I was doing a post-doc and living in Jerusalem during the 2001-2002 terror campaign that preceded Operation Defensive Shield, a military campaign best remembered for the media’s false accusations of a “Jenin Massacre.” As the campaign ramped up, many journalist friends came to Israel to report for CNN, BBC, and other major networks. Sometimes we’d meet up for drinks afterwards and talk about work. I was surprised to learn that most paid “fixers” to work in Gaza.
Producers explained—privately—that the implication for not hiring a fixer was that not only would Fatah (at the time still in control of Gaza) and more extreme factions not grant interviews, but they would also not grant “protection.” The flip side of this, of course, was that networks were effectively paying for stories and were also self-censoring based on their fixers’ affiliation.
It was a year after this and after the invasion that ended Saddam Hussein’s grip on power in Iraq that CNN executive Eason Jordan penned a New York Times op-ed in which he acknowledged the network’s self-censorship in pre-war Iraq in order to maintain access. While critics focused on CNN’s behavior in Iraq, they did not ask the network to come clean about what news they sanitized in other countries and, in the case of Gaza, territories.
Perhaps it’s time for the news media to explain alongside their broadcasts what money changed hands for fixers and in which countries they feel their access will suffer if they do not please their hosts.