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Probe highlights ‘attack on press freedom’ in Gaza war

“Today’s Gaza journalists have long known that their ‘press’ vests do not protect them,” he wrote..

Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Gaza, Wael Al-Dahdouh (C), during the funeral of his son Hamza Wael Dahdouh, a journalist who was killed in Rafah
Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Gaza, Wael Al-Dahdouh (C), during the funeral of his son Hamza Wael Dahdouh, a journalist who was killed in Rafah - Copyright AFP Eyad BABA
Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Gaza, Wael Al-Dahdouh (C), during the funeral of his son Hamza Wael Dahdouh, a journalist who was killed in Rafah - Copyright AFP Eyad BABA
Alice Hackman and Cecile Feuillatre

A collaborative investigation by international media outlets on Tuesday shed light on the circumstances behind more than 100 Palestinian journalists and media workers being killed in the Gaza war, some while wearing a press vest.

A consortium led by investigative outlet Forbidden Stories and involving around 50 journalists from 13 organisations including AFP, The Guardian and the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism group (ARIJ) took part in the four-month probe.

It looked into strikes involving journalists and media infrastructure since Israel launched a devastating offensive in the Gaza Strip in response to Palestinian militant group Hamas carrying out an unprecedented attack in Israel on October 7.

“More than 100 journalists and media workers have been killed,” Forbidden Stories’ Laurent Richard said in an editorial accompanying the Gaza Project’s publication.

“Today’s Gaza journalists have long known that their ‘press’ vests do not protect them,” he wrote.

“Worse still, the protective gear might further expose them.”

Carlos Martinez de la Serna, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, expressed shock at the toll.

“This is one of the most flagrant attacks on press freedom that I remember,” he told the investigation.

The Israeli military said it “does not intentionally harm journalists, and that journalists may have been harmed during air strikes or operational activities aimed at military targets”.

“Many of the cases mentioned in the report are actually cases of militants who were killed during military activity, but reported as journalists,” it added.

– ‘Supposed to identify and protect us’ –

The probe found that four journalists were allegedly killed or wounded by a drone while wearing a press vest.

Fourteen in total were killed, wounded or allegedly targeted while wearing their protective gear describing them as a member of the “press”.

At least 40 journalists and media workers were killed while at home in Gaza, it added.

“Whereas the press vest was supposed to identify and protect us according to international laws… it is now a threat to us,” said Basel Khair al-Din, a Palestinian journalist in Gaza who believes he was targeted by a drone strike while wearing a press vest.

ARIJ also surveyed 239 surviving journalists from June 6 to June 16. More than 200 had been displaced from their homes by the war, it found.

Seventy-two said they had lost family members. Of those, 11 reported their own children had been killed.

As part of the probe, AFP looked with other media into a strike on its Gaza bureau on November 2, after its staff had evacuated but while it was still broadcasting a livestream of the war from a camera on its balcony.

They found the strike to likely have been caused by an Israeli tank.

The Israeli military has said the bureau was not targeted but damage to it could have been caused by a “shock wave or shrapnel” from another attack.

AFP global news director Phil Chetwynd has called for a “very clear and transparent investigation” from the Israeli authorities into the incident.

– ‘Completely unacceptable’ –

He also said that more than 100 journalists and media workers having been killed in the Gaza Strip in such a short time was “completely unacceptable”.

“And the thing that worries me most is that it’s not causing a scandal. Around the world I don’t see the voices of the various governments complaining,” he added.

Hamas’ attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza although the army says 42 are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,626 people, also mostly civilians, the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza says.

Shuruq Asad, spokeswoman for the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate (PJS), said more than 70 media offices had been bombed since the start of the war and she too was taken aback by the lack of global outrage.

“I don’t think this would be the reaction of the world if there was 100 Ukrainian journalists killed,” she said, referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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