Crossing the lines of integrity with a Hamas-praising photojournalist

CNN hired a photojournalist who just three days before posted videos and photos of himself inside Israel during the Hamas massacre, including with an Israeli tank and a room of bloody, dead bodies.

Gaza photojournalist Hassan Eslaiah crossed into Israel on October 7 to document the Hamas massacre of more than 1,200 Israelis. His photos from the scene appeared on several international news outlets, including The Associated Press, the Jerusalem-based watchdog HonestReporting revealed last week. 

CNN had also published Eslaiah’s photos.

The watchdog’s story sparked a series of questions and international outcry, ultimately leading to his being let go from the two institutions. 

However, CNN said in a statement last week that their working relationship with the freelancer began after the October 7 terrorist attacks on Israel, on October 10. It also noted that despite its decision to stop working with Eslaiah, it did not have “any reason to doubt the journalistic accuracy of the work he has done for us,” as reported by Ynet and confirmed by The Jerusalem Post

Images taken by Gaza photojournalist Hassan Eslaiah, who worked for both AP and CNN, of the Hamas massacre on October 7. (credit: Screenshots from Telegram)

The Post confirmed that Eslaiah was not fired for his work on the 7th but for a separate but related concern.

CNN told the Post it would look into the matter.

Crossing the line: Did a photojournalist support the massacre of Israelis?

The issue goes beyond issues of accuracy or bias but is more about the lines that get crossed when a photojournalist appears to act with delight in response to witnessing the killing of civilians, while working for a major news outlet.

HonestReporting showed a screenshot of a now-removed post of the photojournalist on X standing in front of the Israeli tank without a press vest or helmet. The tweet read, “Live from inside the Gaza Strip settlements.” A similar image still appears on his Telegram page.

HonestReporting also published a separate image from well before the massacre showing Eslaiah buddying up with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

However, by scrolling through Eslaiah’s personal Telegram channel, the Post has found that Eslaiah posted much more than a tank on the 7th, including items that indicate that not only did he likely know about the planned massacre before it began at around 6:30 a.m., but that he supported the deaths of the innocent Israelis he watched being murdered.

Eslaiah’s first post on October 7 was at 5:59 a.m.: “We wake up to the great gifts of God,” he posted, according to a translation by ChatGPT. “The spirit has returned, and our blessings have increased.”

Within half an hour, he is posting about the rockets being launched at Israel and the sounds of the Iron Dome intercepting them over Khan Yunis. Then, between 6:55 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., he posts multiple variations: “To follow the latest news moment by moment, follow me on my media platforms.”

At 8:29 a.m., he appears “live from inside the settlements near the Gaza Strip” with a picture of a burning tank in the background.

At 8:36 a.m., after witnessing nearly 10 minutes of the massacre, he posts images from the scene with a verse from the Koran: “ And on that day, the believers will rejoice in the victory of Allah” and the hashtag “#AqsaFlood.”

At 9:25 a.m., the most gruesome of posts is revealed: a video with his watermark: “Filmed by Hassan Eslaiah” in the center, depicting a room full of dead, bloody bodies. 

This particular video does not appear to have been published anywhere else. In the background, you hear a calm voice that sounds like his from other videos, and is spoken in his Arabic dialect, stating the following: “[Animal] carcasses, carcasses. God is great. This is the path to Jerusalem.”

There is another video at 9:49 a.m. of his standing in front of burning Jewish homes as terrorists run by. And a final video one minute later of his leaving Israel on the back of someone’s motorbike. 

Is this the kind of photojournalist that major news outlets should be hiring? What kind of vetting process should be required before hiring someone in a foreign country?

Perhaps these are the questions that all international outlets should now be asking themselves.

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