Photojournalists play an indispensable role in conflict zones. Their visual storytelling captures the stark realities of war in ways that words alone cannot. The images they capture transcend language barriers and evoke powerful responses from viewers. It’s concerning, then, that so many Gaza-based photojournalists seem to use their work and skills to benefit Palestinian terror groups—and that reputable journalistic institutions so often give them awards. 

On Monday, for example, several Reuters photojournalists received the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for their coverage of the Israel-Hamas war. The celebrated team includes Yasser Qudih, a member of the Reuters team in Gaza who allegedly crossed into Israel illegally on October 7.

The Pulitzer Prize Board also awarded a “special citation” to journalists covering the war in Gaza, noting that an “extraordinary number of journalists have died in the effort to tell the stories of Palestinians and others in Gaza.” Some of those journalists, however, appear not to have been innocent bystanders.

Take Yousef Masoud, for example, the New York Times freelance photographer who won the George Polk Award earlier this year for his Gaza coverage. HonestReporting, a pro-Israel media watchdog, says he illegally infiltrated southern Israel on October 7 to document the carnage. According to Tablet, Masoud once posted on his Facebook, in Arabic: “Hitler said, give me a Palestinian soldier and a German weapon, and I will make Europe crawl on its fingertips.”

Another individual who received international acclaim is AP photographer Ali Mahmud, to whom the Reynolds Journalism Institute co-awarded its “Pictures of the Year” for the image he captured (after he, too, illegally entered Israel on October 7) of the mangled, nearly nude corpse of Israeli-German citizen Shani Louk strewn in a Hamas pickup on October 7.

Then there is photojournalist Motaz Azaiza, whom Time named one of its top 100 most influential people of 2024 for having “acted as the world’s eyes and ears in his native Gaza.” On October 7, Motaz posted a video showing Hamas terrorists inside Israel with a triumphant caption reading in Arabic: “The Gazans entered the settlements!!!!!!!! With jeeps we see in the streets of Gaza.”

These photojournalists are not alone. Since October 7, several print and digital journalists have been revealed to have ties to terrorism or to support violence. For example, the Israel Defense Forces disclosed that Al Jazeera journalist Ismail Abu Omar, wounded by a drone strike in February, had been simultaneously serving as a deputy company commander for Hamas’s eastern battalion in the southern city of Khan Younis. On the morning of October 7, Abu Omar posted that “[o]ur children will play with their heads,” referring to the Israelis about to be massacred.

The most concerning case, however, involves freelance photojournalist Samar Abu Elouf. In early April, the International Women’s Media Foundation gave Abu Elouf its Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award. Abu Elouf, along with Yousef Masoud, was also a co-winner of the George Polk Award.

American award committees fawned over Abu Elouf’s work, but they were either unaware or didn’t care that she appears to have connections to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The PFLP listed one Samar Abu Elouf as an instructor in a series of media courses it organized in 2012, which taught news reporting, investigative journalism, photojournalism, and new media to 60 participants. At these courses’ graduation ceremony, a member of the PFLP’s Central Committee stated that the courses are “part of the Front’s media office strategy” aimed at “bolstering the role and status of national democratic media committed to our national cause.” Nearly a decade later, at a ceremony honoring Gaza’s media institutions, another senior PFLP official praised Palestinian journalists as messengers of “resistance.”

The revelation that a U.S. and EU-designated terror group has trained a new generation of media professionals—and that American institutions have awarded one of the terror group’s instructors—is alarming. Those who attended such classes will likely seek to advance the PFLP’s agenda under the guise of journalism. Who knows how many other media courses Gaza’s terror groups have arranged over the years, and how many of their graduates are contributing to media outlets?

It is critical, therefore, that prestigious media groups scrutinize prospective award winners before granting them prizes. Institutions like the Pulitzer, Reynolds Journalism Institute, the George Polk Awards, and the International Women’s Media Foundation should revoke the awards from the above-listed figures. Otherwise, they are effectively endorsing individuals or actions that undermine impartial and ethical journalism.

Photo by Hesther Ng/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images


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