Israel-Hamas war takes 'record toll' on journalists, press freedom

Palestinian journalists carry mock coffins of colleagues killed during the current Israel-Hamas war, during a symbolic funeral procession toward a United Nations office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Nov 7, 2023. [AP Photo]

The ongoing war between Israel and the militant group Hamas has taken a "record toll" on journalists, a press freedom group said Thursday.

With at least 68 journalists killed since the war began on October 7, more journalists have been killed in the first 10 weeks of the conflict than have ever been killed in a single country over the course of an entire year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ.

The New York-based press freedom group began tracking journalist killings in 1992.

"The Israel-Gaza war is the most dangerous situation for journalists we have ever seen, and these figures show that clearly," Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said in a statement.

"The Israeli army has killed more journalists in 10 weeks than any other army or entity has in any single year. And with every journalist killed, the war becomes harder to document and to understand," Mansour added in the statement.

Palestinian reporters have borne the brunt of the violence. Of the 68 journalists killed, 61 were Palestinian, four were Israeli and three were Lebanese.

"The concentration of journalists killed in the Israel-Gaza war is unparalleled in CPJ's history and underscores how grave the situation is for press on the ground. Local Palestinian journalists continue to report from Gaza while living in fear for their lives," CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg said in a statement.

More than half of the deaths — 37 — took place during the first month of the war, marking the single deadliest month recorded by CPJ since 1992.

"The sheer number of journalist casualties, only months into the war, brings into sharp focus the dire need for warring parties to commit to protecting all civilians, including journalists," Ginsberg added.

The Israeli army has previously said in a statement it has "never and will never" deliberately target journalists.

The Israeli military has previously told Reuters and Agence France-Presse that it cannot guarantee the safety of their journalists working inside Gaza.

The massive toll that the war has taken on reporters risks hampering the international community's understanding of the conflict, according to Mansour.

"Hundreds of millions all over the world who are following this heartbreaking conflict try to understand it,” Mansour previously told VOA. “And they rely on journalists to get timely and independent information and commentary. And without that, we are left with a sea of dis- and misinformation that can only fuel the conflict.”

Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately reply to VOA's email requesting comment.

Only Iraq has come close to the same level of journalist killings, in 2006, when 56 reporters were killed that year. Of the 56, CPJ confirmed that at least 48 were targeted because of their work.

CPJ on Thursday issued a list of recommendations to the Israeli government, including granting international media access to the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem on Monday filed a petition with Israel's Supreme Court asking for immediate access to Gaza for foreign media.

"Freedom of the press is a basic civil right in a democratic society. We also believe it is in the public interest to get a fuller picture of conditions inside Gaza after 10 weeks of extremely limited and highly controlled access," the Foreign Press Association said in a statement.

"The Israeli military has allowed some reporters to embed with troops in Gaza, but this does not allow access to areas where soldiers are not present," the statement continued.

The Foreign Press Association said it represents about 370 journalists from 130 media outlets.