EDITORIAL: Tragic death toll of journalists continues in Middle East

Nov 17, 2023 | Editorial, OP-ED

The UN wants the killing of journalists and aid workers to stop in Gaza.

“It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation,” reads an official UN OHCHR statement earlier this year, following the one-year memorial of veteran Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Abu Akleh, a correspondent reporter for Qatari state-owned media company Al Jazeera, was shot and killed in Palestine on May 11, 2022, while covering a raid conducted by the IDF in the Jenin refugee camp.

Despite several investigations, the Israeli Defence Force denies claims of their involvement in Akleh’s untimely death, and only a year following her passing, they launched an independent investigation which revealed she was hit by an IDF officer “accidentally.” No criminal charges have been laid, and a criminal investigation still lingers.

Fast forward to Oct. 7, 2023, when Israel declared war on Hamas following what the IDF described as an act of terror.

The unrest has gained the attention of millions worldwide in mainstream media, and many have deemed it one of the deadliest attacks ever televised. However, journalists who have risked their lives like Abu Akleh will be thanked for having this dispute covered.

But how much do we know about what has happened to them while covering the conflict?

In an official report made by the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 40 journalists and media workers have been killed as a result of the war in Gaza as of Nov. 17. Unfortunately, the safety of journalists covering this war was not guaranteed by the IDF.

It is important to note that the CPJ is an official non-profit organization recognized internationally for upholding press freedom and the safety of journalists and members of the media fraternity while covering stories, whether locally or internationally.

Consequently, the CPJ’s latest report revealed 42 journalists and media workers were confirmed dead, 37 Palestinian, four Israeli, and one Lebanese. Nine journalists were also reported injured, along with three reported missing. Meanwhile, 13 were reported arrested.

So far, several complaints have been filed to the UN by countries who reported the loss of citizens who are journalists, but to no avail, as the war continued.

Following this report, Lebanese national and Reuters visual journalist Issam Abdallah was killed in an Israeli airstrike. Lebanon’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has accused the IDF of what they describe as “Israel’s deliberate killing” in southern Lebanon.

The list of journalists killed in Gaza is growing significantly likewise their families living on the strip. While on air, Al Jazeera Arabic Gaza correspondent, Wael Dahdouh received the news of his family members killed in an Israeli airstrike at the shelter they stayed just minutes into his reporting.

“I suppose I should thank God that at least some of my family survived,” Dahdouh said in an interview by his colleagues while on air.

While the Western world watches the war unfold, it is important we acknowledge the valiant efforts made by the men and women in the media who risk their lives to report on what is happening in the Middle East.

Media freedom is key and that requires the protection of journalists from harm, especially among the frontline reporters.