Profs Urge NYT to Probe False Oct. 7 Rape Story

MEDIA, 6 May 2024

Julia Conley | Common Dreams - TRANSCEND Media Service

To Remove ‘Cloud of Doubt,’ Journalism Professors Urge Review of NYT Story on Oct. 7 Sexual Violence – More than 50 journalism professors call for an independent review into the debunked NYT story “Screams Without Words.” Nothing can “reverse the damage done to Palestine and to Palestinians,” said the professors, “but the Times could still reverse some of the damage it has done to itself with its silence.”

29 Apr 2024 – A front-page New York Times story that Israel used to galvanize public support for its U.S.-backed assault on Gaza must be subject to an independent review, said more than 50 journalism professors in a letter to the newspaper on Monday, as growing protests signified widespread outrage over the destruction that followed the bombshell article.

The professors, many of whom worked as full-time journalists before turning to academia, wrote to Timespublisher A.G. Sulzberger, executive editor Joe Kahn, and international editor Philip Pan, calling for a “thorough and independent review” into the article “‘Screams Without Words’: Sexual Violence on Oct. 7.”

The letter urged the newspaper to form a commission made up of journalism experts to examine the “reporting, editing, and publishing processes” for the story.

The article came under scrutiny shortly after it was published, having been reported by not only international correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman but also two inexperienced freelancers based in Israel. One, Anat Schwartz, is a “former air force intelligence official” with whom the Times cut ties after it was revealed that she had “liked” a social media post calling for Gaza to be turned into a “slaughterhouse.”

“It appears that extraordinary trust was invested in these individuals andthe Times would benefit from publicly explaining the circumstances that justified such unusual reliance on freelancers for such an important story,” wrote the professors, including Mohamad Bazzi of New York University, Shahan Mufti of University of Richmond, and Jeff Cohen, who retired from Ithaca College.

Mufti joined Northwestern University assistant professor Steven Thrasher in gathering the signatures, and told The Washington Post that after “serious consideration and deliberation,” the academics “came to the conclusion that this is necessary.”

In addition to questions that have been raised about Schwartz’s and Sella’s experience and bias, the professors pointed to the newspaper’s acknowledgment on March 26 that “new video evidence ‘undercut’ some important details” in “Screams Without Words,” as well as Gettleman’s comment suggesting he did not view the information in the story as hard “evidence.”

“Can the paper ‘establish’ fact if its own reporter does not consider his information ‘evidence’?” asked the professors.

In March, a spokesperson for Kibbutz Be’eri toldThe Intercept that victims of the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel were not sexually assaulted, and the family of one woman who was a key figure in “Screams Without Words” has denied the report’s graphic details of sexual abuse were true.

The Intercept also reported that in reporting on the alleged sexual assaults, Schwartz relied on interviews with a rescue group that was “documented to have mishandled evidence and spread multiple false stories about the events of October 7, including debunked allegations of Hamas operatives beheading babies.”

Al Jazeera journalist Laila Al-Arian called Monday’s letter a “major development” and urged the Times to “do the right thing.”

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 6 May 2024.

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