A young Jewish journalist was fired by the Associated Press following her pro-Palestinian tweets. This has led to a public outcry and the news agency is said to have given into political pressure from the US conservative media.
The woman AP fired is 22-year-old Emily Wilder. She was stationed at Phoenix and was appointed as news associate on May 3, 2021. However, she received a communication about her termination from the job on May 19. She was told that her contract was being terminated as she had violated the news agency's social media policy. The policy is said to have come into effect after she joined as an employee, i.e. just two weeks ago.
AP's Latest Social Media Policy
In an interview with SFGate, Wilder had said "I asked them, 'Please tell me what violated the policy,' and they [AP] said, 'No.'" Wilder's social media activity, especially her tweets show retweets of matters on Israel-Palestine conflict, most of them sympathetic to Palestinians. The tweets also include sharing of a video clip with demonstrators chanting "Free, free Palestine!"
Wilder had shared on her twitter handle on May 17, "Objectivity" feels fickle when the basic terms we use to report news implicitly stake a claim. Using "Israel" but never "Palestine," or "war" but not "siege and occupation" are political choices—yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased."
According to the social media policy of AP, employees are banned from expressing their opinions on political matters and public issues. The reason behind setting this rule is said to be to save the objective image of the news organization.
AP Employees Cannot Take Sides: Lauren Easton
AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton told Times of Israel that no employee can take sides in public forums. "We have this policy so the comments of one person cannot create dangerous conditions for our journalists covering the story. Every AP journalist 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," said Easton.
But addressing the issue in the SFGate interview, Wilder had said that she had taken the social media training given when she joined AP seriously. Wilder also said that she had removed reference supporting Black Lives Matter from her Twitter profile, as she thought this would violate the social media rules of the company. "Because I have an opinion about an issue that is deeply political and personal doesn't mean that I am incapable of fact-based, contextual and fair journalism," Wilder said.
It can be noted that just two days before Wilder was fired, a twitter user had claimed that Wilder was an anti-Israel agitator. The supporters of Republicans from Stanford had cited reference to Wilder's article posted in 2019, when she was a student of Stanford University. The article was published in the college newspaper in which Wilder had referred to Ben Shapiro [a critic of Palestinians] as "a little turd."
Reports claim that conservative media has been targeting AP for its coverage of Israel – Palestine conflict. Especially the coverage of Al Jazeera's offices in Gaza being destroyed met with criticism from conservative figures. When AP blamed Israel for the attack on building, Israel claimed that Hamas operated out of the building.
Kathleen Carroll, AP's former executive editor and now chairwoman of the Committee to Protect Journalists, reacted to the news and said: "That's why journalists covered by the social media policy need to be careful that their posts don't jeopardize the ability of their colleagues to work freely. What may be personal expression to one person is right at the heart of a story to a colleague somewhere else."