|Heidi Levine in Gaza|
The Israel Foreign Press Association issued a statement last week condemning Hamas:
On Thursday, FPA member Heidi Levine, a photographer for SIPA Press, was detained by Hamas security men for more than three hours before she was allowed to leave Gaza. As she exited, Hamas security told her she was banned from the territory, claiming her work “reflects badly on Gaza.” They provided no examples of the work that allegedly upset them.One of the people questioned by Hamas recently was Reuters reporter Luke Baker, who issued a series of tweets about how pleasant the experience was:
The FPA strongly condemns the thuggish behavior of the Hamas security and the implication that Hamas should judge what is or isn’t acceptable coverage of Gaza. Unfortunately, this incident is not isolated. A number of FPA members have reported being forced to undergo uncomfortable questioning by Hamas security forces while entering or exiting Gaza in recent months.
We call on Hamas to end these practices immediately and urge the group to give journalists unfettered access in and out of Gaza.
Briefly taken in for polite questions by Hamas security forces in #Gaza today. Interesting placard on the wall pic.twitter.com/Ducf05b5Mt— Luke Baker (@LukeReuters) February 25, 2016
On questioning in #Gaza -- I was not reporting. Was called to one side while walking on the street and taken into a small headquarters 1/3— Luke Baker (@LukeReuters) February 25, 2016
I was not escorted by anyone with guns. A major from the security services introduced himself by name and asked me a series of questions 2/3— Luke Baker (@LukeReuters) February 25, 2016
I was never accused of anything. Was given coffee and then tea. All questions about what I was doing in Gaza and what I do for work, etc— Luke Baker (@LukeReuters) February 25, 2016
As I pointed out then:
Hamas could have given Baker a full day at a spa it wouldn't matter - a government detaining a journalist for no reason is a form of intimidation. Unless Baker could have freely refused to be questioned, he was being given a message that his actions in Gaza were being watched and that he should be careful not to upset the authorities.
In this case, there is no danger that Baker would ever say anything that would upset his Hamas buddies, and both Hamas and Baker know it. So he enjoyed his tea and chatted freely.
Who is the head of the Foreign Press Association in Israel?
Is he now tacitly admitting that he was being intimidated by Hamas in February? Or is he only complaining about the treatment given to Heidi Levine and unnamed others (and why are they unnamed?)
It sounds like Baker was forced to allow this press release because of Hamas becoming too egregious in its intimidation, but he doesn't consider his own being politely questioned as any problem at all.
More likely, Baker is more concerned about his own access to Gaza than to journalistic ethics of exposing the abuses when it happens to him.
This retweet by the FPA after the Levine story is instructive:
One of Heidi Levine's justly acclaimed photos - hard to see how it "reflects badly" on Gaza. https://t.co/KCd2OBIAkO pic.twitter.com/1QW60aBN6P— John Reed (@JohninJerusalem) May 19, 2016
Hamas officials don't offend them because they are intimidating journalists - they offend them because they are unfairly intimidating journalists!
The implication, of course, is that any reporter in Gaza who is critical of Hamas gets what she deserves.
We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.