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CNN staff divided over network’s bias on Gaza war due to Israel directives

February 6, 2024 at 7:29 pm

The CNN headquarters on September 05, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia [Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images]

American news outlet, CNN, has been accused of broadcasting biased reporting on Israel’s ongoing war on the Gaza Strip, favouring Israeli narratives while suppressing Palestinian voices.

According to a report by British newspaper, The Guardian, six journalists from CNN newsrooms in the United States and internationally revealed that the outlet’s new management and editorial process leaning toward pro-Israel narratives have led to “journalistic malpractice”.

The unnamed journalists outlined several points to the newspaper as evidence of CNN’s bias, including the outlet’s complete lack of interviews conducted with Hamas members since the Palestinian Resistance group’s 7 October attacks into Israeli-held territory surrounding Gaza, as well as the channel having “taken at face value” Israeli government statements, while simultaneously restricting quotes from Hamas officials.

The sources highlighted the marked difference in reporting by CNN International and the domestic CNN channel in the US, with the former apparently demonstrating “hard-hitting reporting by correspondents on the ground” whereas the latter was “marginalised by hours of interviews with Israeli officials and supporters of the war in Gaza who were given free rein to make their case, often unchallenged and sometimes with presenters making supportive statements”.

READ: Coverage of Gaza conflict by US media shows overwhelming support for Israel: The Intercept

Coverage was also reportedly heavily influenced by external forces prior to publication or broadcast, such as the need to attain approval from CNN‘s Jerusalem bureau which allegedly heavily filters the content. “Many have been pushing for more content from Gaza to be alerted and aired”, one journalistic source said. “By the time these reports go through Jerusalem and make it to TV or the homepage, critical changes – from the introduction of imprecise language to an ignorance of crucial stories – ensure that nearly every report, no matter how damning, relieves Israel of wrongdoing”.

The alleged Israeli influence on CNN’s coverage – at least in recent months – is reported to be significantly caused by the appointment of its CEO and editor-in-chief, Mark Thompson, only two days after Hamas’s 7 October operation.

According to the Guardian report, Thompson – the New York Times’ former CEO and the BBC’s former director-general – has been under pressure and influence by the Israeli government on numerous occasions, with a key example being his firing of a BBC correspondent from her post in Jerusalem back in 2005, reportedly due to direct pressure from Tel Aviv.

With the pro-Israel editorial line in CNN being set by the corporation’s new executive, the outlet’s staff are reported to be divided over the state of its biased coverage. One journalist referred to it as a “schism” within the network, reminiscent of the internal divides over channels’ pro-government narratives that followed the 9/11 attacks. “There’s a lot of internal strife and dissent. Some people are looking to get out”.

Another journalist revealed that “senior staffers who disagree with the status quo are butting heads with the executives giving orders, questioning how we can effectively tell the story with such restrictive directives in place”.

READ: British journalist accuses Western media of bias in reporting on Israel-Palestine conflict