Media Accountability Style Guide: Covering the Israel-Hamas War

Feb 07, 2024

Media Accountability Style Guide: Covering the Israel-Hamas War

The rapidly-evolving landscape of the Israel-Hamas War demands a media approach grounded in critical assessment and verification of sources, especially given Hamas’s use of misinformation tactics and its stated desire to indiscriminately kill Jews and Americans. This style guide is designed to navigate these challenges and expand awareness of institutions that are controlled by Hamas and often cited as sources by the media. By adhering to these principles, journalists can ensure responsible, accurate, and context-rich coverage of the Israel-Hamas war grounded in facts, impartiality, and a commitment to educating their audiences instead of spreading misinformation.

FACT: Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, and the European Union, based on its consistent planning and execution of suicide bombings, stabbings, kidnappings, rocket attacks and other brutal assaults targeting civilians, including the 10/7 Hamas-led massacre that launched the Israel-Hamas war.

BEST PRACTICE: Always refer to Hamas accurately and explicitly as a “terrorist organization” to clearly convey their globally recognized status, at least on the first mention of the group. Avoid euphemisms like “militants” or “fighters” until at least the second mention.

FACT: The Gaza Ministry of Health is a government agency controlled by Hamas and the death toll it publishes does not make a distinctionbetween terrorist and civilian deaths.

BEST PRACTICE: If you report claims from the Gaza Ministry of Health, always explicitly highlight the Ministry’s connection to Hamas, at least on the first mention. If you report on the death toll provided by the Ministry, you should also clearly state that the statistics include both combatant and civilian deaths.

FACT: Hamas’s 1988 covenant, which drives their extreme agenda, explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel. A revised charter in 2017characterized jihad for the “liberation of Palestine” a duty for all Palestinians. By Palestine, Hamas means the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the land that is now Israel. Even today, Hamas openly and brutally advocates for the complete annihilation of Israel and for indiscriminately killing Jewish people.

BEST PRACTICE: Provide context by referring to Hamas’s charter when discussing their actions and motivations. This context is crucial to understand their motives and objectives.

FACT: Hamas has a long history of intentionally deceiving the press. Media outlets have, at times, reported the terrorist organization’s allegations of Israeli aggression without sufficient verification. This hasty reporting can contribute to misinformation and escalating tensions, as seen in the case of the botched reporting on the explosion at the Al-Ahli Hospital in October. Repeating Hamas’s incorrect account of what happened misinformed the public and resulted in global protests.

BEST PRACTICE: Independently verify claims of military engagement, especially those originating from Hamas, to avoid misinformation. IF YOU MUST report these claims, provide additional context that Hamas is an inconsistent source for accurate information.

FACT: Hamas’s use of human shields, a tactic to deter attacks on military targets, intentionally endangers civilian lives and is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. This contrasts with Israel’s documented efforts to minimize civilian harm. Hamas has also used childlike mannequins and recordings of children speaking Hebrew to lure Israeli soldiers into ambushes.

BEST PRACTICE: Reporting on civilian casualties in Gaza SHOULD clearly define and emphasize Hamas’s use of human shields, providing a more complete picture of the challenges, complexities and ethical dilemmas in Israeli military responses.

FACT: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not maintained impartiality in the Israel-Hamas conflict, particularly by not treating or visiting Israeli hostages held by Hamas (a violation of the Geneva Conventions) when visiting Gaza. The ICRC has also failed to adequately criticize Hamas for using human shields.

BEST PRACTICE: Reporters should critically assess – not assume – the ICRC’s impartiality. Coverage of the ICRC’s humanitarian work in Gaza SHOULD mention that they’ve failed to help hostages held by Hamas.

FACT: Hamas’ control over Gaza includes restricting free speech, making any information coming from Hamas-influenced sources, like state-run media outlets in the region, highly suspect. The terrorist organization also controls the flow of information from Gaza with tight restrictions on journalists that limit independent reporting and impact the reliability of news from the region, leading to a one-sided narrative. Recognizing these limitations is essential for providing a balanced view of the conflict.

BEST PRACTICE: If you MUST cite reporting from media outlets like Al-Jazeera affiliated with Hamas and Hamas-supporting states, acknowledge these restrictions and their impact on information reliability in reporting.

FACT: While most coverage of the war focuses on the devastation Palestinian civilians face, the constant threat of rocket attacks and terror infiltrations by Hamas creates a state of psychological trauma and disrupts the daily life of Israeli civilians, an aspect often overlooked in international reporting.

BEST PRACTICE: When covering the impact of the war on civilians, you SHOULD provide context that the conflict was initiated by the Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7th and provide due coverage of the effects on Israeli civilians, including the psychological trauma from constant threats of indiscriminate bombing from Hamas and Hezbollah.

FACT: The proliferation of misleading or false information on social media, led and amplified by Hamas and its allies, contributes to misunderstanding and escalation of the conflict.

BEST PRACTICE: Be cautious with information from social media, especially if it originates from unfamiliar sources. Fact-check rigorously. If you MUST publish videos or reporting on social media from uncorroborated sources, you SHOULD note that the content is not verifiable.

FACT: Hamas, under the leadership of Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, is a well-organized and hierarchical terrorist organization. These leaders consistently incite and plan brutal attacks against Israeli civilians, Jews, and their global allies. They planned and executed the October 7th terrorist attacks on Israel, and their decisions and directives have played a significant role in escalating the ongoing conflict and violence in the region.

BEST PRACTICE: When covering key decisions made by senior Israeli and U.S. officials that have influenced the direction of the Israel-Hamas war, media outlets SHOULD ALSO mention Sinwar and Deif, and how their October 7th plot ended the ceasefire that was in place and inflamed the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Sign Up for The 10/7 Project Daybook Newsletter
Jump to Content