By Dima Issa

Abstract:The Israeli assault on Gaza since October 7, 2023 has killed and injured tens of thousands of Palestinians, while also placing the lives of journalists in danger. This marks the deadliest conflict for journalists in recent history, with plenty of instances already as to how this has been the case.

The Israeli assault on Gaza since October 7, 2023 has killed over 31,000 Palestinians, injured over 73,000, and displaced more than 85% of the total population.1 The immense structural devastation has been documented by international humanitarian agencies who have warned of the severe shortages of aid and supplies. In addition, the International Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) stated that 95 journalists have been killed since the beginning of the assault. Of this number, 90 of these journalists are Palestinian, two of them are Israeli, and three of them are Lebanese. CPJ also states that 16 journalists were injured, 4 journalists are missing, and 25 journalists have been arrested.2 In December 2023, CPJ published a global report that states seventy-two of the 99 journalists killed worldwide in 2023 were Palestinians reporting on Israel’s war on Gaza. CPJ reported that, ‘more journalists were killed in the first three months’ of the Israeli assault in Gaza ‘than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year’ (, February 15, 2024).

Journalists are not the only ones who have been targeted, but also several of them have lost family members while covering the war. Namely, photojournalist Yasser Qudaih who lost eight family members when their house in southern Gaza was struck by four missiles, and Wael Al Dahdouh, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief for Gaza, who lost his wife, son, daughter, and grandson when an Israel airstrike hit the Nuseirat refugee camp in the center of Gaza. And then again when his son, Hamza, a journalist and camera operator for Al Jazeera, who was targeted along with a colleague while on their way back to the southern city of Rafah.

However, it is important to note here that journalists have not only been targeted since October 7, 2023. On May 11, 2022, Israeli forces shot and killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in cold blood while she was reporting on an Israeli military raid on Jenin refugee camp. In addition, the Al-Jalaa building in Gaza, which houses the offices of Al Jazeera and Associated Press, was bombed in May 2021. There is sufficient evidence that the Israeli Defense Forces are purposely targeting the press in order to control the narrative of its systematic assault on Palestinians.

In a press release issued on February 1, 2024, United Nations experts claimed that the Israeli assault on Gaza, ‘has become the deadliest, most dangerous conflict for journalists in recent history’ (United Nations, February 2024). In addition, the report emphasizes that all the journalists that were killed in the conflict were ‘clearly identifiable in jackets and helmets marked “press” or travelling in well-marked press vehicles’, which would ‘indicate that the killings, injury, and detention are a deliberate strategy by Israeli forces to obstruct the media and silence critical reporting’ (United Nations, February 2024). Under International Humanitarian Law, the deliberate targeting and killing of journalists constitute ‘war crimes’ (United Nations, February 2024). From here I think it’s necessary to add context as well as to try and unpack factors that are leading to the lack of public outcry and this consent to unmitigated violence against Palestinian civilians and journalists.

In addition to the targeting of journalists, Israel has banned international press from entering the Gaza strip unless accompanied by the Israeli army. The only journalists on the ground are Palestinians who are risking their lives, equipment, and resources to report on the story. This has led to a rise in independent citizen journalists on social media platforms to combat this gap in reporting, as well as to document the atrocities found on the ground in Gaza. This method is part of what Peter Dahlgren (2012) would call ‘civic agency’ where ‘participation manifests citizenship’ in the presence of ‘visibility’ and ‘voice’ (Dahlgren, 2012).

In his chapter on Radical Mass Media criticism, John Theobald (2013) draws on the writings of Karl Kraus during the period of World War I and the subsequent rise of Fascism in Germany and Austria. Klaus looks at mass-media’s socio-cultural role in what Theobald describes as the ‘public acceptance of barbarism’ as well as the ‘willing public renunciation of civil and human rights’ (p. 12). In the absence of media ethics driven mostly by a skewed news agenda that focuses on divisive framing of events to further propagate and generate public backing for the assault, how does the targeting of journalists fit into this objective? What are the other methods being used to silence Palestinian voices and erase visibility?

Speaking to Israeli and international media, former Israeli Prime Minister Yasir Lapid stated clearly that for him, ‘objectivity [in journalism] serves Hamas’ (Middle East Monitor, October 25 2023). Adding to this is the constant Western discourse on discrediting Palestinian voices by Western politicians within a meta-narrative of everything being led back to Hamas, or through the labeling of any criticism towards Israel as being ‘anti-semitic.’ These narratives continuously resurface binaries of good versus evil, truth versus lies, and victims versus terrorists among other literary biases (see also Alperen, 23 October 2023). By utilizing this discourse, violence and killings become justified among audiences and ‘barbarism’ reigns free.  This was further evidenced by United States president Joe Biden, who publicly denounced the number of Palestinian deaths in a press conference during his visit to Australia when he said, ‘I have no confidence in the numbers the Palestinians have been using’ (The White House, October 25, 2023).

In parallel to the journalists in the assault on Gaza being targeted physically, emotionally and morale-wise, there is also a lack of accountability, which makes this violence two-fold. The death of Lebanese video journalist Issam Abdallah is a prime example for this lack of accountability. Abdallah was reporting on South Lebanon for the media organization Reuters when he was targeted and killed by the Israeli army. AFP photographer Christina Assi was also injured in the attack and had to have her leg amputated. It is important to mention that the journalists were, ‘filming on an open hillside where they were clearly visible. They were all wearing blue helmets and flak jackets with “Press” markings, and had been in the same place for nearly an hour’ (The Guardian, 7 December 2023). However, instead of blaming Israeli aggression, the initial response by Reuters was, ‘Lebanon's army has said Israel fired the missile that killed Abdallah, and another Reuters reporter at the scene said he was killed by projectiles fired from the direction of Israel. Israel's military has said it will investigate’ (Reuters, 15 October 2023).

This lack of validation and vagueness of the attack from Reuters showcases the ways in which the deaths of journalists are dismissed as part of this narrative of doubt. It is also an example of how the Western media continues to dehumanize victims of the Israeli aggression. It is important to also note the ways in which social networking sites have been censoring pro-Palestinian voices and documenters either through censorship, algorithm manipulation, or shadow-banning. Through these methods, the storytellers of this assault are being systematically silenced and through their silencing comes the muting of public outcry.

Dima Issa is Chairperson and Assistant Professor at the Mass Media and Communication department at the University of Balamand in Lebanon. She is also the author of the book Fairouz and the Arab Diaspora: Music and Identity in the UK and Qatar. Dima holds a PhD from the University of Westminster in London, an MSc from the London School of Economics in Global Media and Communications and an MA from the University of Southern California in Global Communications. Her research has primarily focused on Arab diaspora and media consumption, looking at ways in which identity is constructed and reconstructed through space and time. Additionally, her interests encompass gender and representation, popular culture and audience studies. Prior to her academic career, Dima worked in the corporate sector in media relations, publications and website management as well as in broadcast journalism. She has lived in Canada, Qatar, London and California.


1: As of 17 March 2024



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Apr 3, 2024
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