Violent Repression

While media workers around the world face retaliation for criticizing the Israeli and U.S. governments and speaking out in support of Palestine, most foreign journalists have not been allowed to enter Gaza. Israel refuses to allow outside press into Gaza unless they embed within the Israeli army, further isolating the media in Gaza from the international community. More than 50 senior broadcast journalists from outlets including CNN, BBC, Sky News, Channel 4, and others signed an open letter in February 2024, asking the Israeli and Egyptian governments to ensure “free and unfettered access” for foreign press.

Notably, companies outside of the Middle East have also prevented much-needed aid from reaching Palestinian journalists, who are the world’s main eyes on the war. For example, GoFundMe shut down a fundraiser held to benefit the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

As this report goes live, at least 102 Palestinian, four Israeli, and three Lebanese media workers have been killed since the conflict began on October 7, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). As of February 2024, the number of journalists killed per week by Israeli attacks far exceeds any other war in the last two decades, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists. In addition to the staggering number of Palestinian journalists killed while reporting, there are numerous reports of journalists being assaulted, arrested, and threatened. The repression and assaults are not limited to Gaza: Over 60 journalists in the West Bank have been detained by Israeli forces since October 7, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society.

Many Palestinian journalists continue to do their work even as they bury their family members and colleagues. They have been performing their jobs with rigor and professionalism under immense duress—in constant fear of death or injury and with limited access to food, shelter, and basic protective equipment like helmets and safety vests.

We are going to proceed as long as we are alive and breathing, as long as we are able to do this duty and deliver this message.
—Wael al-Dahdouh

Many Palestinian journalists fear that their reporting makes them and their families targets for physical harm. It is easy to see why. In October, Wael al-Dahdouh, Gaza Bureau Chief for Al Jazeera, lost his wife, son, daughter, and grandson when an Israeli missile struck their house. Undaunted, he continued reporting in Gaza until a December bombing killed his cameraperson, Samer Abudaqa, and left Al-Dahdouh seriously injured. Compounding Al-Dahdouh’s suffering was news that his oldest son, Hamza, who was also a journalist, died in an Israeli airstrike on January 7. Even after Al-Dahdouh’s injuries forced him to seek medical treatment in Qatar, he vowed to continue reporting. “We are going to proceed as long as we are alive and breathing,” Al-Dahdouh told NBC News. “As long as we are able to do this duty and deliver this message.”

In recent months, news and rights’ groups have dug into some of these incidents. A U.N. investigation was the latest among many recent reviews of an October 13 incident in which Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah was killed and several others were injured, concluding that Israeli tanks fired twice at a group of “clearly identifiable journalists,” in violation of international law. A recent Washington Post investigation also raised serious doubts about the Israeli government’s justification behind the targeted strike in January that killed Al-Dahdouh’s eldest son and two other journalists in Khan Younis.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate filed an amicus brief in a legal case accusing President Biden and other officials of failing to prevent and “knowingly continuing to provide assistance” to the Israeli government’s “unfolding genocide,” in violation of both federal and international law. The group reported that between October 7 and December 19, 84 journalists killed in Gaza were targets of “surgical” air strikes or sniper fire, meaning that either their homes or reporting locations were directly targeted. In at least three cases documented by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Israel sent journalists death threats the day before they were killed in surgical strikes. Targeting journalists is a crime against humanity under international humanitarian law.

The rate at which journalists have been killed in Gaza is staggering, but the killing of Palestinian journalists with impunity is not new. Against the backdrop of its long-standing military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, known altogether as the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Israeli state has killed at least 20 reporters in the two decades before October 7. The most high-profile incident occurred in 2022, when lauded Palestinian American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by a bullet during an Israeli West Bank raid, despite wearing a helmet and vest clearly marked PRESS. It took independent investigations from international press outlets to pressure the Israeli government to make a rare public admission that there was a “high possibility” that a member of the Israeli army fired the lethal round that slayed Abu Akleh. The U.S. government, meanwhile, did not indict Akleh’s killers or hold its Israeli allies accountable in any way for the death of one of its own citizens.

We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the region, who continue to document the truth under the imminent risk of death and amid unimaginable suffering.