The Associated Press instructs reporters and organizations that rely on its style guide to avoid referring to Hamas as a terrorist organization, a Washington Free Beacon review of the organization’s standards found.
The news outlet states in its "Israel-Hamas Topical Guide" that because "terrorism and terrorist have become politicized, and often are applied inconsistently … the AP is not using the terms for specific actions or groups, other than in direct quotations." The guidance will affect how dozens of regional newspapers and national outlets like Politico report on the ongoing war in Gaza.
Hamas, an Islamist militant group dedicated to the annihilation of Israel and Jews around the world, is classified as a terrorist organization by dozens of countries, including the United States and the European Union. Hamas has undertaken hundreds of terrorist attacks against civilians since 1993, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
Instead of referring to Hamas—which earlier this month killed hundreds of innocent civilians, including children in an unprompted attack on Israel—as a terrorist group, the outlet says journalists should call its members "militants."
"Terms such as Hamas fighters, attackers or combatants are also acceptable depending on the context," the Associated Press style guide states.
The Associated Press did not respond to a request for comment.
Bucking the "terrorist" label is one in a series of strange decisions by the Associated Press, which include once sharing office space in Gaza with Hamas. That office, which the AP used for 15 years, was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in May 2021. The Israeli Defense Force stated the building contained Hamas operatives and weapons, as well as an office for Islamic Jihad, another terrorist organization based in Gaza.
"We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP's bureau and other news organizations in Gaza," AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement at the time.
But an Israeli Defense Force source said at the time that Associated Press reporters were aware who their neighbors were. And The Atlantic reported in 2014 that Associated Press staffers in the Gaza office could see terrorists stationed next to their building launch rockets into Israel. Despite their proximity, the Associated Press never reported the rocket launches, which endangered the group’s staff and nearby civilians.
"Hamas fighters would burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff—and the AP wouldn’t report it," according to The Atlantic. "Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying."
The Associated Press has long attempted to influence the coverage of outlets by policing language. Shortly after President Joe Biden took office, the outlet released new guidance related to immigration.
Going forward, the Associated Press declared in March 2021, journalists should refrain from using the word "surge" to describe large amounts of illegal aliens entering the southern border. That decision, a pro-immigration activist revealed in a Washington Post op-ed, was the result of a pressure campaign from the left.
Following the looting and destruction in the wake of George Floyd’s death during the summer of 2020, the Associated Press suggested outlets opt for "milder terms" like "unrest" when describing riots.