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By Shahana Naqvi, Edited By Adam Rizvi, The India Observer: 2023 has been the darkest year for Palestinian journalists and other media workers, with 102 Palestinian journalists killed in Gaza alone, according to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) annual report. No other war in the 21st century has been so lethal for journalists who report from conflict zones than the current Israeli aggression in Gaza starting from 7th October 2023.
The International Federation of Journalists is working closely with its affiliate, the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate (PJS), to get information in real time.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Middle East and North Africa program coordinator says that with every journalist killed, the war has become harder to document and understand. “Israel’s army is responsible for 80 percent of journalist and media worker killings in the Palestinian territories,” according to CPJ’s database.
On 31 October 2023, Reporters Without Borders filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court against the incessant attacks on Palestinian journalists in Gaza. Journalists are protected under humanitarian law against direct attacks. Killing of journalists in a conflict zone constitutes a breach of the Geneva convention and is recognized as a War Crime.
LIVING THE STORY
Journalists working on the ground in Gaza are not only risking their lives to report the tragic stories unfolding there; they themselves are living the story, with many having already lost members of their families and friends or are at risk of losing them.
Apart from the risk to their lives, these brave individuals also have to struggle for basic essential items like food, water, and electricity, which has been blocked by Israel from the beginning of this war.
With constant surveillance from the Israeli army, these young Palestinian reporters and journalists have been under tremendous pressure and threat to not present the true picture on the ground. Yet, in spite of the difficulties involved, these young men and women have been instrumental in giving a voice to the voiceless, the most oppressed, dehumanized, and marginalized people of modern history.
LAST MAN STANDING
Earlier this month, Al Jazeera’s Bureau chief in Gaza, Wael Dahdouh, landed in Qatar for treatment. He had sustained injuries in a deadly Israeli airstrike that killed his colleague, cameraperson Samer Abudaqa. Wael Al-Dahdouh and his family have been a target of Israeli attacks that have killed many members of his immediate family that includes his wife, son, daughter, and grandchild who were killed in a deadly Israeli airstrike in Nuseirat refugee camp where they had been sheltering in October 2023. On 7th January 2024, his eldest son Hamza Al-Dahdouh, a 27-year-old journalist, was killed in an airstrike on his car in Khan Younis, Gaza.
In his first interview to foreign media after his son’s death, Wael strongly addressed that, “people in Gaza die twice, once by Israeli bombs, other with Silence of the World.”
The killing of journalists and their families shows Israel’s insecurity in suppressing the truth, its way to overshadow and cover the atrocities its army is committing on the defenseless Palestinian population. A genocidal campaign against free press and truth.
The news feed recently has been abuzz with reels showing Motaz Azaiza, a 24-year-old Palestinian photojournalist working with UNRWA who was documenting the impact of war in Gaza for the past three months, arriving in Qatar. Azaiza announced his evacuation from Gaza on his Instagram account; it is unclear how he was rescued. However, the next day he showed himself at the posh Al-Jazeera studios in Doha (Qatar). I wonder what must be flashing in his mind after witnessing such a deadly genocide of his fellow countrymen with drones hovering over them day and night and the silence he currently is experiencing.
With Plestia Alaqad (aspiring Palestinian Journalist) evacuating Gaza in November 2023 and the rescue of Motaz Azaiza and Wael Dahdouh, it shows a new trend to save Palestinian lives who have documented the agony of their people in spite of the personal tragedies they endured. These brave men and women and their work have been recognized by the free press around the world. Motaz Azaiza’s picture grabbed TIME’s top 10 photos of 2023, GQ Middle East has named him as their Man of the Year.
Though they have been luckier and have cheated death dozens of times than their friends and colleagues in the Gaza strip, a matter of deep concern is that with these journalists either gone or killed in the Gaza strip, the Voice of Gaza and its people hang in fate. Lack of proper coverage of war will abet the genocidal campaign of Israel on journalism in Gaza.
But as Martin Luther King (1929-1968), American activist says, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant”.