CNN Freelancer in Gaza Worked for Hamas, Snapped Selfie With Leader, Report Shows

'CNN has given a prominent platform' to Hamas-tied Abdel Qader Sabbah, according to watchdog group Honest Reporting

Abdel Qader Sabbah with Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zaha (Facebook)
July 2, 2024

A CNN freelancer based in the Gaza Strip once "served in a Hamas-run body" and snapped a selfie with one of the Iran-backed terror group’s top leaders, according to a new investigation by a watchdog group.

Abdel Qader Sabbah, a freelance journalist used by CNN and the Associated Press, "photographed himself with a senior Hamas leader, served in a Hamas-run body to which he also provided work, praised terrorists, and shared anti-Israeli propaganda online," according to an investigation published Tuesday by Honest Reporting, a media watchdog group.

Since Hamas launched its Oct. 7 war on Israel, "CNN has given a prominent platform to news reports by Sabbah," according to the report. "The exposure of his links to the terror group casts a long shadow over the network’s vetting procedures and journalistic standards."

CNN and other Western media outlets like the Washington Post have come under intense criticism in recent months for what critics describe as their slanted war coverage, which often paints Israel as an aggressor and claims the Jewish state is intentionally killing Palestinian civilians. An AP photographer accused of working with Hamas was presented with a journalism award in April, sparking outrage. In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which is closed off for most journalists, those reporting the news often have a rosy relationship with the terror group and, in some cases, have worked closely with it.

Sabbah, on his Facebook page, posts information "showing he had connections to Hamas figures and institutions run by the terror group," according to Honest Reporting.

In one 2018 posting, for instance, the freelancer "posted a selfie taken with none other than senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, who had called for world domination with ‘no Zionists.’"

"This morning, with commander Abu Khaled Al-Zahar, literature teacher…" reads an Arabic language caption posted alongside the picture.

Sabbah also posted a picture of himself in a uniform affiliated with the Palestinian Authority’s "General Training Directorate," a government agency that is "de facto run by Hamas" in the Gaza Strip, according to the report.

In another March 2023 posting, Sabbah allegedly "boasted online about making a promotional video for the Directorate’s academy," which the Middle East Media Research Institute describes as a training spot for members of Hamas’s security services.

Sabbah has also described a Hamas bomber as a "hero" in a 2014 post and has commemorated other so-called martyrs. Additional social media posts show Sabbah saying, "May God curse the raped Zionists," according to Honest Reporting.

"Did CNN bother checking Sabbah’s background before hiring him?" the watchdog group asked in its report. "Sadly, there are only two bad answers to this question: Yes, which means the network knowingly uses biased reporters. No, which means the network hasn’t done its due diligence."