GENEVA (1 February 2024) – Israel’s military operation in Gaza, in the aftermath of the heinous 7 October attack by Hamas, has become the deadliest, most dangerous conflict for journalists in recent history, UN experts said today.
“We are alarmed at the extraordinarily high numbers of journalists and media workers who have been killed, attacked, injured and detained in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Gaza, in recent months blatantly disregarding international law,” the experts said.
“We condemn all killings, threats and attacks on journalists and call on all parties to the conflict to protect them,” they said.
According to UN reports, since 7 October, over 122 journalists and media workers have been killed in Gaza, and many have been injured. In addition, three journalists in Lebanon were killed as a result of Israeli shelling near the border of Lebanon. Four Israeli journalists were killed by Hamas in the 7 October attacks. Dozens of Palestinian journalists have been detained by Israeli forces in both Gaza and in the West Bank where harassment, intimidation and attacks on journalists have increased since the 7 October attacks.
“We pay special tribute to the courage and resilience of journalists and media workers in Gaza who continue to put their own lives on the line every day in the course of duty, while also enduring enormous hardship and tragic loss of colleagues, friends and families in one of the bloodiest, most ruthless conflicts of our times,” the experts said.
“Rarely have journalists paid such a heavy price for just doing their job as those in Gaza now,” the experts said. They highlighted the case of Al-Jazeera journalist, Wael al-Dahdouh, who lost his wife, two children and a grandson as a result of Israeli bombing on 25 October 2023, endured a drone attack himself that killed his cameraman in late December and lost another son, also an Al-Jazeera journalist, along with another journalist, killed by Israeli drone strike targeting their car on 7 January 2024.
“We have received disturbing reports that, despite being clearly identifiable in jackets and helmets marked “press” or travelling in well-marked press vehicles, journalists have come under attack, which would seem to indicate that the killings, injury, and detention are a deliberate strategy by Israeli forces to obstruct the media and silence critical reporting,” the UN experts said.
“In times of conflict, the right to information is a ‘survival right’ on which the very lives of civilians depend, and journalists play an indispensable role as a vital source of information, and as human rights defenders and witnesses to atrocities, reporting on violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and human rights.”
“Journalists are entitled to protection as civilians under international humanitarian law. Targeted attacks and killings of journalists are war crimes,” the experts warned.
They expressed grave concern that Israel has refused to let media from outside Gaza enter and report unless they are embedded with the Israeli forces. “The attacks on media in Gaza and restrictions on other journalists from accessing Gaza, combined with severe disruptions of the Internet, are major impediments to the right of information of the people of Gaza as well as the outside world,” the experts said.
“We urge Israeli authorities to allow journalists to enter Gaza and protect the safety of all journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the experts said.
“We further urge the parties to the conflict to allow for and ensure prompt, independent and impartial investigations into every killing of journalists in accordance with international standards, in particular the United Nations Minnesota Protocol on the investigation of potentially unlawful death,” the experts added.
“In closing, we urge the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to give particular attention to the dangerous pattern of attacks and impunity for crimes against journalists, which has intensified since October 7. Targeting and killing of journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must stop,” they said.
The experts: Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of freedom of opinion and expression; Ms. Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Mr. Ben Saul, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
The Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, Country Page - State of Palestine
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