One of our readers directed me to this response by Ron Kampeas, Honest Reporting should talk to reporters, honestly. He makes the following points in rebuttal.
- Silwan is always a tense place
I suppose there may be places that are more tense but a little research shows that there has been 450 incidents since July and over 50 arrested, mostly children. So tense enough. If a photographer was looking for action from stone throwers then Silwan is as good a place as any to start.
- Photographers crowd together only when something is happening. Otherwise, they wander around, looking for random shots
Speaking as a photographer, albeit with less news experience than Mr. Kampeas and that on a local level, I’m not so sure about this. In over 90% of jobs I was sent there by either my editor or a journalist. In a photo opportunity some photographers would crowd together, at the ‘best’ vantage point, as often as not directed by the organizers of the opportunity while the brave, creative ones would deliberately pick a different position.
In the Israeli/Palestinian context there is an added complication. The photographer who exposes the narrative the organizers have worked so hard to create may well be at risk and at the very least won’t be invited again.
- When something awful happens you shoot and shoot and shoot and scribble notes
That’s probably true although I wonder if the same ‘hard-nosed’ reporters would stand around waiting for an approaching train to hit children walking unaware along a railway track or would warn them off.
- The slightest whiff of collusion would get major agency photographers sacked and blacklisted
Names please! Most of the times I have heard about photographers disciplined it is after a major effort by people like Honest Reporting. Agencies tend to defend their staff particularly when they know that without cooperation of the participants to the action, Hamas, Fateh, Saddam Hussein, etc. they may not be able to replace them. No photographs = no pay day
A personal note here. I was an IDF soldier on the very first day of the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987. Outside Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem an Arab flagged our patrol down and told us demonstrators† had closed the road into the camp. When the six soldiers reached the blockade, before a single stone or petrol bomb had been thrown or even a single Allahu Akbar shouted, we were greeted by a couple of dozen young Palestinian men and camera crews and still photographers all set-up and ready to record the action.
Was this collusion with the Palestinians? Couldn’t they just have stumbled on the spot by chance? A few days later we compared notes with the other soldiers of our unit. The Intifada had begun at dozens of sites and at each and at every one the media had arrived before the soldiers.
Once is happenstance — twice is coincidence — three times is a pattern
Kampeas concludes, This “analysis,” on the other hand, is is not only a crock, it puts journalists in harm’s way for doing a job that is already difficult, dangerous and thankless. Mmmmmmmm? So why do they do it?
A journalist operating in Israel has quite a cushy post because Israel is a first world country with first class facilities and limited censorship. Very few journalists have been killed or hurt (compare with Iraq, Russia or Colombia) and the war zone, for example, Silwan, is a half hour drive from the hot showers, clean sheets, good food, alcohol and willing women (or men).
† I’m looking for a neutral word here. Militants and activists are almost always weasel words to avoid judgement. Just which organization was controlling the demonstrators was unclear.