PA sacking of journalist over tweets sparks uproar, questions over pro-Palestinian activism was a factor

NEW YORK (AP) – The Associated Press is criticized for firing a young journalist for her social media activity, with some suggesting the news agency has bowed to a campaign of political pressure on her pro-Palestinian views since she was in college.

Emily Wilder, 22, made her AP debut on May 3 as a press associate in Phoenix, covering Arizona. On Wednesday, just over two weeks later, the AP informed her that she was being fired for violations of her social media policy that took place after she became an employee.

In the days leading up to her dismissal, Wilder had been targeted in conservative media for her pro-Palestinian activism while a student at Stanford University, where she graduated in 2020.

PA spokeswoman Lauren Easton did not say what Wilder wrote that violated the policy. Wilder said she had not received details.

His Twitter feed since joining the PA contains a few retweets that seem sympathetic to Palestinians in the ongoing conflict in Gaza, including a video clip of protesters chanting, “Free, Free Palestine!”

On Sunday, she tweeted: “’Objectivity’ seems inconstant when the basic terms we use to report information implicitly take on an assertion. using “Israel” but never “Palestine”, or “war” but not “siege and occupation” are political choices – yet the media make these exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased.

AP prohibits employees from expressing their opinions openly on political and other public matters for fear of damaging the news organization’s reputation for objectivity and endangering its many journalists around the world.

“We have this policy so that one person’s comments cannot create unsafe conditions for our reporters covering the story,” Easton said. “Every AP reporter is responsible for safeguarding our ability to report on this conflict, or any other, with fairness and credibility, and cannot take sides in public forums.”

In an interview, Wilder said she received social media training from the AP and took it seriously. She said she even removed a reference to support Black Lives Matter from her Twitter profile.

“Just because I have an opinion on a deeply political and personal issue does not mean that I am incapable of factual, contextual and fair journalism,” she said.

She also said: “There is no doubt that all of this was precipitated by a wave of harassment against me.”

On Monday, two days before his dismissal, a Twitter message from Republicans at Stanford criticized Wilder, who is Jewish, as an “anti-Israel agitator” while on campus. They published a 2019 article that she wrote in the university newspaper, calling conservative media character Ben Shapiro “a little odd.” Shapiro sharply criticized the Palestinians.

On Tuesday, a Washington Free Beacon article was titled, “AP Hires Anti-Israel Activist as News Associate.” The PA’s objectivity in question Amid the revelations it shared offices with Hamas. It has been picked up in other forums, including the Fox News website.

In recent days, AP itself has come under fire from some conservative figures in the wake of the Israeli airstrike last Saturday that destroyed the building that housed the news agency’s offices in Gaza. The PA said it was unaware that Hamas was operating from the building, as Israel claimed.

In the aftermath of the bombing, the PA sent a note to its staff reminding them of its policy against voicing opinions on contentious public issues. The message was repeated on Monday.

Janine Zacharia, Wilder’s journalism professor at Stanford and former Jerusalem bureau chief for the Washington Post, said she couldn’t understand why the PA didn’t just discuss concerns about the tweets with Wilder instead of sending it back.

Zacharia said she believes Wilder’s activism in college is the real issue and worries about the message the PA is sending. Many activists have put their passion into journalism, as Wilder did as an intern at The Arizona Republic, she said.

“What if you were an academic activist and then decide you want to become a journalist?” she said. “Does that mean you can’t?”

Social media and the generation that grew up with it have posed challenges for news outlets trying to uphold standards of objectivity. The AP argues that this is important for an organization whose business card is fairness.

“It’s important to recognize that for an organization like the AP, there are colleagues all over the world who cover every possible topic,” said Kathleen Carroll, former editor of the organization and now chair of the Committee. for the protection of journalists.

“This is why journalists covered by the policy of social media must be careful that their posts do not compromise the ability of their colleagues to work freely,” Carroll said. “What can be a personal expression for one person is at the heart of a story for a colleague elsewhere.”

The AP stressed that the dismissal was based on what Wilder did while employed at the news agency, and had no further comment.

As to the news organization’s use of terminology, the PA Stylebook urges not to refer to “Palestine” because it is not a fully independent and unified state. The PA referred to the Israeli occupation and said Gaza – and Israel – has been under siege in the latest fighting.

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