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On World Press Freedom Day, it’s noted that the Gaza conflict stands as the deadliest for journalists

Each year on May 3, UNESCO observes World Press Freedom Day.

This year’s commemoration falls at a critical juncture for journalists worldwide, as the conflict between Israel and Gaza has become the deadliest for journalists and media personnel. “Losing a journalist means losing our connection to the outside world. We lose a voice for those who cannot speak,” stated Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement today.

“World Press Freedom Day serves as a reminder of the importance of truth and the need to safeguard those who bravely pursue it.”

Deadliest period for journalists in Gaza

In the initial seven months of the Gaza conflict, over 100 journalists and media workers, predominantly Palestinian, lost their lives, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The Gaza media office reports a higher toll, surpassing 140 fatalities, translating to an average of five journalists perishing every week since October 7.

Throughout the conflict, at least 34,596 Palestinians have been killed and 77,816 others have sustained injuries in Gaza. Additionally, over 8,000 individuals remain missing, presumed buried under debris.

Jonathan Dagher, Head of RSF’s Middle East desk, emphasized the urgency of safeguarding Gaza’s reporters, facilitating voluntary evacuation for those seeking refuge, and granting access to international media outlets. “Palestinian journalism must be safeguarded immediately,” he emphasized, citing instances of journalists facing attacks, injuries, and fatalities.

Al Jazeera journalists killed and injured in Gaza

On January 7, Hamza Dahdouh, the eldest son of Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief, Wael Dahdouh, was tragically killed by an Israeli missile in Khan Younis. Hamza, a journalist like his father, was traveling in a vehicle near al-Mawasi, an area designated as safe by Israel, alongside another journalist, Mustafa Thuraya, who also lost his life in the attack.

Reports from Al Jazeera correspondents indicate that Hamza and Mustafa’s vehicle was targeted while they were attempting to interview civilians displaced by previous bombings. The Al Jazeera Media Network strongly denounced the attack, stating: “The assassination of Mustafa and Hamza … as they were fulfilling their duties in the Gaza Strip, underscores the imperative of taking immediate legal action against the occupying forces to ensure accountability.”

On December 15, 2023, Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abudaqa was struck by an Israeli drone attack at Farhana school in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, resulting in injuries to both him and Wael Dahdouh while they were reporting. Abudaqa tragically succumbed to his injuries over a period of more than four hours, as emergency responders were obstructed by the Israeli army from reaching him.

Abudaqa’s death marked the 13th instance of an Al Jazeera journalist being killed on duty since the network’s inception in 1996. In 2022, Palestinian reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, renowned throughout the Arab world, was also killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank while reporting.

Al Jazeera has called upon the international community to hold Israel accountable for its attacks on journalists.

In 2024, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that 25 journalists and media workers have lost their lives thus far. The majority of these casualties, at least 20, occurred in Palestine. Additionally, two were killed in Colombia, and one each in Pakistan, Sudan, and Myanmar.

In 2023, over three-quarters of the 99 journalists and media workers killed globally lost their lives in the Israel-Gaza conflict, with the majority being Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.

“Since the onset of the Israel-Gaza conflict, journalists have paid the ultimate price – their lives – in defense of our right to the truth. Each journalist’s death or injury diminishes our access to that truth,” remarked Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director.

Where is press freedom most restricted?

Every year, the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) releases an annual index to gauge the state of press freedom worldwide. This index evaluates the political, economic, and socio-cultural context, as well as the legal framework and security of the press across 180 countries and territories.

As per the 2024 World Press Freedom Index, Eritrea ranks at the bottom in terms of press freedom, with Syria, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iran following closely behind. RSF reports that Eritrea has completely banned independent media since the shift to dictatorship in September 2001. Media outlets are directly controlled by the Ministry of Information, comprising a news agency, a few publications, and Eri TV.

How many journalists are currently incarcerated?

As of December 1, 2023, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that 320 journalists and media workers were imprisoned.

China (with 44 individuals behind bars), Myanmar (43), Belarus (28), Russia (22), and Vietnam (19) are among the countries with the highest number of imprisoned journalists. China, in particular, has consistently ranked as one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, according to the CPJ.

Of the 44 journalists imprisoned in China, nearly half are Uighurs. They have accused Beijing of committing crimes against humanity due to its mass detentions and severe repression of the region’s predominantly Muslim ethnic groups.

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