Over 119 Palestinian journalists killed since Gaza siege began

"The continuous targeting of journalists in Gaza is not just a tragedy for Palestine but a crisis for global press freedom."

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The tragic death of Wael Abu Fannouna, a Palestinian journalist and director of Al-Quds Today, in an Israeli airstrike has brought to light a grim reality. Fannouna’s death marks him as one of the more than 119 Palestinian reporters targeted and killed since the inception of Israel’s military siege of Gaza. Al-Quds Today publicly mourned the loss of Fannouna, terming it a “heinous Zionist targeting.” This incident underscores a larger pattern of violence against media personnel in the region, drawing attention from global journalist organizations.

The conflict in Gaza has seen an alarming rise in journalist fatalities. According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the region has experienced the death of more than one media worker per day since October 7. This statistic accounts for 72 percent of all media deaths worldwide, a staggering figure unmatched in any other conflict over the past 30 years. The IFJ’s press release highlights the unprecedented scale and pace of media professionals’ loss of life during the war in Gaza, labeling it as a situation without historical precedent. The majority of these victims are Palestinian journalists, who have fallen prey to indiscriminate bombing by the Israeli army. The IFJ’s call to international authorities to respect international law and end the massacre of journalists in Gaza underscores the critical situation faced by media professionals in the region.

Global reactions to the targeting of Palestinian journalists have been of deep concern and condemnation. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has been at the forefront, demanding Israel cease its targeting of Palestinian journalists. The CPJ has called for an impartial investigation into recent drone strikes that resulted in the deaths of freelance journalist Mustafa Thuraya and Al Jazeera reporter Hamza Al Dahdouh. The CPJ has expressed particular concern over an apparent pattern of targeting journalists and their families by the Israeli military. Their statement in December highlighted the need for accountability and the protection of media workers in conflict zones.

Beyond the media casualties, the conflict in Gaza has exacted a heavy toll on the civilian population. Since October 7, over 24,000 Palestinians, including more than 10,000 children, have been killed in airstrikes and ground operations by Israel. This staggering number represents over 1 percent of Gaza’s population. Statements from humanitarian organizations like Save the Children highlight the gravity of the situation. Jason Lee, the organization’s Country Director for Palestine, emphasized the monstrous nature of the situation in Gaza, deeming it a blight on common humanity. For every day without a ceasefire, an average of 100 children are killed, a fact that underscores the urgent need for peace.

The siege has left 85 percent of Gaza’s population internally displaced, grappling with regular telecommunications blackouts and shortages of food, water, and medicine due to Israel’s blockade. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that Israeli airstrikes have also injured 57,000 Palestinians and left 7,000 people missing, presumably under the rubble. Furthermore, Palestinians are experiencing the worst food shortage ever witnessed by the UN-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), with 570,000 people facing famine due to Israel’s starvation tactics. Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam America, has attributed the shocking figures of starvation in Gaza to Israel’s policy choices and President Biden’s diplomatic approach.

The pattern of targeting journalists in Gaza is seen as part of a broader campaign against Palestinian infrastructure. Advocates and UN officials suggest that these actions, including attacks on hospitals, agricultural sectors, cultural workers, and shelters, are part of a genocidal campaign to erase Palestine and Palestinians completely. Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on Palestine, in an interview with El Pais, expressed that the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure and the erasing of entire families, including doctors and journalists, should prompt high-level diplomatic, political, and economic measures.

The international legal community has responded to these events, with South Africa recently filing a case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel, alleging genocide in the Gaza Strip. This case has garnered support from a host of countries and organizations, including the Organization of Islamic Countries, Malaysia, Turkey, Jordan, Bolivia, The Maldives, Namibia, Pakistan, the Arab League, Colombia, and Brazil. Furthermore, Indonesia and Slovenia have joined proceedings in an ICJ case initiated by the UN General Assembly in 2022. This case requests an advisory opinion on Israel’s occupation of Palestine, marking a significant step in international legal efforts to address the situation in Gaza.

The plight of journalists in Gaza is part of a larger global trend of media worker endangerment. The IFJ’s annual count revealed that 94 journalists have been killed worldwide in 2023, with almost 400 others imprisoned. The number of deaths is a significant increase from the previous year, indicating a growing danger to journalists globally. The IFJ President Dominique Pradalié has called for a new global standard for the protection of journalists, emphasizing the urgent need for effective international enforcement. The situation in Gaza stands as a stark reminder of the risks faced by journalists in conflict zones around the world.

The need for better protection for journalists and accountability for their attackers is a global concern. The IFJ has highlighted the lack of action against crimes committed against media workers and has urged governments to ensure the safety of journalists. The organization noted a drop in the number of journalists killed in North and South America but emphasized the ongoing dangers in regions like China, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Turkey, and Russia. The current state of press freedom and safety remains a critical issue, necessitating concerted efforts from international communities to safeguard the rights and lives of journalists.

“The continuous targeting of journalists in Gaza is not just a tragedy for Palestine but a crisis for global press freedom,” asserts Dominique Pradalié, IFJ President. “It is imperative that the international community takes decisive action to ensure their safety and uphold the freedom of the press.”

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