NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin said it’s a “completely different dynamic” reporting from Gaza now than it was four years ago, given both the unrestricted access for journalists and widespread use of social media.
In late 2008, Mohyeldin was based in Gaza City, when the Israel Defense Forces launched a three-week aerial bombardment and ground invasion that killed 1,400 Palestinians. At the time, the Israeli military restricted foreign journalists from entering Gaza, leaving Mohyeldin and his Al Jazeera English colleague Sherine Tadros to cover the war with little competition.
While the pair received high marks at the time for their coverage, Mohyeldin, speaking by phone Monday from Gaza City, said “there was a dearth of information and pictures” as a result of so few journalists on the ground. “We couldn’t be everywhere at the same time,” he said.
Four years later, that’s not the case. News organizations have flooded Gaza over the past six days of a conflict that has killed 104 Palestinians and three Israelis, along with wounding 860 Palestinians and 68 Israelis, according to CNN.
“I think it’s a testament to how important journalism still is in having real journalists on the ground in Gaza,” Mohyeldin said.
Widespread social media use is the other significant change in Gaza coverage from winter 2008-2009, with citizens uploading their own videos and journalists engaging over Twitter, Reddit and Google+.
In covering the war in Syria, news organizations have often relied on raw footage from areas where no journalists were present. It’s a different situation now in Gaza, where numerous journalists are reporting each major strike throughout the day in real time on Twitter, often adding context and details as soon as they are available.
Take Monday’s strike on a media center in Gaza City, an event quickly covered on Twitter.
BBC Middle East bureau chief Paul Danahar tweeted around 8:30 a.m. EST that Israel struck a building used by some outlets. “I’m standing in front of it,” Danahar tweeted. “It’s on fire. Smoke billowing out.”