The Data

Summary of Results

NWU’s investigation identified widespread retaliation against media workers in response to the perception that they support the Palestinian cause or are critical of the Israeli government. Our online research, interviews with workers, and surveys did not unearth a similarly pervasive trend for media workers facing retaliation for speech perceived as supportive of Israel. In some cases, retaliation was driven by allegations of antisemitism—often by organizations and individuals that conflated expressions of solidarity with Palestinians or anti-Zionist sentiments with antisemitism.

We do not necessarily endorse or condemn the comments or actions of the individuals in our report. NWU undertook this project in response to the needs expressed by media workers in the U.S. We are a worker-led organization, so our report centers workers and their grievances.

At the extreme end of our retaliation findings, NWU identified 10 cases where media companies fired staffers, terminated long-term contracts, or pressured an employee to resign for editorial choices, social media posts, or statements that expressed solidarity with Palestinians or criticized Israeli state action. Eight other cases involved editors canceling the assignments of freelance workers. (A ninth case involved assignments of staff workers being canceled.) Other workers faced canceled appearances or events and/or rescinded awards.

Workers in our sample were most likely to suffer retaliation in the form of social media suppression, including via new, wide-reaching policies affecting dozens of workers at outlets including The Guardian, with its liberal reputation, and Hearst Magazines, with its roster of more than 25 brands. Signing open letters also spurred retaliation: 38 workers at the Los Angeles Times and 20 workers at the Australia-based Sydney Morning Herald and The Age were restricted from covering certain topics after signing letters condemning the deaths of Palestinian journalists.

Sometimes, social media backlash escalated into harassment. Multiple cases included in our quantitative analysis are not described in the report, at the request of those impacted, due to online harassment that escalated to threats of violence or death.

Twenty-four of the cases we gathered, impacting more than 60 people, involved U.S. institutions. Twenty of the cases, impacting more than 45 people, involved institutions based in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy.

The result of such retaliation is not merely the deplatforming of a couple dozen media workers. Rather, it encompasses the silencing of countless others, for whom instances of retaliation serve as warnings against speaking out, now and in the future. The majority of the 22 respondents to NWU’s self-censorship survey said that they felt more pressure than before October 7 to censor their speech.

Our survey questions were intentionally open-ended, inviting participants to share their experiences of pressure to self-censor speech related in any way to Israel or Palestine. Twenty respondents said they felt that they should avoid public speech showing solidarity with Palestinians, criticizing Israeli state action, and/or characterizing the ongoing bombardment of Gaza as “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide.” Conversely, one respondent described pressure to avoid expressing support for Israel. Survey participants named firing, blacklisting, and marginalization within the industry as among the consequences they expected to face if they voiced their views on the topic.

The following sections discuss the results in greater detail and highlight some central themes, takeaways, and recommendations.

Termination, Resignation, and Cancellation of Assignments

Two editors-in-chief, a longtime contract cartoonist, an apprentice, a production assistant, and a sports reporter were among those fired over their public statements and editorial choices regarding Israel and Palestine.

Artforum, for instance, fired Editor-in-Chief David Velasco after he oversaw the publication of an open letter that over 8,000 artists and cultural workers signed in solidarity with Palestinians. The board of eLife, a medical and life sciences journal, fired Editor-in-Chief Michael Eisen after he retweeted a satirical article from The Onion that called out many people’s indifference to the lives of Palestinians. Palestinian journalist Zahraa Al-Akhrass was on maternity leave when Canada’s Global News fired her for social media posts that included the hashtags #freepalestine, #gazaunderattack and #gazagenocide. Al-Akhrass said that she regularly posts her opinions about a range of current events and that she had never been questioned by an employer until now. “Global was literally asking me to look at these horrific images, this genocide, and detach myself from my identity, my own people, and say nothing,” Al-Akhrass said in a video posted to Instagram. “Is this ethical or moral, humane or diverse or inclusive?”

Global was literally asking me to look at these horrific images, this genocide, and detach myself from my identity, my own people, and say nothing. Is this ethical or moral, humane or diverse or inclusive?
—Zahraa Al-Akhrass

Some media workers were coerced or pressured by their employers to resign after expressing concern regarding Israeli state violence. A notable example is award-winning journalist Jazmine Hughes, who resigned as a staff writer from the New York Times Magazine after signing an open letter put forth by the group Writers Against the War on Gaza, an ad hoc coalition formed after October 7. The magazine determined that signing the letter violated the publication’s policy on public protest. Jamie Lauren Keiles, a freelance journalist who maintained an annual contract with the publication, also announced that he would no longer contribute work to the magazine.

Keiles told Democracy NOW! that, in addition to raising the alarm on a humanitarian issue, his resignation was about pushing back on unfair conditions for contingent workers. “If an institution is not willing to give you a job, then what do you owe them?” Keiles said. “The idea that the magazine or the Times as a whole would have some hold on my speech just seemed ludicrous to me. So, in some way, it was a small amount of protest over the labor conditions in the industry at large.”

Additional freelance workers lost work for speech related to Israel and Palestine, at times with less transparency from the organizations that commissioned and then punished them. After October 7, multiple freelancers had individual assignments related and unrelated to Israel and Palestine suddenly canceled and contracts left to expire. For example, the Poetry Foundation indefinitely postponed a piece that discussed anti-Zionism, and the Harvard Law Review killed its first ever commissioned piece by a Palestinian. At least two publishers stated publicly or privately that they would no longer work with certain freelancers because of their speech on Palestine.

If an institution is not willing to give you a job, then what do you owe them? ... In some way, it was a small amount of protest over the labor conditions in the industry at large.
—Jamie Lauren Keiles

One U.S. freelancer, who requested anonymity, told NWU that a local outlet she regularly wrote for killed three of her stories after she posted criticism on social media regarding Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Of the three stories, which were lifestyle pieces unrelated to the Middle East, she was compensated for the two she had already filed and given no kill fee for the third. The freelancer’s editor told her the pieces were canceled because she had violated the publication’s social media policy but did not specify further.

Another case involved Lebanese Australian journalist Antoinette Lattouf, whose one-week contract as a substitute host for the ABC Sydney morning radio show was canceled after she posted a Human Rights Watch report accusing Israel of using starvation as a weapon. A Sydney Morning Herald report later revealed that a group called Lawyers for Israel had been writing letters to network leadership complaining about Lattouf’s role and threatening legal action if she were not fired. Lattouf is now pursuing legal action against the company.

Assignment Restrictions

Restricting the assignments of media workers perceived as biased was another common disciplinary measure. As defined in this report, assignment restrictions can entail forbidding media workers from covering a beat or subject, whether temporarily or permanently, or suspending them from their jobs.

Two large news outlets restricted assignments for dozens of media workers who signed open letters related to Palestine. Management at the Los Angeles Times banned 38 employees from covering any stories related to Israel or Palestine for at least three months after they signed a letter condemning Israel’s killing of journalists in Gaza; the company claimed the letter violated its ethics policy. A report by the Los Angeles Public Press noted that Los Angeles Times reporters have signed open letters in the past without consequence, including one in 2021 demanding better media coverage of Israel’s “system of apartheid” and another in 2020 from the Los Angeles Times Guild’s Black Caucus critiquing the paper’s coverage of Black communities. According to the NewsGuild, which represents Los Angeles Times staff, 28 of the 38 people disciplined in this case were people of color, including seven of Middle Eastern, North African, or Muslim descent. By comparison, the newsroom is about half people of color, half white.

In Australia, 20 journalists at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, both publications owned by Nine Entertainment, were banned from participating “in any reporting or production relating to the war” because they signed an open letter critiquing Australian media's coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza. According to leaked Slack messages posted by the publication Crikey, the publications’ executive editor justified the decision by citing concerns about bias: “It is a strong-held tenet that our journalists’ personal agendas do not influence our reporting on news events,” he said.

Cancellation of Appearances and Events; Awards Rescinded

At least 10 media workers have had public appearances canceled or postponed. Most of the event cancellations appear to be responses to perceived appearance of antisemitism or insensitivity to those in Israel affected by the October 7 attack.

Just hours before a scheduled book talk in October with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, the 92nd Street Y, a New York cultural and community center, “postponed” the event. The institution referenced “the public comments by the invited author on Israel and this moment.” Nguyen had signed an open letter criticizing Israel in the London Review of Books two days prior.

Other events were canceled on account of alleged security threats or after interventions by public officials. The London venue Conway Hall, for example, planned to host the launch of Jewish American journalist Nathan Thrall’s book—a work of nonfiction platforming Palestinian voices—but the venue called off the event after being contacted by the Metropolitan Police.

Planned televised appearances have also been canceled. In one case, CBS live-streamed an interview with Palestinian American legal scholar and author Noura Erakat about Israeli human rights violations in Gaza. The clip was never posted on CBS’s website, although this would be the company’s typical practice, because it was viewed as being too combative, according to a report by Jewish Currents.

German institutions have been particularly aggressive in canceling events and awards. In October, the Palestinian writer Adania Shibli won the German Literaturpreis for her novel Minor Detail, which follows a Palestinian narrator researching a historical incident of violence against a Palestinian woman. The literary association Litprom canceled the award ceremony “due to the war in Israel.” In another similar incident, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the city of Bremen canceled an awards ceremony at which author Masha Gessen, who is Jewish, was to receive the Hannah Arendt Prize, after Gessen published an essay in the New Yorker comparing Gaza to a Nazi ghetto.

I would not want to be part of another institution which not only cancels artists because of their activism, but seems to think silence and censorship is the right answer to genocide.
—Lana Bastašić

NWU documented two cases in which awards were rescinded for pro-Palestinian speech. After the Bosnian-Serbian novelist Lana Bastašić cut ties with her German publisher over its silence regarding “the ongoing genocide,” the Austrian literary organizations Literaturhaus NÖ and Literaturfest Salzburg revoked her planned residency and reading. “Thank you for uninviting me. I would not want to be part of another institution which not only cancels artists because of their activism, but seems to think silence and censorship is the right answer to genocide,” Bastašić replied.

In a telling twist, French Moroccan journalist Zineb El Rhazoui received the 2019 Simone Weil prize for her controversial criticism of Islam and defense of French secularism, but the award was rescinded in December for her public criticism of Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Social Media Suppression, Online Harassment, and Doxxing

Social media suppression was the most common type of retaliation in our sample. Suppression ranged from newly restrictive company policies about online posting and managers suspending workers for posts, to the blocking of posts by social media platforms themselves. NWU documented 16 such cases that impacted dozens of workers. Some escalated to online harassment and doxxing (publishing personal information online with malicious intent). Pro-Israel social media accounts and actors drove several cases of harassment and doxxing, and often accused the affected media workers of antisemitism or supporting terrorism.

In one instance, Heba Macksoud, an Egyptian American Muslim woman working as a digital media consultant for nonprofits, received a torrent of online harassment and intimidation affecting her family’s wellbeing after she posted “I stand with Palestine” on a New Jersey neighborhood Facebook page. Locals posted information about where members of Macksoud’s family worked, spammed the website of her husband’s pharmacy with one-star reviews, and called her daughter’s former employer to claim that her daughter was a Hamas supporter. Macksoud is now hesitant to associate with organizations that support Palestinians, has changed her last name and profile picture online, and feels “terrified” to express herself on social media again—especially after seeing a suspicious car parked outside her house on a dead-end street for hours. Against the backdrop of apparently escalating hate crimes and harassment against Arabs and Muslims, media workers of these backgrounds have reason to fear for their safety and that of their loved ones.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), a group dedicated to combating what it claims to be anti-Israel bias in the news, targeted the social media activity of six Middle Eastern staff journalists and one freelancer for the BBC. In response, the BBC launched an “urgent investigation” into the posts and took the reporters off the air, stating publicly that the freelancer named in CAMERA’s report would not be hired for future projects. (Later, the BBC concluded that no disciplinary action would be taken.)

In calling me out they opened me up to a lot of racist abuse as well. It put a target on my back… I’m a black girl, I’m a freelancer, so it’s really easy for you to try to ruin my livelihood.
—Chanté Joseph

In another case, an article by the outlet Jewish News condemned social media posts by freelancer and Guardian contributor Chanté Joseph that criticized Israel. In the posts, Joseph pointed out that violence has historically been used in liberation struggles, and called “missing” posters of Israeli hostages “propaganda.” In a comment to Jewish News, Joseph apologized and said she’d deleted the posts. The Guardian called the freelancer’s posts unacceptable and announced that Joseph’s weekly podcast was “taking a break.”

Joseph told NWU that in the wake of the Jewish News article she faced extensive online harassment and was dropped by the UK magazine Stylist as a speaker on a panel. “In calling me out they opened me up to a lot of racist abuse as well. It put a target on my back,” she said. “We’re low-hanging fruit—I’m a black girl, I’m a freelancer, so it’s really easy for you to try to ruin my livelihood.”

In an effort to avoid allegations of bias, multiple organizations have released new social media policies that typically leave management with significant discretion to decide whom to discipline. For example, The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, along with its senior U.S. and Australian editors, announced a new policy discouraging journalists from signing open letters or posting statements on social media that “risk compromising our editorial integrity.” According to the editors’ memo, “Senior editors will decide on any appropriate action on a case by case basis.” Some outlets are known to reprimand staffers and contributors for publicly criticizing the organization they work for—or its coverage.

In at least one case, managers reprimanded a media worker for critiquing media coverage of Palestine on a private Instagram account (meaning it could only be viewed by approved followers). The staffer was temporarily barred from working on stories related to Israel or Palestine. They said that they are the only Muslim in their newsroom, and that white coworkers were not initially reprimanded for signing public letters supportive of Palestinians.

Beyond Media: Repression in Academia, Art, and Related Workplaces

Many media workers pay their bills by working for academic institutions or arts organizations that have disciplined or cut ties with those who criticize Israel and/or stand up for Palestinians. Over the course of our data collection, we encountered several cases of workers facing retaliation within the arts and academia. We did not include those cases in our quantitative analysis because they took place beyond the boundaries of the media industry. Nevertheless, they follow similar patterns and merit further discussion.

Across the United States, students and academic workers have faced firing, suspension, event cancellation, doxxing, social media suppression, censorship, and violence from police and counterprotesters. The most high-profile case of academic retaliation may be that of former Harvard University president Claudine Gay, who was forced to resign due to pressure from powerful donors. There is no question of intent: Conservative activist Christopher F. Rufo, a vocal opponent of “critical race theory,” instigated investigations by The Washington Free Beacon and others into plagiarism in Gay’s academic publications, per his own account in the Wall Street Journal. The campaign began when Gay did not immediately refute a letter written by Palestine solidarity groups at Harvard that blamed Israel for the October 7 Hamas attack. The specious plagiarism findings (i.e. nearly 50 instances of “inadequate citation”) became pretext for her removal.

NWU interviewed multiple workers in academia who described facing retaliation based on their social media posts. Since October, at least three adjunct academics in New York were told that their appointments would not be renewed after speaking out in solidarity with Palestinians. A U.S. poet and academic reported that a tweet they posted empathizing with Palestinians led to harassing messages and physical threats. After the school they worked for issued a public statement saying the tweet was not in line with the university’s values, the worker resigned from their teaching position and relocated to another part of the country.

Meanwhile, Arnesa Buljušmić-Kustura, an author, genocide researcher, and survivor of the Bosnian genocide, wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter) that she was rejected from her dream job following pro-Palestinian posts on social media, even though she had already gone though six rounds of interviews.

In the art world, museums and galleries have retaliated against workers and canceled exhibitions. For example, Anishinaabe curator and author Wanda Nanibush left her position at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) after the museum received a letter from the directors of Israel Museums and Arts, Canada (IMAAC), accusing Nanibush of “posting inflammatory, inaccurate rants against Israel.” In a comment to Hyperallergic, a spokesperson for AGO called Nanibush’s departure a “mutual decision.”

German institutions have been particularly aggressive in canceling events and exhibitions featuring cultural workers who criticize Israel and/or stand up for Palestinians. For example, the Museum Folkwang in Essen canceled an exhibition by Anaïs Duplan, after the trans Haitian American writer and artist expressed support for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) on social media. The museum stated that it was “solely because the curator personally takes sides with the BDS campaign, which questions Israel’s right to exist.” In response to Germany’s severe climate of censorship, an Instagram account called Archive of Silence has been crowdsourcing and compiling cases of repression of pro-Palestinian speech in the country, and more than 4,000 people have signed onto “Strike Germany,” a boycott of German cultural institutions.

Violent Repression