HAVANA TIMES – Israel’s military operation in Gaza has become the deadliest and most dangerous conflict for journalists in recent history, with at least 122 media workers killed, according to United Nations human rights experts.
“We are alarmed by the extraordinarily high number of journalists and media workers who have been killed, attacked, injured, and detained in the occupied Palestinian territory in recent months, blatantly ignoring international law,” said the experts.
The alarm statement was delivered by five independent rapporteurs acting under the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
They are Irene Khan, rapporteur on the protection and promotion of the freedom of opinion and expression; Francesca Albanese, on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory since 1967, and Mary Lawlor, rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
Also, Morris Tidball-Binz, rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions; and Ben Saul, rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the fight against terrorism.
“We condemn all killings, threats, and attacks on journalists and call on all parties in the conflict to protect them,” the experts said.
According to UN reports, since October 7, when the bloody incursion by the Islamist militia Hamas into southern Israel occurred, and the Israeli military response began, at least 122 journalists and media workers have been killed in the Gaza Strip.
Additionally, four Israeli journalists were killed by Hamas in the October 7 attacks, and three journalists in Lebanon died as a result of Israeli bombings on the border between the two countries.
Many communication workers have been injured, and dozens of Palestinian journalists have been detained by Israeli forces in both Gaza and the West Bank, the statement recalled.
“We pay special tribute to the courage and resilience of journalists and media workers in Gaza who continue to risk their lives every day in the performance of their duty,” the experts said.
They highlighted that communicators do their work “while enduring enormous hardships and tragic losses of colleagues, friends, and family in Gaza, one of the bloodiest and ruthless conflicts of our times.”
“Rarely have journalists paid such a high price simply for doing their job as journalists in Gaza are doing now,” they emphasized.
They pointed out the case of Al Jazeera television journalist Wael al Dahdouh, who lost his wife, two children, and a grandchild as a result of Israeli bombing on October 25, 2023.
In addition, Israeli drone attacks killed his cameraman in late December and in January, another of his sons, also an Al Jazeera journalist.
UN experts processed reports that, despite being clearly identifiable with jackets and helmets marked as “press” or traveling in well-marked press vehicles, journalists have been attacked.
These attacks “would seem to indicate that the killings, injuries, and detentions are a deliberate strategy of Israeli forces to obstruct the media and silence critical reports.”
Journalists “have the right to protection as civilians under international humanitarian law. Selective attacks and killings of journalists are war crimes,” the experts warned.
On the other hand, “in times of conflict, the right to information is a ‘right to survival’ on which the very lives of civilians depend, and journalists play an indispensable role as a vital source of information,” the statement recalled.
They also play a role “as human rights advocates and witnesses to atrocities, reporting on violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and human rights.”
The statement expresses “serious concern” because Israel has refused to allow media from outside Gaza to enter and report unless they are embedded with Israeli forces.
“Attacks on the media in Gaza and restrictions on access for other journalists to Gaza, combined with serious disruptions to the Internet, are significant impediments to the right to information of the people of Gaza, as well as the outside world,” the experts said.
They urged Israeli authorities to allow the entry of journalists to Gaza and protect the safety of all journalists in the occupied Palestinian territory.
“We also urge the parties to the conflict to allow and ensure prompt, independent, and impartial investigations into each journalist’s killing in accordance with international standards,” the experts said.
Finally, “we urge the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to pay special attention to the dangerous pattern of attacks and impunity for crimes against journalists, which has intensified since October 7.”