Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

(Image Courtesy of IL Post)

(Image Courtesy of IL Post)

NYT Slammed for Honoring Israeli Govt Gag Orders

Times Jerusalem bureau admits compliance with Israel-ordered media blackouts

Sarah Lazare

The New York Times made a rare admission that it submits to Israeli state gag orders, fueling charges from critics that the globally-influential publication plays fast-and-loose with journalistic ethics to give favorable coverage to Israel.

The revelation emerged when the The Times delayed its coverage of the Israeli detention of a Palestinian journalist, due—as it turns out—to a gag order from an Israeli court.

The blackout came to light when journalists who did not heed the gag order exposed the detention and media censorship. The Times's public editor, Margaret Sullivan, then elicited an admission from her own publication that it complies with Israeli media blackouts as a matter of policy.

Gagging Coverage of Journalist's Detention

Journalist and activist Majd Kayyal, who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was returning from a conference in Lebanon on Saturday when Israeli Shin Bet secret police detained him for five days, during which he was interrogated and denied access to a lawyer.

Blogger Richard Silverstein wrote on Saturday about Kayyal's detention and later released a copy of the gag order. Journalist Ali Abunimah, writing for Electronic Intifada, on Sunday reported the arrest and published classified court transcripts that revealed the existence of the gag order on the media regarding the case. Abunimah subsequently wrote several pieces following the story.

Thanks to an appeal from legal rights organization Adalah, the gag on Israeli media coverage was lifted Thursday.

It was only after the gag order was lifted—five days after the detention and interrogation was exposed by other journalists—that The Times covered the story of Kayyal, who has since been released from detention.

Sullivan on Thursday revealed that The Times's failure to cover the story earlier was due to its compliance with a media blackout.

Broad Compliance With Israel-Ordered Blackouts

The chief of the Jerusalem bureau of The Times, Jodi Rudoren, confirmed compliance with Israel's gag orders. Sullivan writes,

The Times is “indeed, bound by gag orders,” Ms. Rudoren said. She said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that The Times has been subject to gag orders in the past. 

Yet Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra! Magazine for media watchdog group FAIR, told Common Dreams that such a claim "mocks the whole idea of standing up for freedom of information when you compare a gag order from a secret police organization to a traffic light."

He added, "It's striking that the story involves a journalist being arrested."

Newsroom lawyer for The Times confirmed the compliance. Sullivan writes:

I asked The Times’s newsroom lawyer, David McCraw, about the situation. He told me that he was consulted by Times journalists this week as they considered publishing an article about Mr. Kayyal’s arrest. Although the situation is somewhat murky, he said, “the general understanding among legal counsel in other countries is that local law would apply to foreign media.” Similar issues arise when America news media organizations cover the British courts, he said.

But the restriction in Israel has not been tested, he said.

Yet The Times managing editor, Dean Baquet, and assistant managing editor, Susan Chira, told Sullivan that they were not aware of any instances in which the paper complied with Israeli gag orders.

Abunimah writes that these admissions leave many questions. "Why does Rudoren believe she is bound by gag orders when two senior editors said they were unaware of the newspaper ever agreeing to be bound by such gag orders?" he asks.

Media Complicity in Israeli Occupation

According to Naureckas, The Times's Jerusalem bureau is riddled with conflicts of interest that extend beyond compliance with gag orders. As FAIR points out, former bureau chief Ethan Bronner had a son in the Israeli army during his tenure. Furthermore, reporter Isabel Kershner's spouse has worked for a think tank that promotes favorable coverage of the Israeli government.

Sullivan herself has previously criticized The Times for biased coverage of Israel, challenging the paper's decision to ignore revelations that the National Security Agency shares unfiltered raw data intelligence files with the Israeli government.

Ramah Kudaimi of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told Common Dreams that the problem of biased coverage in major media extends far beyond the The Times and raises the chilling question of what else is being blacked out.

"We just commemorated yesterday Palestinian prisoners day, and here we have a young Palestinian imprisoned by Israel for no reason and there is a gag order. It is shocking that The Times would abide by gag orders and not practice real journalism."

Kudaimi adds, "U.S. funding of Israeli occupation and apartheid creates a mindset that seeps into the way the most U.S. media covers oppression."

Naureckas agrees: "The Times and U.S. media in general covers Israel from the Israeli government's perspective and treats Palestinians at best as outsiders and at worst as a demographic threat."

_____________________


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Congress Must Act': Bernie Sanders Demands End of Filibuster to Codify Abortion Rights

"We must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country. And if there aren't 60 votes to do it, and there are not, we must reform the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes."

Jon Queally ·


Human Rights Defenders Warn Biden Border Policy 'Quickly Transforming Into Trump 2.0'

Like his predecessor, President Joe Biden now being accused of "using racist, xenophobic tropes about immigrants to weaponize Covid-19 against migrants and asylum-seekers."

Jon Queally ·


'Bombshell': Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an "in-plain-sight national security threat," one expert warned that "a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed."

Jessica Corbett ·


US Progressive Caucus Hails Honduran Election as Chance for 'New Chapter' in Relations

"We encourage the Biden administration to use this opportunity to make a clean break with previous presidential administrations, which worked to ensure that the 2009 coup d'état succeeded."

Brett Wilkins ·


'The Facts of This Case Are So Egregious': Parents of Michigan School Shooter Charged in Killings

"There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent," the Oakland County prosecutor said of the mother and father now being sought by law enforcement.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo