Avoid terms like ‘genocide, ethnic cleansing, refugee camps’: NYT tells reporters covering Gaza

One of the journalists who lost his life in Israeli bombardment in Gaza. [Photo: X/ QudsNen]

The New York Times has instructed journalists covering Israel’s genocide in the Gaza Strip to restrict the use of the terms “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” and to “avoid” using the phrase “occupied territory” when describing Palestinian land, as revealed by an internal memo obtained by The Intercept.

They’re also told not to call areas of Palestine “occupied territory” and to avoid using the name “Palestine” altogether. The memo suggests that words like “slaughter,” “massacre,” and “carnage” are too emotional to describe Israel’s bombing of Gaza.

This memo was written by Susan Wessling and Philip Pan, editors at the Times, who said they were giving guidance on language issues since Israel’s recent actions in Gaza began. Critics say this kind of guidance ignores Israel’s historical treatment of Palestinians and seems to favour Israel in its reporting.

Experts and advocates argue that Israel is committing genocide and openly aiming to ethnically cleanse Gaza. By not acknowledging Palestine as “occupied territory” or using the name “Palestine,” the memo denies Palestinian rights and helps Israel claim the land as its own.

The memo also tells writers to refer to Hamas fighters as “terrorists” but doesn’t label Israel’s actions as “terrorism,” despite evidence of civilian casualties caused by Israeli forces. Critics inside the Times say this memo shows the newspaper’s bias towards Israel, especially during a time of significant civilian casualties.

Overall, this memo gives insight into a newsroom that’s been criticised for favouring Israel in its reporting, quoting Israelis more often than Palestinians and focusing more on Israel’s perspective, even as the death toll in Gaza rises.

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