UPDATE: He's baaaaaack. I'd like to think the social media uproar, of which this was a tiny drop in the ocean, had something to do with that.
Yesterday in writing about the bomb attack that killed four boys on a beach in Gaza City, I noted that a journalist had even kicked a soccer ball around with the boys, minutes before he watched their death. You might expect that witnessing such a tragic and emotional story would have been considered a reporting coup by Ayman Mohyeldin's bosses at NBC News. which of course is owned by Philadelphia-based Comcast. Instead, NBC yanked Mohyeldin from the war-torn region and had another reporter who was not there do the story on NBC Nightly News.
Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed yesterday’s killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach and who has received widespread praise for his brave and innovative coverage of the conflict, has been told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately. According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).
Mohyeldin is an Egyptian-American with extensive experience reporting on that region. He has covered dozens of major Middle East events in the last decade for CNN, NBC and Al Jazeera English, where his reporting on the 2008 Israeli assault on Gaza made him a star of the network. NBC aggressively pursued him to leave Al Jazeera, paying him far more than the standard salary for its on-air correspondents.
As Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story on First Look Media's site The Intercept, also reported:
Despite this powerful first-hand reporting – or perhaps because of it – Mohyeldin was nowhere to be seen on last night’s NBC Nightly News broadcast with Brian Williams. Instead, as Media Bistro’s Jordan Chariton noted, NBC curiously had Richard Engel – who was in Tel Aviv, and had just arrived there an hour or so earlier – “report” on the attack. Charlton wrote that “the decision to have Engel report the story for ‘Nightly’ instead of Mohyeldin angered some NBC News staffers.”
Indeed, numerous NBC employees, including some of the network’s highest-profile stars, were at first confused and then indignant over the use of Engel rather than Mohyeldin to report the story. But what they did not know, and what has not been reported until now, is that Mohyeldin was removed completely from reporting on Gaza by a top NBC executive, David Verdi, who ordered Mohyeldin to leave Gaza immediately.
Perhaps the safety concern is valid. Although it didn't get the attention that it should have, Israel has admitted targeting journalists in the region before. Still, it seems bizarre that they would be so worried about Mohyeldin's safety and not Engel and his producer. Let's hope the goal was not to silence his reporting from the region, which by all accounts has been outstanding both in recent weeks and in past crises. The West and especially citizens of the United States -- which for better or worse has an outsized role in the Middle East -- need the best information we can get about what's really going on over there -- a place where so much information is pure propaganda.
I know I have a lot of influence over at Comcast (just kidding -- it's amazing they haven't come out and cut my wires) but maybe somebody in that tall building over there can make a few calls to their NBC News underlings and find out what the hell is going on over there. Because it doesn't add up.
Have a great weekend, and feel free to discuss all the weighty issues of the day -- Ukraine, Gaza, the border, et cetera -- in the space below.