Gaza conflict brings grief to journalists

Published December 10, 2023
Palestinians watch a fire burn among the rubble of a damaged residential building, in the aftermath of Israeli strikes, in Gaza City. — Reuters/Mohammed Salem
Palestinians watch a fire burn among the rubble of a damaged residential building, in the aftermath of Israeli strikes, in Gaza City. — Reuters/Mohammed Salem

IN the aftermath of yet another attack on his neighbourhood, a man struggled to articulate words through his severe trauma.

His voice quivered with tears as he fought to convey the devastation. The camera in his hands shook uncontrollably as he documented the horrors unfolding around him, with smoke obscuring the once familiar surroundings.

The air was thick with the cries of people pleading for their lives, their loved ones now scattered in the form of dismembered organs.

Despite the weight on his heart, the emptiness in his eyes, and the overwhelming sense of hopelessness, the man pressed forward. Motaz Azaiza, a resilient 24-year-old photojournalist from Gaza, moved with a purpose — to reveal to the world the grim reality that his city was facing.

His determination was unwavering, committed to documenting the atrocities inflicted upon his community by Israel.

“Another strike in my neighbourhood, this time I lost some of my neighbours and relatives,” he wrote in a caption for a reel that showcased harrowing visuals of people engulfed in flames, continuously crying out for help.

In the footage, he can be seen holding a camera while assisting those trapped under the rubble.

As the Israeli aggression extends into its 65th day, a significant number of journalists in Gaza are either deceased, displaced, or have left the city.

Media organisations like CNN, BBC and others have withdrawn their reporters, but Al Jazeera continues its operations.

Currently, every journalist present there has experienced some form of loss, be it a person or something meaningful.

Grieving over losses

“This is me, and my cats in my home in Gaza City. The home was bombed and destroyed yesterday, I don’t know where are my three kittens. Gaza City is destroyed,” Bisan, another young freelance journalist who has been tirelessly showing the Gaza Strip and how it has been destroyed, posted yesterday.

In the pictures, she can be seen smiling, holding her cats.

In the midst of the appalling aggression, journalists are standing steadfast in various places. Regardless of the circumstances, these individuals are determined to find a way to sustain themselves and support those in their vicinity.

Numerous videos emerging from Gaza depict journalists actively involved in rescuing people trapped in the rubble. Some footage even captures journalists singing songs as a way to confront the horror of the air strikes unfolding in front of their eyes.

Reporters in Gaza encounter notably elevated risks while attempting to report on the conflict amid the Israeli ground assault. These hazards include ferocious air strikes, disrupted communications, shortages of supplies, and widespread power outages.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a total of 63 journalists and media workers have been verified as deceased so far: 56 Palestinian, four Israeli, and three Lebanese.

Additionally, there are reports that 11 journalists have sustained injuries, three have been declared missing, and 19 journalists have been reported as arrested. The incidents include multiple assaults, threats, cyber attacks, censorship, and the killings of family members.

Beyond those reporting on the field within the same city, journalists worldwide who are either reporting on or speaking out against the aggression are facing suppression. This suppression manifests itself in various forms, such as job losses, threats, or replacements.

In another report compiled by Associated Press (AP), the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has resulted in more journalist casualties than any other conflict in the past 30 years. In its annual tally of media worker fatalities, the International Federation of Journalists reported 94 journalists killed this year, with nearly 400 others imprisoned.

This figure represents an increase from the 67 deaths recorded during the same period last year, which includes 12 fatalities in Ukraine. It is twice the total of 47 documented for the entire year of 2021.

Newsroom turmoil

Since the onset of the recent conflict in Gaza, media professionals have experienced dismissals or suspensions under specific circumstances. Jackson Frank, a sports reporter in Philadelphia, was fired from PhillyVoice.com for expressing support for the Palestinian cause on X.

Zahraa Al Akhrass faced dismissal from her position at Canada’s Global News due to social media posts highlighting the Palestinians’ plight.

Kasem Raad was terminated from Welt TV, a subsidiary of the German media company Axel Springer, for questioning internal policies favouring Israel.

Issam Adwan, a Gaza reporter linked to the AP, was suspended over recent and past social media posts describing Israel as an apartheid regime.

Additionally, at least six Arab journalists at the BBC are currently under internal investigation for alleged “anti-Israel bias” in their social media activity, as reported by Al Jazeera.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2023

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