The Israel-Hamas war is the deadliest conflict on record for journalists. The IDF offensive in Gaza killed 49 members of the media and caused the most cases of censorship and lack of access to information, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists, reports The Guardian.
Israel’s military offensive in Gaza has caused the deadliest month for journalists since records began more than three decades ago and created a news vacuum in the conflict-ridden territory, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said. ).
The body protecting reporters has recorded the deaths of 49 journalists since Hamas embarked on a series of bloody attacks in Israel on October 7, triggering a concerted Israeli response and a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
The committee had already labeled the first month after the Hamas attacks as the deadliest for journalists since 1992, before six more Palestinian journalists were killed in Gaza over the weekend.
Five journalists were killed on Saturday alone, the guild’s second deadliest day of the war, after the day of the Hamas attack, when six journalists lost their lives.
The death toll has risen steadily over a six-week period and compares with the 42 journalists killed worldwide in 2022, including 15 who died covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, widely considered a highly dangerous conflict for the media. mediate.
News blackout in Gaza due to journalists dying and censorship
CPJ says the death toll far exceeds the 30 journalists killed at the height of the Syrian civil war, previously considered the deadliest war zone for journalists in recent memory.
Now, the organization has launched an urgent call for Israel and its Western allies to reform the rules of engagement deployed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to prohibit the use of lethal force against journalists wearing press badges.
Sherif Mansour, the committee’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator, said the mounting death toll in the media, combined with successive cuts to internet and telephone networks and tightening censorship, had effectively imposed a blackout on information on Gaza. It has meant a lack of information for a desperate population that needs to know where to get food, fuel and clean water, he said.
“Reporting the conflict has become much more dangerous because of the exponential risk for local Palestinian journalists who are on the front lines and have no safe haven and no way out,” Mansour said. “The Israeli military has also refused to take any responsibility for the killings, telling international media organizations that they cannot guarantee the safety of the media or their employees.
“I said, especially after the military targeted the communications facilities, that we have reached a news blackout. We also have problems with censorship, attacks and arrests in the West Bank,” he emphasized.
Ninety percent of the journalists killed were Palestinian, with the exception of four Israeli reporters killed in Hamas attacks and one Lebanese citizen. Most of the Palestinians killed were freelancers and photojournalists.
“They are the most needed right now, but they are also the most vulnerable,” Mansour said.
Nine other journalists were injured and three others are missing. Thirteen were arrested as part of what is described as an Israeli “censorship regime” introduced under emergency legislation, which makes it an offense to affect “national morals” or “national security”.
It’s unclear how many of the journalists who died were covering the conflict, but CPJ is investigating each case to see if the reporters died while trying to do their jobs, Mansour added.
Call for Israel to protect journalists
The grim number prompted the committee to renew calls originally made before the outbreak of the latest hostilities for Israel to reform its employment rules so that clearly identified journalists are protected.
“Last May, I said the IDF must change its rules of engagement to stop the use of lethal force against journalists and media organizations,” said Mansour, who cited an earlier CPJ report, “Deadly Pattern,” which said that 13 out of 20 journalists killed in Gaza before the current war were wearing press badges at the time.
“I have not seen any indication that this has been done. Therefore, this time, we also asked Israel’s allies, including the United States, Britain and other European countries, to pressure the Israelis to stop any use of lethal force against journalists.”
The call for safeguards follows claims this month by an Israeli media advocacy group, HonestReporting, that some international media outlets knew in advance of the October 7 Hamas attack, citing the publication of photographs taken by local journalists which shows the group entering Israeli territory.
HonestReporting later withdrew the allegations in the face of denials from media organizations, but not before the office of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, issued a statement calling the journalists who took the photos complicit in “crimes against humanity.” Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, said they should be treated as terrorists and hunted down.
Days after the report, the home of Yasser Qudih, a freelance photographer who provided Reuters with images of the Hamas attack, was hit by four rockets. Qudih survived the attack, but eight members of his family were killed. It is still unclear whether Israel launched the attack.
Mansour called HonestReporting’s claim a “smear campaign” that endangered the lives of Palestinian journalists and said it was consistent with previous “false narratives” that suggested Palestinian reporters were involved in terrorist activities.
“It doesn’t take hours or a genius in Gaza to know about Israeli army operations or Hamas operations,” he said. “You’re talking about a piece of land 32 kilometers long that is 9.65 kilometers wide. There are so many ways journalists could be on the ground – you don’t need inside sources to figure out where something is happening,” added Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator. .
Editor : M.I.