The Newseum said it was reconsidering its decision to honor slain cameramen employed by a Gaza TV station that Israel considers to be a Hamas affiliate.
The Washington-based Newseum, run by the Freedom Forum, a foundation promoting a free press, annually honors journalists killed in the line of duty.
This year’s ceremony, taking place Monday, was to have included Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama, cameramen killed in November by an Israeli strike during Israel’s war that month against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The cameramen were employed by Al Aqsa TV, an arm of Hamas, a group designated by the U.S. State Department as terrorist.
“Serious questions have been raised as to whether two of the individuals included on our initial list of journalists who died covering the news this past year were truly journalists or whether they were engaged in terrorist activities,” the Newseum said in a statement posted Monday.
“We take the concerns raised about these two men seriously and have decided to re-evaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation,” it said. “Terrorism has altered the landscape in many areas, including the rules of war and engagement, law, investigative and interrogation techniques, and the detention of enemy combatants. Journalism is no exception.”
A number of pro-Israel groups, including CAMERA, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, had called on the Newseum to rescind the honor. In an Op-Ed for the Examiner newspaper, Eric Rozenman, CAMERA’s Washington director, said it was anomalous to honor employees of organizations that are instrumental in repressing free expression.
“Al-Kumi and Salama’s Hamas employers, backed by Iran, seek to impose an Islamic theocracy on the Palestinian Arabs, destroy Israel and annihilate the Jewish people,” said Rozenman, who also slammed Newseum for including on its honor list slain journalists employed by state-run outlets in Syria and Iran.
Al-Aqsa often functions as a propaganda arm of Hamas.
The Israel Defense Forces at the time of the strike noted the affiliation of the TV station to Hamas, although it provided no evidence that the two cameramen had any operational link to terrorism — something Israel was able to do with another figure, Mohammed Abu Aisha, who was killed in a separate strike.
Abu Aisha was employed by a radio station and also functioned as an Islamic Jihad terrorist.