Journalists in the Gaza Strip: Under the most difficult conditions

As of: February 1, 2024 3:43 p.m

Currently only Palestinian journalists report from the Gaza Strip. They live and work at great risk – and yet they can “only tell half the story,” as not only one of them complains.

The war in the Gaza Strip has already claimed many victims – and many journalists are also among the dead. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has counted 85 journalists killed in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war, including 78 Palestinians. The figures from Palestinian sources are even higher.

For Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East coordinator, the Gaza Strip is the most dangerous and deadly environment for journalists in the past 30 years: The number of journalists killed in the Middle East war exceeds all conflicts since CPJ began its surveys in 1992 .

Currently, only Palestinian journalists are working on site in the Gaza Strip. They live and work at great risk and under very precarious conditions. Your work is life-threatening.

Nizar Zadawi, for example, is a reporter for the English-language Turkish television channel TRT World. He is currently living in a tent in the far south of the Gaza Strip in Rafah, along with other journalists. He has already lost many colleagues in the last few weeks of the war.

When asked whether he feels threatened by the terrorist organization Hamas, Zadawi reacts cautiously – but he says that journalists can be targeted in this war and are exposed to real dangers. Because journalists move around the Gaza Strip a lot, they could be killed in attacks: “Our job is twice as dangerous,” he says.

Reporting under increased danger: Nizar Zadawi

Targeted killings so far undocumented

It has not yet been proven that journalists are being deliberately killed in the Gaza Strip. On January 7th, for example, Hamza Al Dahdou and Mustafa Thuraya’s car was shot at by an Israeli drone, and both journalists died. According to Israeli sources, a third person who was injured was piloting a drone from their vehicle. The Israeli Defense Forces described them as a “threat to soldiers.”

According to other information, the third man was also a journalist, which means that it was a matter of journalistic filming with the aim of documenting the destruction caused by an Israeli air strike northeast of the city of Rafah – in an area that was actually designated as a protection zone for the civilian population. Cases like these illustrate how risky the work of journalists in the Gaza Strip currently is; the deaths of journalists are apparently always accepted as collateral damage.

Reports about Hamas proximity from reporters

There have been repeated reports about the proximity of some journalists to Hamas, and in a few cases this proximity has been proven. However, the claim, which is still being spread, that journalists were informed in advance of the attack on Israel by Hamas and other terrorist organizations remains unsubstantiated.

However, these reports led to statements from Israel underscoring the dangers faced by journalists in the Gaza Strip: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said journalists were “accomplices in crimes against humanity.” War Cabinet member Benny Gantz said that if there were journalists “who knew about the massacre, photographed it and stood idly by as children were slaughtered, they are no different from terrorists and should be treated as such.”

Danny Danon, a lawmaker from the ruling Likud party and Israel’s former UN ambassador, said: “Photojournalists who took part in filming the October 7 massacres are legitimate war targets.” According to journalist organizations, these reports also aimed to generally discredit and complicate the reporting of Palestinian journalists from the Gaza Strip.

Complains about the restrictions on freedom of the press: Anat Saragusti

“We only tell half the story”

Anat Saragusti from the Israeli Journalists Union currently sees major problems overall when it comes to reporting from the Gaza Strip. Foreign journalists currently only come to the Gaza Strip with the Israeli army – and see a distorted picture there. In parts of the Gaza Strip there is a threat from Hamas, but there is also no freedom of the press in the part of the Gaza Strip that is controlled by the Israeli army, says Saragusti. Because the army decides where and how long journalists can stay and who they talk to. In addition, all material created during these embedded operations is subject to military censorship.

International media, including from Germany, rely on images, interviews and assessments from Palestinian colleagues on site. Many of them have been working professionally for these media for a long time. But on the one hand, they put their lives at risk every day – and on the other hand, they cannot provide a complete picture of the situation in the Gaza Strip, says Hani Mahmoud, who has been reporting from Gaza for Al Jazeera for many years.

Describes the limited reporting options: Hani Mahmoud

“We are not in a position to report on everything. We cannot go to the north of Gaza City. There we cannot document the extent of the destruction, the number of people who are still under the rubble, those killed, missing, etc Trapped people,” he complains. “We’re only telling half the story right now, we’re telling what we see and experience every day. But half of the Gaza Strip is in total blackout and we’re unable to see what’s happening.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for better protection for journalists in the Gaza Strip – also in the sense of good reporting on what is happening there. And in the spirit of freedom of the press.

Jan-Christoph Kitzler, ARD Tel Aviv, tagesschau, February 1, 2024 5:27 a.m

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