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Op-Ed: Newseum discredits itself by honoring terrorists

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Opinion,Op-Eds

Located on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and U.S. Capitol, the Newseum claims it "educates the public about the value of a free press in a free society."

Then why does it plan to honor propagandists for terrorist organizations and governments today?

The Newseum's Journalists Memorial pays tribute to journalists fallen in the line of duty. Yet among those whose names are to be added to the memorial as news-people who died under fire in 2012 are staffers of Hamas' television station, designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist outlet; a representative of Syrian state television, the video face of Bashar Assad's bloody dictatorship; and a "reporter" for Press TV, the Iranian government's English-language propaganda channel.

There is nothing journalistic about them, their activities or their employers. Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by the governments of the United States, Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom and others.

Hamas, Syria and Iran are in the business of propaganda and censorship.

"A free press in a free society," the Newseum's proclaimed desideratum, is an enemy they routinely suppress, murderously when necessary.

Listed among the memorial's 2,000-plus names, going back to the early 1800s, is Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded by Islamic terrorists while reporting from Pakistan.

Now the Newseum plans to join Pearl with Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama of Hamas' Al-Aqsa Television, killed in an Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip; Basel Tawfiq Youssef, of Syria's state TV; Maya Naser, from Iran's Press TV and eight others employed by Syrian state-run or pro-government outlets killed in that country's civil war.

Pearl rightly belongs on the Journalist's Memorial. Al-Kumi, Salama, Youssef and the rest do not. Yet on Friday, Newseum officials stiff-armed objections from my organization and others, insisting in emails amounting to boilerplate denial that these honorees qualified as fallen journalists.

It appears that no due diligence was done before selecting the terrorism- and dictator-linked individuals. Al-Kumi and Salama's Hamas employers, backed by Iran, seek to impose an Islamic theocracy on the Palestinian Arabs, destroy Israel and annihilate the Jewish people.

Al-Aqsa Television, the Hamas channel, was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a terrorist entity in 2008 for assisting its parent organization in recruiting suicide bombers and other terrorists.

Responding to critics, the Newseum, echoing Hamas claims parroted by some human rights and putative journalists' organizations, noted that al-Kumi and Salama's vehicle "was clearly marked 'TV'."

Given that Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorists have used ambulances to conceal gunmen and weapons and Hamas has a reputation for staged "news" events, that was a little like labeling a machine gun "For Deer Season Only."

Iran is the world's most prominent state sponsor of terrorism. Attacks include the bombing of a busload of Israeli tourists last year in Bulgaria -- perpetrated through Iran's Hezbollah surrogate -- and conspiracy to blow up the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a Washington restaurant in 2011. Press TV is its English-language spinner.

Syrian state television performs the same function for the Assad regime as the latter murders tens of thousands of its own people in the third year of a civil war.

Other Newseum honorees were employed by the Syrian Arab News Agency, the state-run daily newspaper Al-Thawra, and other such tainted outlets.

Had the Newseum existed in 1956, it is unlikely it would have memorialized Pravda reporters killed during the Soviet Union's repression of the Hungarian rebellion. It would have recognized they were not reporting on the conflict as journalists but furthering Moscow's propaganda aims.

Yet the Newseum intends to include today's propagandists for regimes and movements inimical to a free press with those memorialized who in fact were journalists.

Doing so will discredit the latter and cast doubt over the Newseum's role as a custodian of journalistic practice and memory.

One standard of professional journalism is the prompt correction of errors. The Newseum's journalistic reputation depends on correction of this one.

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Eric Rozenman is Washington director of CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. The opinions expressed above are solely his own.

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