February 20, 2024

The Silencing of Palestinian Journalists

The lives of many Gazan reporters and media journalists continue to be at risk of Israel’s bombardments. Despite continued threats of censorship, many have taken to social media to illustrate the reality Gazans face. Independent freelance journalists and photographers have prevailed as a beacon of light, both to Palestinians living in Gaza and those living in the diaspora abroad.

GAZA CITY, GAZA - OCTOBER 10: (EDITOR'S NOTE: Image depicts death) Friends and relatives mourn the bodies of Palestinian journalists Muhammad Sobh and Saeed Al-Taweel, who were killed during their work by Israeli air strikes on October 10, 2023 in Gaza City, Gaza. Hundreds have died in Gaza after Israel launched sustained retaliatory air strikes following Saturday's attack by Hamas. Image Credit: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

On Oct. 7, 2023, Israel declared war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and has bombarded Palestinian homes, medical and educational institutions, and markets for the past 63 days. For 63 days, Palestinians have mourned the loss of their loved ones—a figure that continues rising, with more than 17,500 civilians killed as of Dec. 9. This number is expected to increase as Gazan medical facilities deteriorate due to the lack of electricity and inaccessibility of medical equipment in the besieged region. 

At least 63 journalists and media workers are among the 17,500 killed since Oct. 7. Journalists have been put at risk in the field when attempting to document the war. Israel’s government has continuously targeted journalists, striking their homes and workplaces and consequently violating international humanitarian law. Journalists are granted protection equivalent to civilians under Article 79 of the Third Geneva Convention, a treaty affording rights and protection to non-combatants in the midst of war. 

Threats of violence have heightened the fears of journalists, who attempt to cover atrocities committed against the Palestinian people. On Oct. 25, Al Jazeera’s Bureau Chief, Wael Dahdouh, received news of an Israeli air raid that killed his wife, son, daughter, and grandson while he was reporting on another air strike that had bombarded in the northern part of the Gaza Strip-the Jabalia refugee camp in Northern Gaza. Journalists in Occupied Palestine must choose between protecting themselves and their families from additional attacks or stepping forward to broadcast deteriorating conditions to the rest of the world. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) released a public statement stating that they could not guarantee the safety of journalists in Gaza because “Hamas deliberately put military operations in the vicinity of journalists and civilians.” However, little evidence has been found to attest to the IDF’s claims.

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Al-Jazeera correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh mourns over the body of one of his children who was killed along with his wife and son in an Israeli strike in the Nuseirat camp, at Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir Al-Balah on the southern Gaza Strip, on Ocober 25, 2023. Thousands of civilians, both Palestinians and Israelis, have died since October 7, 2023, after Palestinian Hamas militants based in the Gaza Strip entered southern Israel in an unprecedented attack triggering a war declared by Israel on Hamas with retaliatory bombings on Gaza. Image Credit: Majdi FATHI / AFP (Photo by MAJDI FATHI/AFP via Getty Images)

While covering the war, Palestinian journalists have faced threats on multiple fronts as Israel continues its siege of Gaza. For the majority of the population, Gazans have been forced to flee from the northern part of the strip to the south, toward the Egyptian border. Thousands fled on foot without access to basic resources like water and fuel. The chances of civilians falling victim to dehydration and starvation have thus increased. 

Besides the dangers accompanying exposure to the elements, there is the ongoing peril of the bombings themselves. Independent journalist Hind Khoudary wrote about her journey fleeing south. “The people behind [her]were bombed” fifteen minutes after Khoudary had arrived in the south. Reports revealed that evacuation using the recommended “safe route” resulted in the killings of innocent Palestinians. She writes that the IDF targeted civilians with snipers as they walked down the route. Those who managed to arrive in the south successfully have been subjected to continued bombings. The map below shows the reality that more than 3,600 people were killed in areas where Israel had assured civilians were safe to seek refuge.  

Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel – reported impact | Day 40. Reported by MOH Gaza. Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Days before the extended truce, war coverage throughout the Gaza Strip had grown scarce due to a lack of internet connection. Telecommunication companies ran out of fuel. Deliveries into the besieged territory were restricted at the start of the war. Due to the media blackout in Gaza, Israeli news presents the crisis from a one-sided angle, which notably omits the voices of the Palestinian people. In fact, outside journalists have been restricted from entering Gaza since Oct. 7, which has sparked questions about the intent behind Israel’s military agenda. Is the claim of Israel’s right to self-defense the reason behind the 17,500 civilian deaths in Gaza since Oct. 7? Or is it indicative of a larger pattern of deliberately silencing journalists, and preventing the Western world from acknowledging the ongoing Palestinian genocide?

Israel’s creation of an atmosphere too hostile and dangerous for many to report within is in itself a means of silencing journalists. If journalists cannot safely report on the conditions of war, there is little opportunity to hold governments accountable for their actions. In the case of Israel, a lack of accountability—such as from foreign powers—means that crimes and acts of violence against the Palestinian people will continue to go unchecked. 

The removal and displacement of the Palestinian people have persisted since Israel’s inception in 1948. Israel’s attempts to establish legitimacy in the region have resulted in an unrelenting effort to erase the Palestinian people and identity on the magnitude of genocide. There have been numerous attempts by organizations, such as the United Nations, to recognize the genocide and hold Israel accountable, beginning long before Oct. 7. Gaza has been deemed an “open-air prison” with a population of 2.2 million Palestinians living under a 56-year military occupation. The ongoing air, sea, and land blockade in Gaza has forcibly restricted civilians to attain a normal life – as Israel continues their campaign to erase the Palestinian identity. 

While all eyes are on Gaza, we must also acknowledge the increased silencing of Palestinians living in the diaspora. Numerous media journalists either have lost their jobs or faced suspension due to voicing their pro-Palestine opinions. New tactics have been employed to silence journalists from sharing their opinions on social media. This does not come as a surprise to pro-Palestinian voices and activists, who are all too familiar with fear-mongering tactics used to censor the Palestinian cause, such as blacklisting initiatives like the Canary Mission. Supporters of Palestinian liberation have also accused the social media platform Instagram of shadowbanning accounts. Meta has since taken down some Instagram stories mentioning Palestine under the guise of upholding community guidelines and rules. This amounts to a form of censorship against the Palestinian resistance movement. 

Alongside Gaza, Palestinians living in the West Bank have felt high tensions perpetuated by the Israeli government. Living in an occupied territory, Palestinians have witnessed an increase in overnight raids and arrests made in the areas of Hebron, Jenin, and Nablus. Furthermore, Israel has begun to crack down on censoring Palestinian voices within the country—from radio broadcasts to social media platforms. In Hebron, the headquarters of “Dream Radio” were prevented from broadcasting by the Israeli occupation forces. To continue silencing radio broadcasters, Israel threatened to storm and destroy headquarters if stations did not comply.  

The lives of many Gazan reporters and media journalists continue to be at risk of Israel’s bombardments. Despite continued threats of censorship, many have taken to social media to illustrate the reality Gazans face. Independent freelance journalists and photographers have prevailed as a beacon of light, both to Palestinians living in Gaza and those living in the diaspora abroad. Their reports deliver an uncensored view of the chaos unfolding in Gaza, allowing for the reassurance of the Palestinian people that their strife will not go unacknowledged. 

But they also work to showcase that life can and does exist in Gaza. Life does not revolve around death. The resilience and strength of the Palestinian people continue to prevail in times of unthinkable horror and humanize a group that Western media have so strongly condemned. 

In times of devastation, watching the events unfold through our screens serves as a call to action to propel liberation from a diasporic lens, participating in protests creates a sense of urgency in the West, putting more pressure on governmental powers capable of causing change and condemning the atrocities committed by Israel. 

Motaz Azaiza, Plestia Alaqad, Saleh Aljafarawi, and Ahmed Hijazee are some of the brave journalists who share their stories and perspectives about the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. Without their efforts to report on the unfolding genocide, little would be known of the current reality of Palestinian life in Gaza. However, journalists can only do so much without risking the safety of themselves and their loved ones. If there is any hope for Palestinians in Gaza to spread their message to the outside world, the safety of journalists must be ensured. 

Say their names; they are not numbers. 

Ibrahim Mohammad Lafi

Mohammad Jarghoun

Mohammad Al-Salhi

Assaad Shamiakh

Hisham Alnwajha 

Mohammed Sobh

Saeed Al-Taweel

Mohamed Fayez Abu Matar

Ahed Shehab

Issam Abdallah

Husam Mubarak 

Salam Mema

Yousef Maher Dawas

Abdulhadi Habib

Issam Bhar

Mohammad Balousha

Sameeh Al-Nady

Khalil Abu Aathra 

Mohammed Ali

Roshdi Sarraj

Mohammed Imad Labad

Salmas Mkhaimer

Ahmed Abu Mahdi 

Saed Al-Halabi

Duaa Sharaf

Yasser Abu Namous

Nazmi Al-Nadim

Majed Kashko

Imad Al-Wahidi

Iyad Matar

Majd Fadl Arandas

Mohammed Abu Hatab

Mohamed Al Jaja

Mohamed Abu Hassira

Yahya Abu Manih

Ahmed Al-Qara

Yacoub Al-Barsh

Ahmed Fatima

Mossab AShour

Amro Salah Abu Hayah

Mostafa El Sawaf

Hassouneh Salim

Sari Mansour 

Abdelhamid Awad

Bilal Jadallah

Alaa Taher Al-Hassanat 

Ayat Khadoura

Rabih Al-Maamari 

Farah Omar

Mohamed Nabil Al-Zaq

Mohamed Mouin Ayyash 

Mostafa Bakeer

Adham Hassouna

Montaser Al-Sawaf

Abdullah Darwish

Shaima El-Gazzar

Hassan Farajallah
These are the journalists who have been killed by Israel’s attacks on Gaza since October 7, 2023.

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