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The Tragic Death of Palestinian Journalists

World Press Freedom Day 2024


Over 120 journalists have lost their lives in Gaza since 7 October. Credit: Unsplash/Engin Akyurt

NEW YORK, May 1 2024 (IPS) - It is only fitting, against the backdrop of World Press Freedom Day, to recount the horror being inflicted on journalists and reporters around the world, which is increasing day by day. To tell the story of the mounting death of journalists in Gaza, it is essential to put into perspective the plight of journalists around the world.

The random imprisonment of journalists is rampant in many countries; more than 800 journalists have been incarcerated, and nearly 550 marked the beginning of 2024 from prison; hundreds have been killed, and countless others are harassed to prevent them from decimating information deemed unfavorable to their respective governments.

More than half of these journalists are detained in just four countries – China, Myanmar, Belarus, and Vietnam. Other than these four countries, others do not lag much behind, including Turkey, Russia, China, Afghanistan, and Mexico, which is one of the deadliest countries for journalists. In this regard, it is also important to point out the danger and death that journalists are facing in another war zone in Ukraine.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), since the start of the war in February 2022, Russian forces have reportedly killed 11 journalists and wounded at least 35; 12 others were detained, and two journalists are currently missing, while 233 media outlets were ordered to close down.

Regardless of how egregious these violations are against journalists, tragically, these statistics pale in comparison to what has and still is taking place in the Israel-Hamas in Gaza.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that 97 journalists and media workers were confirmed dead in Gaza: among them, a staggering 92 Palestinian journalists, which has by far exceeded the death toll of journalists in any other war zone in recent memory.

In comparison, only two Israelis and three Lebanese journalists were killed. Overall, according to CPJ, 16 journalists were reported injured, four are still missing, and 25 journalists were arrested. On top of that, there are routine assaults, threats and intimidation, cyberattacks, crippling censorship, and even the killing of family members to prevent journalists from doing their job.

The question is why such a disproportionate number of Palestinian journalists were killed in Gaza, and if there is anything that can be done to minimize this inexcusable death that transcends reason and even the horrific reality of a war that crossed the threshold of inhumanity. There are four reasons behind the astounding number of Palestinian journalists who were killed in particular.

First, many Palestinians who were embedded in civilian communities were killed by the initial Israeli bombing that leveled dozens of buildings, killing hundreds of civilians and, among them, many journalists.

Second, many journalists who were trying to report from the front line of the battles between Israel and Hamas were killed in the crossfire. Sadly, they threw caution to the wind and ended up paying with their lives.

Third, many other Palestinian journalists were killed as collateral damage for being in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

Finally, several journalists were deliberately targeted to prevent them from reporting on the scene. There is no definitive number of journalists in this category, as Israel vehemently denies the deliberate killing of Palestinian journalists.

Sadly, other than the need for Palestinian journalists to exercise extra caution, it is critically important to increase the pressure on both Israel and Hamas to take every precautionary measure to prevent journalists from being killed simply because they are dedicated to reporting on what they see and hear.

This is, of course, easier said than done. Nevertheless, RSF and CPJ should leave no stone unturned to expose the culprits behind this atrocious murder of journalists. The UN and the EU should also take every measure at their disposal to prevent the undue death of Palestinian journalists.

The freedom of the press is the heart and soul of any true democracy, and Western democracies must answer the call.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a retired professor of international relations, most recently at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. He taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

IPS UN Bureau


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