Relentless Palestinian journalism brings Gaza to the world

Menna Osama, Sunday 14 Jan 2024

Israel’s war in Gaza – now in its 100th day – is among the most documented wars in history, thanks almost entirely to the relentless work of Palestinian journalists who have done so at immense personal risk to themselves

Palestinians mourn local journalists, who were killed in an Israeli airstrike, at a hospital in the central Gaza Strip. Photo: AFP


Among the strongest examples of this tireless work in the face of personal tragedy and risk is Al-Jazeera’s chief correspondent in Gaza Wael Al-Dahdouh

On 7 January, Wael’s son, Hamza Al-Dahdouh, a journalist and camera operator for Al-Jazeera, was killed in an Israeli drone strike along with freelance journalist Mustafa Thuraya.

This came less than a month after Wael himself was injured and his cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa was killed in an Israeli drone strike while they were covering Israeli strikes on a UN school sheltering displaced people in Khan Younis

Abu Daqqa, who was initially only wounded, was denied treatment for over five hours, as Israeli forces prevented ambulances and rescue workers from reaching him.

The very next day, Mohammed Baalousha, a correspondent from the Emirati TV channel Al Mashhad, was injured by an Israeli sniper while reporting. He also was denied medical treatment for more than six ours, as Israeli tanks blocked his evacuation.

Beyond individual experiences, the sheer number of journalists who have been killed or injured is staggering, especially when compared to other conflicts.

According to Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, 113 journalists were killed in Gaza between 7 October and 14 January.

This makes it the deadliest conflict for media workers since the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) began keeping records in 1992.

The International Federation of Journalists recorded that around three quarters of all deaths of media professionals worldwide in 2023 have been in Gaza.

“Journalists in Gaza are paying a heavy price,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a report.

Informing the world

This widespread violence against journalists has an insidious cost, harming the ability of Gazans to tell their story to the outside world.

“Every time a journalist is killed in Gaza, we lose one of the few professional voices that can credibly convey the brutal realities of the war, siege and possible war crimes that Gaza’s civilians are suffering under,” International Media Support (IMS) said.

However, Palestinian journalists remain committed to informing the world about the ongoing catastrophe in the besieged coastal strip.

One major challenge they face in doing so is the same shortages of food, water, and shelter, that are affecting everyone else in Gaza.

Despite little internet connection and electricity outages, many journalists were able to stay connected through e-SIMs to carry out tasks and ensure that the information reaches the rest of the world.

Additionally, Palestinian journalists do not have the luxury of remaining detached from their subjects, as many of their counterparts elsewhere in the world do. Sometimes their own pain and tragedies become the very stories they cover.

In October, while on air, Wael Al-Dahdouh received the news that his wife, daughter, and one of his sons, had been killed. Yet, he displayed remarkable resilience by returning to work just a few days later.

In December, even after being wounded in Khan Younis, he continued to broadcast.

In January, Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate awarded him the Freedom of the Press Award, saying that he has been loyal to his profession.

Al-Dahdouh is not the only Palestinian journalist who has had to persevere through personal pain to cover a story.

Just a few days after the war began Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza found himself filming the death of his 15 family members who had been killed in an Israeli attack. However, he quickly returned to work, documenting similar scenes in the coming days, including the evacuation of a dead toddler and three more injured children in an ambulance

Anadolu Agency photojournalist Ali Jadallah also witnessed the loss of his family members and released a video of himself driving to bury his father’s body alone.

Nonetheless, Jadallah continued to document the bombardment of Gaza, covering the atrocities committed against civilians in neighbourhoods, hospitals, mosques, and churches.

Palestinian journalists have been essential to international coverage of the Israeli war, with international outlets totally relying on them for video, photos, interviews, and daily reports.

Some international journalists have been embedded with the Israeli army, but Israel has prevented press agencies from entering the Gaza Strip since 7 October, which would make the job of international outlets impossible without local sources.

“Allowing foreign journalists into Gaza should go hand in hand with letting humanitarian aid in and ensuring the freedom of movement of Palestinian journalists under siege, because there has to be some truth,” Mélina Huet told France 24, the Paris-based international news channel.

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