Western media outlets are facing questions on objectivity after a CNN journalist confirmed pre-publication approval for embedded units must be provided to the Israeli military.
A number of United States corporate media outlets have granted Israel’s military personnel the right to review “all materials and footage” produced by correspondents embedded with the Israel occupation forces (IOF) during the ongoing Gaza invasion, triggering concerns over independence.
According to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, journalists embedded with the IOF as they engage in battle are closely supervised by Israeli commanders and are not permitted to move independently within the besieged Gaza Strip.
“As a condition to enter Gaza under IDF escort, outlets have to submit all materials and footage to the Israeli military for review prior to publication,” Zakaria added. “CNN has agreed to these terms in order to provide a limited window into Israel’s operations in Gaza,” Zakaria, host of CNN’s ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ explained.
The world-renowned outlet has been broadcasting heavy coverage since Israel declared war, though it has largely focused on the plight of Israeli and foreign captives held in Gaza as well as testimonies of Israelis who came face to face with Hamas during its Al Aqsa Flood Operation of October 7.
Notably, coverage of Gazans facing the one-month long brutal Israeli bombardment appears to fall in line with Israeli rhetoric, opting to frame Israeli attacks on refugee camps and hospitals as mere “blasts”.
American journalist Dan Cohen described CNN as acting as a “propaganda mouthpiece” for the Israeli regime: “CNN is explicitly acting as a propaganda mouthpiece for the genocidal Zionist regime.”
Award winning investigative journalist Victoria Brownworth said: “That’s PR not journalism. I have never agreed to this in three decades of reporting.”
Meanwhile, photojournalist Zach D. Roberts stated that the coverage resembled “ad b-roll for the IDF,” far from independent journalism.
“What CNN is doing here is creating ad b-roll for the IDF. It’s nothing resembling news and the CNN employees that participated in it aren’t anything resembling journalists.”
Laila Al Arian, Executive Producer for Al Jazeera English documentary series Fault Lines, said:”Beware of any reporting out of Gaza in which news organizations are embedded with the IDF as CNN and ABC just did.”
“They’re not allowed to release or broadcast any of it without the IDF signing off on it which is not journalism. It’s propaganda,” she added.
In response to Al Arian’s post, one user wrote: “But a type of propaganda of which US liberal media has long been a willing participant- remembering all the Iraq war embeds.”
“We know that embedded journalism is biased. Everyone knows that,” another wrote.
Separately, NBC News has also acknowledged complying with the IOF’s demand and “agreed to share raw footage” as “an operational security requirement.”
In a video segment featuring correspondent Raf Sanchez, who is currently embedded with an IOF unit tasked with locating and dismantling supposed “Hamas tunnels” in Gaza, NBC News openly confirmed that it has consented to share unedited footage as a mandatory security measure.
Experts fear that the IOF’s influence on Western media could lead to a one-sided portrayal of the war in Palestine, despite its intensifying attacks and a steadily rising civilian death toll.
Omar Suleiman, founder and president of the Texas-based Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, said Sunday that “Israel is killing the journalists that expose their crimes, then bribing the journalists that cover for them.”
Suleiman added that the world can “expect more coverage humanizing IDF soldiers while they murder thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians in cold blood.”
The situation is particularly challenging for Palestinian correspondents, who bear a significant responsibility for reporting on Gaza, given that foreign journalists are only allowed entry when embedded with the IOF and are subject to its terms and conditions.
Citizen journalism in Gaza has been an integral part of disseminating information regarding the day-to-day struggles faced by Palestinians under the Israeli occupation.
Social media users across the world say they have been opting to forgo mainstream media coverage of the war to instead receive more balanced narratives, with many depending on journalists on the ground in Palestine.
Since October 7, 32 Palestinian and one Lebanese journalists and media workers have been killed, the latter of which was struck in the south of Lebanon, according to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The CPJ has warned that current Israeli aggression on the besieged Gaza Strip has become the deadliest time on record for members of the press.
The situation draws parallels with the US-led invasion of Iraq, in which embedded journalists were used to control the Western narrative of the war, focusing on the soldiers’ perspective and downplaying civilian casualties and other dire aspects.
Embedding “channeled reporters toward producing war coverage from the soldier’s point of view,” was a pervasive narration, according to research.
The broader concern is that US and Western mainstream media have long been criticised for one-sided coverage favouring Israel, with concerns raised about the accuracy and objectivity of reports during the current war in Gaza.
In the current war, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and other media watchdogs have noted that numerous news outlets have disseminated unverified claims from both Israeli and US sources.
These claims include allegations of Hamas being responsible for the death and beheading of infants, accusations of Gaza-based militants operating from beneath hospitals, and assertions that Hamas is using civilians as human shields, despite the lack of substantiated evidence.
The US media “is evading its responsibility to acknowledge the Gaza genocide,” Lara Witt and Tina Vásquez of Prism Reports wrote. “The American media is failing,” they said.
“Through journalistic sleight of hand—including the use of passive language, ever-shifting headlines, bothsidesism, and the myth of objectivity—reporters across the US are fuelling the genocide their newsrooms are refusing to acknowledge is taking place”.