Statement of the Arab and Middle East Journalists Association in Reference to Newseum Scandal
The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) condemns in the strongest possible terms, the decision of the Newseum to exclude Palestinian journalists Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama from its memorial of journalists killed in the line of duty.
Israeli missiles fired at a car clearly marked “TV” during Israel’s attack on Gaza in November, 2012, killing Messieurs Al-Kumi and Salama as they returned from covering a story for TV station Al-Aqsa at Al-Shifaa Hospital. The Newseum justifies its exclusion of the two journalists because of claims that they worked for news network run by Hamas, the governing party in Gaza. The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers all recognize that both Mr. Al-Kumi and Mr. Salama were legitimate journalists, and therefore entitled to all protections afforded non-combatants in times of armed conflict. Human Rights Watch, which investigated the affiliations of the two men, has determined that neither was a member of any political party, nor was either a combatant.
AMEJA wholeheartedly supports the statements of peer groups The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, and is appreciative of the investigations of Human Rights Watch. However, AMEJA firmly holds that a journalist’s political affiliations, whatever they might be, are irrelevant to the question of whether he or she is a journalist. Applying a political litmus test to determine whether one is a journalist is a slippery slope that serves no useful purpose in the service of an informed public.
If the Newseum truly wishes to honor the principle of press freedom, it must reverse its decision of exclusion and restore Messrs. al-Kumi and Salama from its memorial of journalists who perished while working to inform the public of vital matters of the day.