Dozens of journalism professors urge NYT to revise Oct. 7 sexual violence report

Dozens of journalism professors urge NYT to revise Oct. 7 sexual violence report
A letter from 60 journalism professors called for independent review of a now-infamous NYT article featuring unverified reports of Hamas rape of Israeli women
3 min read
30 April, 2024
More than 50 journalism professors wrote a letter to the New York Times urging an independent review of the now-infamous article [Getty]

More than 50 journalism professors have penned a letter to the New York Times (NYT) urging an independent review of a now-infamous article that Israel leveraged to garner backing for its attack on the Gaza Strip.

The professors, most of whom were journalists before moving to academia, called for a "thorough and independent review" of the article 'Screams Without Words: Sexual Violence on Oct. 7', which carried unverified allegations of sexual violence against Israeli women during the Hamas-led 7 October attack.

The journalists addressed Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, executive editor Joe Kahn, and international editor Philip Pan in their letter, and called for the set up of a commission of journalism experts to examine the "reporting, editing, and publishing processes" for the story.

The article came under scrutiny shortly after it was published in December, having been reported by "inexperienced" freelancer journalists based in Israel.

One, Anat Schwartz, was identified as a "former Air Force intelligence official" with whom the New York Times cut ties with after it was revealed that she had "liked" a social media post calling for Gaza to be turned into a "slaughterhouse".

"It appears that extraordinary trust was invested in these individuals and the Times would benefit from publicly explaining the circumstances that justified such unusual reliance on freelancers for such an important story," wrote the professors, including Mohamad Bazzi of New York University, Shahan Mufti of the University of Richmond, and Jeff Cohen, who retired from Ithaca College.

The call for scrutiny came amid mounting protests reflecting widespread anger at the devastation unleashed in Gaza, which followed unverified reports of Hamas atrocities against Israeli women and children on October 7, some of which were later proven to be false.


The NYT published a lengthy report at the end of last year, which detailed multiple accounts of sexual violence allegedly committed by Hamas members, including rape and mutilation gathered from alleged interviews with witnesses, relatives of the victims, emergency workers and officials.

However, several allegations were quickly debunked by official videos released by the Israeli military and verified accounts by residents of Kibbutz Be'eri, which was attacked on 7 October.

The sister of the report's primary victim, Gal Abdush, also publicly denied that her sister was raped and accused the NYT of manipulating her family for the story.

A recent United Nations report into sexual assault against Israeli and Palestinian women and girls on 7 October and after, found that there were "reasonable grounds" to believe that sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, occurred in multiple locations on 7 October.

The report, however, noted that the expert team, which included a forensic pathologist and digital and information source analysts, was not able to verify various allegations of sexual violence on 7 October, including those related to Kibbutz Be'eri.

"At least two allegations of sexual violence widely repeated in the media were unfounded due to either new superseding information or inconsistency in the facts gathered," the UN report said.

The team also encountered challenges with some testimonies including where statements were retracted, or sources doubted their recollections or previous assertions that had appeared in the media.

Throughout the war on Gaza, misinformation has been rife and there have been various instances where major international news outlets had reported unverified information which was later found to be false.