Daniel Wickham made recent headlines for contrasting the presence of 21 world leaders at Sunday’s march in Paris with their actual commitments to a free press. He kicked off the litany as follows —
— and then proceeded to finger attendees alongside their crimes against the press, like so:
. . .
Although these state actions are certainly worthy of opprobrium, and citizens around the world should absolutely demand their governments refrain from such measures, they do not rival the massacre of journalists in Paris. After all, murder is just about the worst. That said, I read through Wickham’s entire list, and could not help but notice that although the overwhelming majority of incidents he cites involve clear examples of the deliberate targeting of journalists, there is one glaring exception to that rule:
It is certainly true that seven journalists died in Gaza during 2014, many of them killed by the IDF. Their deaths are absolutely regrettable, and a tragedy, and hopefully nobody else will be killed in Gaza ever again. However, in the context of free speech, Wickham’s citation of these deaths gives the mistaken impression that Israel not only killed journalists but did so as part of a deliberate effort to silence them. And a cursory examination of the list Wickham provided demonstrates this is simply not what transpired.
I’ll begin with the four easiest cases, which appear on the website of the Committee to Protect Journalists. CPJ helpfully classifies each death: “The categories are: crossfire/combat (a killing on a battlefield or in a military context); dangerous assignment (deaths while covering a demonstration, riot, clashes between rival groups, and mob situations); and murder (the targeted killing of a journalist, whether premeditated or spontaneous, in direct relation to the journalist’s work).” All four journalists listed by the CPJ — Khalid Hamad, Sameh Al-Aryan, Rami Riyan, and Simone Camilli — were determined to have been killed in crossfire/combat. Camilli was, in fact, killed ten days after the end of the conflict, while documenting the efforts of a Hamas bomb squad to defuse leftover ordinance. (This is why I wrote “many of them killed by the IDF” above.)
As for the other three: Hamada Khaled Makat was killed outside his home while covering air strikes. Mohammed Nour Eddine Al-Dairi was killed in the same bombardment of Shejaiya that killed two of the journalists listed by the CPJ. Finally, Abdallah Nasr Fahjan appears to have been killed following the attempted abduction of Hadar Goldin and the subsequent Hannibal Directive.
Let me clear: all these deaths — and all others that occurred this summer — are tragic. But they hardly appear to represent a concerted effort to stifle freedom of speech on the part of Bibi. Had Wickham wished to provide such examples, he is certainly capable of having done so — as demonstrated by his belated decision to do so, albeit in a considerably lower-profile tweet:
That tweet doesn’t make up for the fact that for the main attraction, Wickham went with the one misleading statistic calculated to portray Bibi in the least-flattering light possible. The ability to cherrypick which abuses to document for each world leader is just one problem with Wickham’s decision to primarily employ anecdote as a barometer of a country’s abuse of free speech.* So my two cents on whether Bibi belongs on this list: Sure, but for different reasons.
Given Wickham’s choice to portray him like a Kouachi brother, it’s no real surprise that Netanyahu garnered the most retweets — his was the only one to exceed 6,000 as of the time of this writing. Of course, most of those 6,000 probably dislike Bibi already, for many other and equally valid reasons. They should stick with those; they certainly don’t need Wickham to make up new ones for them.
*Personally, I strongly prefer this approach, which used more comprehensive criteria.