The story behind NDTV’s rocket launch footage

Uriel Heilman

New Delhi TV reporter Sreenivasan Jain showing Hamas fighters in Gaza preparing to launch a rocket toward Israel, Aug. 4, 2014. (NDTV)

New Delhi TV reporter Sreenivasan Jain showing Hamas fighters in Gaza preparing to launch a rocket toward Israel, Aug. 4, 2014. (NDTV)

Two days after NDTV’s report showing Hamas fighters in Gaza preparing and then launching a rocket aimed at Israel in Gaza, reporter Sreenivasan Jain tells the backstory of the video heard ’round the world. (The video went viral and was even featured at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.)

Jain gives a pretty full accounting of what took place, what his concerns were about airing the footage and why New Delhi TV ultimately decided to air it.

For us to have filmed how a rocket was assembled next to us, on a site used twice to launch a rocket, endangering the lives of all those around us on two occasions -to not have reported it would have been simply wrong. But we did take precautions – we aired the report a good five hours after the rocket was launched, well into the ceasefire. By then it was clear that Israel was not responding, at least for the period of the ceasefire. (Incidentally, given Israel’s extensive surveillance of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip it hardly seems they would need the media to point out to them where rockets are fired from.)


There was the question of possible reprisal by Hamas; to this one, there are no easy answers other than to ask: how long do we self-censor because of the fear of personal safety in return for not telling a story that exposes how those launching rockets are putting so many more lives at risk, while the rocket-makers themselves are at a safe distance? More so when we have rare, first hand proof of how it works?

(Read more.)

The most remarkable thing about this whole episode is that this kind of report was so rare and extraordinary.

In a war in which Hamas fired more than 3,200 rockets at Israel over the course of four weeks, you’d think there would be more than just a pair of videos taken in the war’s final hours showing Hamas fighters attacking Israel. But there weren’t.

The Israel Defense Forces offered footage showing Hamas fire and rocket launches, but there were plenty of news outlets — particularly newspapers — that chose not to show them.

How is it that with so many hundreds of news outlets reporting on the fighting between Israel and Hamas, so few put Hamas’ belligerence on display?

Uriel Heilman is JTA’s senior writer and former managing editor. Follow him on Twitter at @urielheilman