Gaza and Israel: Journalists are not a target

Gaza and Israel: Journalists are not a target - Protection

On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, ARTICLE 19 stands in solidarity with journalists and media houses covering the ongoing conflict in Gaza and Israel. We condemn in the strongest terms the killings, attacks and threats against journalists, which continue to mount as the crisis escalates, and call for an investigation into those attacks. 

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, as of today, at least 33 journalists have been killed since the start of the crisis, 8 journalists were reported injured, and 9 were reported missing or detained. During the Second Intifada, when more than 4,300 people died over more than 4 years of fighting, CPJ documented the deaths of 13 journalists

Family members of journalists continue to be attacked, threatened, and killed. On 25 October, an Israeli air strike killed the wife and 2 children of Wael Al-Dahdouh, Al-Jazeera’s Bureau Chief in Gaza City. The family of another Al-Jazeera reporter, Youmna ElSayed, has received calls claiming to come from Israeli authorities warning them to leave their home as bombardment intensifies. 

The work of journalists is essential during times of armed conflict. Timely reporting helps ensure respect for international human rights and humanitarian law and prevent further violations, and is critical for gathering evidence and providing accountability for international crimes and human rights atrocities. For those caught up in the crossfire, the information journalists provide can be as life-saving as humanitarian relief. 

Under international humanitarian law, journalists are considered civilians and cannot be military targets. ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned about the recent investigation by Reporters sans Frontieres that suggests the bomb strikes that killed the Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and injured several others on 13 October 2023 in Lebanon were not accidental but rather deliberately targeted the group, who were clearly marked as ‘Press’. 

The Israeli Defence Force has since informed Reuters, Agence France-Presse and other outlets that it cannot guarantee the safety of their journalists in the Gaza Strip. 

Journalists are first and foremost human beings and civilians which must be protected during this conflict. The safety of journalists is also vital to ensuring the continued flow of information – essential in times of conflict. ARTICLE 19 calls on all warring parties to do more to uphold their obligation to protect journalists and all media professionals, to not target them under any circumstances and to put in place measures to prevent attacks against them. 

All attacks against journalists in the context of the conflict must be independently investigated, including by the International Criminal Court and the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel. 

Quinn McKew, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, said: 

‘At times of conflict, journalists’ role becomes a life-saving one. In Gaza and the surrounding region every day journalists are putting themselves under unimaginable risk. They continue to pay a heavy price, with many having lost their families, friends and colleagues – and yet, they bravely continue in their mission to inform the world about the realities of the ongoing crisis. Much more must be done to protect them. 

‘Around the world, impunity for crimes against journalists continues to be the norm and justice remains the exception. As we continue to be reminded of the vital role played by journalists,  we continue to call on states to conduct effective investigations into all crimes against journalists, including those covering armed conflict. We have witnessed time and again that impunity today leads directly to more killing tomorrow. It also silences critical reporting. If journalists are not protected and able to do their work safely, everyone’s right to free expression and the right to know is under attack.’

On 31 October 2023, members of the French media called on the Israeli authorities to expand access granted to international journalists to the Gaza strip. Since the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel 16 years ago, journalists are not allowed to enter the territory without authorisation from Israel. 

With the fighting intensifying and misinformation proliferating, the world needs more on the ground reporting from the centre of the conflict. As French media workers said in their statement ‘we need to work in security to report on what is happening in Gaza […] let us enter the Gaza Strip so that we can do our job.’