Terror Victims Sue Associated Press for Employing Alleged Hamas Affiliate

AP freelance photographer Hassan Eslaiah had advance knowledge of Hamas attack, suit alleges

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, freelancer Hassan Eslaiah (@visegrad24 Twitter)
February 22, 2024

Victims of Hamas's Oct. 7 terror strike on Israel are suing the Associated Press, alleging the news organization "materially supported terrorism through payments that they made to known agents of Hamas," according to a copy of the lawsuit and statement from the plaintiffs.

The suit, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, alleges that the AP employed at least one photographer with known ties to Hamas and that the individual had advance knowledge of the Iran-backed terror group's unprecedented attack on Israel. The AP and CNN ultimately cut ties last year with at least one freelance photographer, Hassan Eslaiah, after reports emerged about his alleged links to Hamas.

The AP was informed at least five years ago that Eslaiah "was affiliated with Hamas, promoted and glorified terrorism, called for people to commit acts of violence, celebrated murders, and was even officially working for a Hamas-affiliated news station," according to the lawsuit, which was spearheaded by the National Jewish Advocacy Center (NJAC) on behalf of the terror victims.

The photographer's alleged relationship with Hamas "enabled him to secure photographic opportunities that would have otherwise been difficult for someone without Hamas connections and who was displaying press credentials to obtain," the lawsuit says.

"The AP paid for some of these real time images, including of Israeli hostages being taken into Gaza, despite having been warned well in advance that at least one of the so-called 'journalists' they were paying were in fact Hamas affiliates, and despite the clear indications that they were functioning as full participants in the Hamas terrorist squad that conducted the October 7th attack, and not as the AP chose to pretend, as journalists," the NJAC said in a statement.

The AP, the statement maintains, "aided and abetted Hamas in carrying out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust."

The lawsuit marks the first time that terrorism victims have sued a media outlet, claiming the outlet provided material support for a lethal attack that drew international headlines and sparked one of the worst regional wars in recent memory.

"Media organizations don't have any special right to act with impunity and pretend that they don't know whom they are paying," NJAC director Mark Goldfeder said in a statement. "Nor does it matter that they were freelancers; the issue is that AP was furnishing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, not in what capacity the terrorists were cashing the checks."

An AP spokesman referred the Free Beacon to a statement regarding the lawsuit posted on Thursday afternoon.

The AP called the lawsuit "baseless," saying it had "no advance knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks, nor have we seen any evidence—including in the lawsuit—that the freelance journalists who contributed to our coverage did."

The lawsuit follows a spate of media reports indicating that at least some of the freelance photographers employed by top American media outlets—including the AP, Reuters, CNN, and the New York Times—had ties to Hamas and were told in advance of its plans to raid Israel. Photographs published by these outlets on the day of the attack showed Hamas militants burning Israeli homes and kidnapping Jewish civilians.

Honest Reporting, a watchdog group that monitors the region, first raised questions late last year about how these journalists were able to arrive on the scene so early.

"Hamas terrorists were not the only ones who documented the war crimes they had committed during their deadly rampage across southern Israel," the watchdog group wrote in a Nov. 8 report that ignited a firestorm of criticism. "Some of their atrocities were captured by Gaza-based photojournalists working for the Associated Press and Reuters news agencies whose early morning presence at the breached border area raises serious ethical questions."

While the AP and other media outlets denied having advance knowledge of the attack, they eventually cut ties with Eslaiah, who Honest Reporting claimed had a longstanding relationship with Hamas leadership. The AP at the time did not provide a reason for doing so but defended its decision to run Eslaiah's photos depicting the massacre in real time.

Eslaiah and several other freelance photographers are named in the lawsuit, which includes photographic evidence of the journalist smiling beside Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

The legal team handling the lawsuit said it reached out to the AP before filing, "but the AP flatly denied what has been established by demonstrable evidence—that the AP was told long ago that at least one of the people they were paying was affiliated with Hamas."

"In fact," the attorneys said in a statement, "this arrangement was such an open secret that a picture one of their photographers posted three years ago of himself being kissed by the demented arch terrorist Sinwar has been widely displayed by the media."