Tuesday, April 22, 2014

‘New York Times’ Admits It Agreed to ‘Gag Orders’ in Israel

AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
I’ll follow this all day, but for now: a big controversy—although, one has to admit, not a total surprise, given the paper’s history of coverage in that country—will surely build after The New York Times late yesterday finally admitted, briefly and offhand, that it agreed (long ago?) to gag orders in Israeli in exchange for press credentials.
The Times’s public editor Margaret Sullivan covers the story here, and as usual she does a good job but does not go quite far enough, focusing more on the paper’s simply disclosing the arrangement and less on the outrage of its agreeing to the harsh restrictions to begin with. Here’s an excerpt:
The Times article mentions a court-imposed gag order that was lifted on Thursday. What it doesn’t mention is that The Times, too, is subject to such gag orders.
According to its bureau chief in Jerusalem, Jodi Rudoren, that is true.
In an email, Ms. Rudoren told me that in order to get press credentials in Israeli, The Times agrees to abide by such court-imposed orders….
The Times is “indeed, bound by gag orders,” she said. “Apparently we agree to this when signing up for government press cards, which are required to operate here, for access to public officials among other things.” She said that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that this is the case….
Two ranking editors at The Times—the managing editor, Dean Baquet, and an assistant managing editor, Susan Chira (who was the foreign editor for eight years)—told me that they were unaware of The Times ever agreeing to abide by gag orders in Israel.
Meanwhile, an online publication called The Electronic Intifada published a number of articles about Mr. Kayyal’s detention over the past several days.
The author of those articles, Ali Abunimah, said in an email that “readers have a right to know when NYT is complying with government-imposed censorship.”
UPDATE Sullivan has added this clarification to her column:
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. (An earlier version of this post said that The Times agrees to abide by gag orders as a prerequisite for press credentials, but Ms. Rudoren told me today that that is not the case, although it was her initial understanding.)
She added a link to a 2010 story that was written from the US as a possible example of how the paper has handled this ban in the past.
Greg Mitchell blogs several times a day at Pressing Issues.  He is the author of more than a dozen books, including recent books on Iraq and the media, atomic cover-ups, Hollywood politics, Beethoven, and influential political campaigns.

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