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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Killing the Eyewitness: Israel’s War on Journalists in Palestine and Southern Lebanon

Thursday , 22 February 2024

The Israeli war on Gaza stands out as the deadliest conflict for journalists, recording a staggering number of assaults on the press within a remarkably short timeframe. According to the Samir Kassir Foundation’s SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, the Israeli army has killed no less than 136 journalists and photojournalists, with hundreds more sustaining injuries. Beyond fatalities, Israeli airstrikes demolished the homes of journalists, often targeting their families, while others were left trapped under rubble for days. The densely populated nature of Gaza further exacerbated the challenge of finding safe havens for civilians and journalists alike.

Amid this chaos, some injured journalists managed to receive medical treatment, but others are facing insurmountable barriers accessing care due to overwhelmed hospitals and medical staff unable to perform necessary procedures. Tragically, this delay cost lives as some waited in vain for evacuation from Gaza.

Over 1,200 journalists were forced out from their homes, seeking refuge in hospitals and shelters in southern Gaza, particularly in Rafah. This mass displacement has resulted in a near blackout of information from Gaza City and the northern areas of the strip.

In addition to fatalities and displacements, the Israeli army detained numerous journalists, subjecting them to various forms of abuse, torture, and humiliation. Furthermore, two journalists experienced forced disappearance, with Israeli authorities refusing to disclose their whereabouts.

Israeli restrictions on journalistic activities extended beyond detentions to target media institutions, resulting in the complete or partial destruction of over 60 local and foreign media institutions. Some journalists faced direct threats from the Israeli army if they did not cease their work, often followed by targeted airstrikes on their residences.

Moreover, journalists have been encountering significant obstacles in their work due to fuel shortages, power outages, and disruptions in communication and internet services, exacerbating the news blackout. This deliberate attack on reporting not only hindered the acquisition of crucial information and evidence concerning human rights violations and war crimes perpetrated against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, but also created fertile ground for dangerous propaganda, disinformation, and misinformation.

Israeli attacks against Palestinian journalists extended beyond Gaza to the West Bank and Israel as well, where journalists faced increased intimidation, harassment, and violence while covering Israeli operations.

Israel’s efforts to suppress Palestinian journalists have intensified amid its war on Gaza. The Israeli army’s crackdown on journalists saw a notable increase in arbitrary arrests, with over 30 Palestinian media professionals detained since October 7, many without formal charge. Some remain held in undisclosed locations within Israel. These arrests occurred during targeted raids on journalists’ homes in the West Bank and during coverage on the ground. Notably, not all obstacles faced by Palestinian journalists originated from Israeli authorities or settlers; in a striking incident, a group of Israeli reporters ambushed one Palestinian journalist.

As the war escalated in Gaza, Hezbollah and the Israeli army engaged in daily exchanges of fire along the Lebanese southern border, with several Israeli strikes intentionally targeting journalists, resulting in the killing of three Lebanese photographers and reporters, and leaving dozens injured. The Israeli crimes reveal a dangerous safety-related knowledge gap and underscore the urgent need to enhance journalist safety through specialized training programs covering medical, digital security, psychological, and legal aspects.

Recognizing this imperative, the Samir Kassir Foundation, in partnership with ACOS Alliance, Rory Peck Trust, Maharat Foundation, and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, committed to providing safety training for journalists for the sixth consecutive year. This comprehensive course aims to equip journalists with the necessary skills to navigate safety challenges in conflict and dangerous zones effectively.

Moreover, the Samir Kassir Foundation translated a comprehensive university curriculum on journalist safety. This curriculum, originally prepared by the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation and Marquette University in the United States, was adapted by SKF to the Lebanese and broader Arab context. SKF advocated the integration of the curriculum in Lebanese universities, with a specific focus on journalism and communications departments. The initiative aims to familiarize students with professional standards in media work, encompassing various facets of journalism safety, covering newsroom protocols, physical and digital security, and emotional well-being. Through this curriculum, students will be better prepared to operate in challenging settings, including armed conflicts, natural disasters, health crises, and other volatile scenarios.

In conclusion, the plight of journalists in conflict zones, particularly in the Israeli war on Gaza, underscores the critical need for enhanced safety measures and protections. The relentless targeting and suppression of Palestinian journalists by the Israeli authorities not only obstruct the flow of information but also violate fundamental human rights. As we acknowledge the sacrifices made by journalists in pursuit of truth, it becomes imperative for the international community to stand in solidarity, advocate for their safety, and work towards ensuring that journalists can carry out their vital role without fear of persecution or harm. Only through collective action and unwavering commitment to press freedom can we pave the way for a more just and informed world.

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