More than 11,000 people have been killed during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Among those 11,000 were 39 journalists and media workers since the war began on Oct. 7, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The CPJ is an independent, non-profit organization committed to promoting press freedom throughout the world. The organization is currently giving daily updates on the Israel-Gaza war and its impact on journalism.
Reuters and Agence France Presse news agencies sought out assurances that their reporters would not be targeted by Israeli strikes. However, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told these agencies that they could not guarantee the safety of their journalists.
According to Reuters, the IDF letter stated, “The IDF is targeting all Hamas military activity throughout Gaza,” going on to explain that Hamas had deliberately placed military operations in the area near journalists and civilians.
“Under these circumstances, we cannot guarantee your employees’ safety, and strongly urge you to take all necessary measures for their safety,” The IDF’s letter concluded.
Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah was killed on Oct. 13 while covering Israeli missile attacks at the Israel-Lebanon border. Reuters published an obituary piece on Oct. 15, mourning Abdallah and praising his work as a journalist.
According to Reuters, Lebanon’s army states that Israel fired the missile. Another Reuters reporter who was at the scene stated that Abdallah was killed by projectiles fired from the direction of Israel. Israel’s military has stated that they will investigate the situation.
Abdallah’s body was covered in a Lebanese flag and carried in procession as mourners watched. Fellow journalists placed their cameras on his grave to honor him.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an international non-profit organization, defends the right of everyone to have access to free and reliable information. RSF is performing their own investigation on the death of Abdallah. RSF states that two strikes, approximately 30 seconds apart, struck the exact spot where seven journalists, including Abdallah, were stationed. The first strike killed Abdallah and critically injured Agence France Presse reporter Christina Assi. The second strike blew up a nearby vehicle, injuring several of their colleagues. The missiles struck just seconds after an Israeli helicopter flew over the area.
Although the RSF’s investigation is ongoing, they have made several conclusions. They say it is unlikely that the team was mistaken for combatants, as they were out in the open with vests labeled “Press.” The vehicle that was struck with the second strike also had the word “Press” marked on the roof of the car.
A similar situation occurred five days prior to this incident, on Oct. 9. Al Jazeera journalists were reporting in the village of Dhayra in southern Lebanon when a missile struck the area next to their vehicle, also labeled “Press.” An Israeli helicopter flew over the area moments before the strike.
The RSF has filed a complaint for war crimes committed against both Palestinian and Israeli journalists killed and wounded in the line of work. The organization’s complaint was filed with the office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor on Oct. 31. The complaint details the deaths of nine journalists who were killed in the course of their work and two others who were wounded. They also report on the deliberate destruction of more than 50 media outlets located in Gaza.
“The attacks suffered by Palestinian journalists in Gaza correspond to the international humanitarian law definition of an indiscriminate attack and therefore constitute war crimes under Article 8.2.b. of the Rome Statute…. The Israeli journalist’s death constituted the willful killing of a person protected by the Geneva Conventions, which is a war crime under Article 8.2.a. of the ICC’s Rome Statute,” the RSF reported.
The death toll continues to rise while those responsible are not being held accountable. CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg stated, “As journalist murders continue to go unpunished in nearly 80% of cases globally, in both democracies and authoritarian countries, the message is clear: journalists are fair game. Murder is the ultimate form of censorship. Swift, transparent, independent local investigations are critical, and political will can change the course of justice to stem the pervasive impunity in cases of journalists killed for their work.”