of the war that you cite.” 

Essentially, Reuters view was that since its reporters slapped an “authorities in Gaza” source on their reports, they were covered. That is poor journalism. Journalism 101 suggest that before reporting a claim, journalists should determine the credibility of the source.

  1. Does the source of the information have a track record of being reliable? No. Hamas frequently lies including its leaders lying about Hamas killing Israeli civilians on Oct 7 when Hamas filmed and distributed footage of it doing just that.
  2. Is the source credible?  See above
  3. Has the source made mistakes or lied in the past? Many times. Hamas often inflates casualty figures and blames Israel for the deaths of Palestinians from misfired Hamas rockets.
  4. Is the source of information connected to or representing an organization that is accountable? No, Hamas is a listed terror organization. There are no checks and balances on listed terror groups.
  5. Has the leadership of the source of information (eg: Hamas) gone on the record to talk about how harnessing the media in its fight is a tactic? Many times

Reuters failed Journalism 101 with its Gaza hospital blast report and it keeps failing for as long as it refuses to issue a correction or editor’s note.

In late October, a mob in Dagestan descended on a flight from Israel to look for Jews, with rioters saying to television cameras: “We came for the Jews – to kill them with a knife and shoot them.”  Reuters covered that story as: “Police take control of Russia’s Dagestan airport after anti-Israeli protests.”The mob were not protesters and they were not calling for the blood of Israelis. They were calling for the blood of Jews. Yet Reuters sanitized it. 

The Reuters ethics and standards team said: “We stand by our coverage of the attack on the Dagestan airport. One of our several stories about the attack, “Putin blames the West, Ukraine after mob storms Russian airport to ‘catch’ Jews.” 

By its own admission, Reuters turned members of a mob who said to TV cameras that they wanted to “knife and shoot” Jews as protesters who were “catching Jews” like its a sport. Yes, an age old blood sport that Reuters sanitized.

On the day that Reuters was sanitizing the Dagestan mob baying for the blood of Jews, it set up a three person investigative team to do a hard-hitting article that was essentially an anti-Semitic trope. 

The resulting article titled “Graphic pro-Israel ads make their way into children’s games” cited five cases of a pro-Israel ad appearing in online games such as Angry Birds. The crack team of Reuters reporters called up over 40 advertising agencies to get to the bottom of it. They concluded that Palestinian ads did not appear on online games. How did they know this? Well, again, it was anecdotal.

This article was remarkable in a number of ways. Firstly, the significant resources that Reuters dedicated to this article which was on the front page for a full 48 hours. Secondly, Reuters ignorance over how online ads work. Anyone who knows about online ads knows that hundreds of millions of ads are served every day. These ads are controlled by algorithms. A mistake of the algorithm might result in a random ad hitting the wrong platform. The Reuters article was literally meaningless. Five anecdotal accounts of pro-Israel ads and zero anecdotal counts of Palestinian ads served on online games out of hundreds of millions of ads served is absolutely meaningless information. It was a non-story.

Yet there was another dimension to this story that should give Reuters CEO Steve Hasker and editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni pause. The subtext of the article was the age old anti-Semitic trope of Jews killing Christian or Muslim children. Except the modern twist on this article was that Jews were poisoning the minds of children with offensive ads.

In a single month, Reuters played straight into Hamas’s hands in its coverage on the Gaza hospital blast. It then sanitized a mob looking to kill Jews in Dagestan as “anti-Israel protesters” who wanted to “catch Jews”. 

Finally, it set up a three person reporting team to investigate what was essentially an anti-Semitic trope. Reuters newsrooms urgently need Journalism 101 training in determining the credibility of sources as well as training in antisemitism. Reuters also needs to issue that Editor’s Note or Correction on the Gaza hospital story that caused rioting and bloodshed across the region. It’s just not good enough to stand behind it’s use of Hamas as a source and pretend that is good journalism.

It isn’t.

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