NYT instructs staff against using 'genocide', 'Palestine' in Gaza articles

A startling leak uncovered by The Intercept, an American investigative news organisation, has exposed secretive editorial guidelines issued by The New York Times, dictating how their journalists should report on Israel's invasion of Gaza, sparking a debate about media bias and the role of journalism in shaping public perception.

The memo, penned by Times standards editor Susan Wessling, international editor Philip Pan, and their deputies, was first circulated in November 2023 and has been periodically updated amid Israel's ongoing invasion of Gaza that started last October, The Intercept reported on Monday.

The guidance cautions against the use of terms such as "genocide," "ethnic cleansing," "occupied territory," and "refugee camps”, even though the United Nations recognises as many as eight refugee camps inside besieged Gaza.

Pertinently, the Israeli government has consistently shown opposition to the historical reality that Palestinians retain refugee status, a designation that underscores their displacement from lands to which they claim a right of return.

"Can we articulate why we are applying those words to one particular situation and not another? As always, we should focus on clarity and precision — describe what happened rather than using a label," the memo notes.

The memo also instructs reporters to refrain from using "fighters" in reference to specific attacks, instead suggesting the use of "terrorist," a term that the document applies inconsistently, according to The Intercept's analysis, noting NYT's bias in favour of Israel's perspective on the war.

A notable discrepancy

According to the leaked memo, the term "Palestine" is discouraged in routine use, except for exceptional contexts such as historical references or significant political developments recognised by international bodies.

In January, The Intercept released an analysis examining the coverage of the conflict from October 7 through November 24 by The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. This analysis covered the initial weeks of the war, prior to the implementation of The New York Times' new editorial guidelines.

The Intercept found a notable discrepancy in language: terms such as "slaughter," "massacre," and "horrific" were predominantly used to describe incidents involving Israeli casualties caused by Palestinian fighters, and were seldom used when reporting on Palestinian casualties resulting from indiscriminate Israeli air strikes.

The study highlighted that up until November 24, The New York Times had referred to Israeli fatalities as a "massacre" on 53 occasions, compared to just once for Palestinian killings.

The disparity was stark with the term "slaughter" as well, which appeared 22 times more often in descriptions of Israeli deaths than Palestinian. This, despite the rising toll of Palestinian casualties, which by then included approximately 15,000 civilians.

Blatant double standards


"It is accurate to use 'terrorism' and 'terrorist' in describing the attacks of October 7, which included the deliberate targeting of civilians in killings and kidnappings," according to the leaked Times memo.

The Times refrains from labeling Israel's repeated strikes on Palestinian civilians and protected civilian sites, such as hospitals, as "terrorism," even in instances where civilians have been targeted directly.

The NYT memo goes on: "When possible, avoid the term and be specific (e.g. Gaza, the West Bank, etc.) as each has a slightly different status."

The Times source, cited byThe Intercept, said that avoiding the term "occupied territories" tends to obscure the true nature of the conflict, aligning with Israeli official narrative.

"You are basically taking the occupation out of the coverage, which is the actual core of the conflict," the source told The Intercept. "It's like, 'Oh let's not say occupation because it might make it look like we're justifying a terrorist attack.'"


Source: TRT