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Associated Press Fires Jewish Reporter For Supporting Palestine As A Student

On Wednesday 19 May, the Associated Press terminated Emily Wilder who had been hired as a news associate barely three weeks earlier, on 3 May. Wilder was not involved in reporting for AP, and did not cover international news.

According to her own statement, Wilder was subjected to a smear campaign due to her history of pro-Palestine activism at Stanford University. The campaign against her was initiated on Monday 17th May by her alma mater’s Republican association, and received support from US Senator Tom Cotton as well as firebrand conservative speaker Ben Shapiro. She was labelled as an ‘anti-Israel agitator’ and attempts were made to sully her past association with organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace, and Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as her participation in a 2017 ‘Return the Birthright’ rally in New York for supporting Palestinian rights. Wilder began receiving hate messages and online harassment as the campaign against her went viral.

Wilder was assured of support from her editors as she faced racist, anti-semitic and misogynistic vitriol: an AP editor told her that they were concerned about the harassment she was facing, and would take steps to address it. However, she was abruptly fired by the AP for allegedly violating their social media ethics policy during the time she was employed by them. She was not informed which of her social media posts violated AP’s policies, and felt that she was instead being scapegoated.

The following is a tweet from Wilder during the time she was with the Associated Press, but posted nearly 25 hours before the Stanford GOP tweet that incited the online campaign against her:

AP’s firing of Wilder drew widespread condemnation on social media, from journalists and reporters to politicians such as Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro. The Atlantic staff writer Adam Serwer said it was hard to find any issue apart from advocacy for Palestinian rights where people were “more consistently fired or blacklisted”. Jack Mirkinson called Wilder’s firing “craven, hypocritical, and a reminder that very often the most dangerous thing you can do is speak up for Palestinians”. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post expressed outrage at “how quickly a talented young reporter’s career can be snuffed out by a Twitter mob” and that even if Wilder had violated the AP’s guidelines, “the solution is to offer guidance, not termination”. New York Times reporter Nick Confessore took a more cautious approach but nonetheless conceded that “as a general rule it’s dumb to fire people for high school or college tweets”.

NYU journalism instructor Jay Rosen conceded that Emily Wilder’s firing was “not looking good for the AP”. LA Times correspondent Matt Pearce urged for an open conversation about “how the incoming editor of the Washington Post is the one presiding over the Emily Wilder disaster at AP”. New York Times reporter Astead Herndon contrasted how the “supposedly liberal” American media industry eagerly employs conservative activists, but does not consider hiring the activist left as being “ideologically diverse”. Al Jazeera executive producer Barry Malone joined in solidarity with Wilder and condemned AP for its “terrible decision”.

Sustained attempts to counter criticism of Israel’s policies against Palestinians, or its most recent military actions in Gaza, as anti-Semitic have received resounding rebuttals online; from being classified as ‘playing the victim’ to being a continuation of a consistent pattern of deliberate obfuscation. Twitterati were quick to draw comparisons with CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and CNN’s Jerusalem correspondent Hadas Gold, referencing her October 2016 tweet where she felicitated her cousin on joining the Israeli military and with a picture of a cake with a soldier on it.

More recently, CNN’s Bianna Golodryga conducted an interview with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, where she accused him of using an anti-Semitic slur. While some journalists like Mehdi Hasan defended Golodryga, Qureshi’s cabinet colleague Shireen Mazari lambasted the Western media for targeting the Foreign Minister for “simply saying what everyone knows to be true”, and called for rejecting “this false narrative”.

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Naya Daur