NEW YORK: The Associated Press (AP) has fired a young female journalist for violating the company’s social media policies, a development that caused an outcry in the journalism community after it became clear that the journalist had been targeted at her pro-Palestinian stance on social media.
Emily Wilder, 22, had started at the AP on May 3 as a news associate for the Western US, based in Phoenix. Just over two weeks later, On Wednesday the agency informed her that she was being terminated for violations of its social media policy that took place after she became an employee.
AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton would not say what Wilder had written that violated the policy. Wilder said she wasn’t given specifics.
However, her Twitter feed since joining the AP contains a few retweets that appear sympathetic to Palestinians in the current Gaza conflict, including a video clip of demonstrators chanting, “Free, free Palestine!”
Earlier, she tweeted: “‘Objectivity’ feels fickle when the basic terms we use to report news implicitly take a claim. Using ‘Israel’ but never ‘Palestine,’ or ‘war’ but not ‘siege and occupation’ are political choices – yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased.”
“objectivity” feels fickle when the basic terms we use to report news implicitly stake a claim. using “israel” but never “palestine,” or “war” but not “siege and occupation” are political choices—yet media make those exact choices all the time without being flagged as biased
— emily wilder (@vv1lder) May 16, 2021
AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said AP prohibits employees from openly expressing their opinions on political matters and other public issues for fear that could damage the news organization’s reputation for objectivity and jeopardize its many reporters around the world.
“We have this policy so the comments of one person cannot create dangerous conditions for our journalists covering the story,” Easton added.
The spokeswoman said, “Every AP journalist is responsible for safeguarding our ability to report on this conflict, or any other, with fairness and credibility, and cannot take sides in public forums.”
During an interview, Wilder said that she had received social media training from the AP and had taken it seriously. She said she had even taken down a reference to supporting Black Lives Matter from her Twitter profile.
“Because I have an opinion about an issue that is deeply political and personal doesn’t mean that I am incapable of fact-based, contextual and fair journalism,” she said. She also said: “There’s no question that this was all precipitated by an onslaught of harassment against me.”
Two days before her firing, a Twitter post from Stanford Republicans had criticised Wilder, who is Jewish, as an “anti-Israel agitator” while on campus. They posted a 2019 article she had written in the college newspaper referring to conservative media figure Ben Shapiro as “a little turd.” Shapiro has been fiercely critical of the Palestinians.
The News Media Guild, the union that formally represents the Associated Press’s editorial staff, stated that it was investigating Wilder’s firing, adding that “The Guild asked if the comments that caused [Wilder’s] termination were posted before or after her hiring and awaits a response”.
The union investigates every termination to ensure employee rights are protected. It has contacted Wilder for details. The union should be in a better position to respond tomorrow. (4/4)
— News Media Guild (@NewsMediaGuild) May 21, 2021