Why Journalists Must Speak out About Gaza

Attacks on journalism and media are dangerous to us all.

Aja Arnold, Rae Garringer, Rebecca Chowdhury, Tina Vásquez, Irene Vázquez, Victoria Bouloubasis, Charmaine Lang, Nour Saudi and Lewis Raven Wallace

A vigil in New York City in November for journalists killed in Gaza. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

This op-ed is being co-published by In These Times, Mainline, Mondoweiss, Prism, The Real News Network, Reckon, Scalawag and Truthout.

As journalists and media workers, we know that silencing a free press is a key tactic of authoritarian governments. We are horrified that the Israeli military has now murdered an unprecedented number of journalists and media workers in Gaza—at least 75 people as of December 4. Since October 7, Israeli forces have also killed three journalists in Lebanon, and targeted journalists in the West Bank and Jerusalem, arresting 44 journalists as of November 28, according to the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate. And, Israel’s forced power and communications outages in Gaza have made even the simplest communications mostly impossible, slowing the on-the-ground news out of Gaza to a trickle. The situation has gotten so dire that journalists and media workers are no longer wearing press vests to prevent further targeting by the Israeli military.

These attacks on media workers are not new. They are part of a long-running regime of occupation, apartheid, and extermination.

These attacks on media workers are not new. They are part of a long-running regime of occupation, apartheid, and extermination that dates back to before the 1948 Nakba. Still, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate describes October 2023 as the worst October in the history of world journalism.” After seven weeks of constant bombardments, a temporary week-long humanitarian pause went into effect on Nov. 24, giving Palestinian journalists in Gaza a moment of respite from covering daily atrocities. But immediately after it ended, it was business as usual and Israeli forces resumed bombing and shelling all across the Gaza Strip. Even during the pause, journalists and media workers were threatened and assaulted. Without a permanent cease-fire and an end to the violent occupation, Palestinian lives remain in constant, direct danger — and journalists in particular have an additional target on their backs.

We are raising our voices to honor the dead and fight for the living; not because media workers’ lives are more valuable than others, but because attacks on journalism carry extreme dangers to us all. In early November, the Palestinian Youth Movement called for media workers to use their considerable public platforms in video, print, audio and social media to publish stories about Gaza, speak truth to power, challenge misinformation, reject anti-Palestinian racism, and condemn the targeting and killing of Palestinian journalists and their families.” As the death toll in Gaza mounts, we as journalists and media workers will continue to make noise, joining Writers Against the War on Gaza and the Protect Journalists open letter insisting on a new paradigm for coverage of these atrocities.

In these times of increasingly militarized policing and global consolidation of capitalist power, Palestine is a bellwether. Israel’s repression of Palestinian journalism shows us what is possible under the guise of democracy.” It also validates violence around the world, in other regimes where U.S. and/​or Western imperialism and intervention has protected authoritarian governments, from Haiti to the Philippines.

We are raising our voices to honor the dead and fight for the living; not because media workers’ lives are more valuable than others, but because attacks on journalism carry extreme dangers to us all.

Our democracies” do not protect us. Truth and freedom of speech are being increasingly criminalized all over the globe — especially when the speakers are Indigenous, Black, and Brown people. Journalism that functions as a mouthpiece for the state hinders our fight for collective liberation. People’s movements need movement media now more than ever.

On U.S. soil, journalists and media makers are being fired or pushed out of the profession for their advocacy. Jewish journalist Emily Wilder was fired from the Associated Press (AP) in 2021 after conservative activists targeted her for pro-Palestinian social media posts written prior to her employment with the AP. In 2022, the New York Times fired Palestinian journalist Hosam Salem in Gaza, citing his personal Facebook page that he used to speak out against the occupation he lives under.

An event commemorating journalists in Gaza killed by the Israeli military In Belgium on November 27, 2023. Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu via Getty Images

Multiple journalists have also resigned or canceled contracts with the New York Times in part because of its Gaza coverage, and in late October, Artforum fired editor-in-chief David Velasco for his participation in an open letter supporting Palestinian liberation. eLife editor-in-chief Michael Eisen was fired in October 2023 for retweeting an article from the satirical paper The Onion. These acts go hand-in-hand with the recent cancellation of campus groups at Brandeis University and Columbia University who are critical of the Israeli occupation and siege in Gaza. We urge the public to consider how these efforts occur in tandem with the wave of state laws that ban discussions of racism and gender in schools. These are all signs of just how precarious our democracy” is. How much silencing will we collectively allow?

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The media workers whose lives have been taken by the Israeli military are not mere symbols of threats to our own freedoms. They are people who had dreams for the future and memories of the past, Instagram accounts and favorite foods, first loves and families, homes and daily routines as well as places they would have loved to visit. We mourn and honor them. We remember them without objectivity” or neutrality, but with the intrinsic understanding that their lives mattered and are interdependent with our own. 

We remember Issam Abdallah, age 37, a Lebanese video journalist for Reuters who was killed by the Israeli army on October 13, 2023 in southern Lebanon in what was likely a targeted attack on a van of media workers. It is unlikely that the journalists were mistaken for combatants,” said Reporters Without Borders (RSF) following an investigation. Six other journalists were injured in the attack.

Abdallah covered conflicts in Syria, Russia, and Ukraine. In 2020, he was nominated as Reuters Video Journalist of the Year for coverage of the Beirut port blast. After reporting for Reuters in Ukraine last year, Abdallah wrote, I have learned through all the years of covering conflicts and wars…that the picture is not only front lines and smoke, but the untold human stories which touch us all inside.” 

His last Instagram post on October 7 was a picture of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was murdered by Israeli forces in 2022.

His last Instagram post on October 7 was a picture of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was murdered by Israeli forces in 2022.

We honor Shireen Abu Akleh, age 51, the Al Jazeera journalist and TV correspondent killed by the Israeli military forces on May 11, 2022. Abu Akleh joined the network in 1997 and started as one of Al Jazeera’s first field correspondents. She was a beloved Palestinian journalist. On May 11, 2022, Akleh was covering an Israeli military raid on the Jenin Refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. She was shot in the head by the Israeli military while wearing a helmet and a vest that was clearly marked press.” The Israeli military denied responsibility for her death despite clear evidence. This is just one very notable example of how what preceded October 7 was not peace” for Palestinians.

After ongoing calls from Abu Akleh’s family and colleagues for thorough international investigations into the circumstances of her death, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory released a report on October 16, 2023, concluding on reasonable grounds that Israeli forces used lethal force without justification under international human rights law.” The Israeli army eventually conceded a high possibility” of her death by an Israeli soldier, but did not publicly apologize until a full year later.

A mural of Shireen Abu Akleh, a journalist who was intentionally murdered by the Israeli military, on a section of the occupation wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the West Bank. Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images

Abu Akleh’s killing sent shockwaves through the world. Meanwhile, U.S. democratic leadership remained silent despite the fact that she was an American citizen. Although, as Mohammed El-Kurd and others have pointed out, American”-ness is sometimes held up in a way that reinforces the dehumanization of Palestinians in Palestine, as if she or others are more human due to holding U.S. passports. Her funeral procession was one of the longest in Palestinian history; tens of thousands participated over the course of three days. In turn, Israeli police used batons to attack mourners who carried her coffin, kicking and hitting them, ripping Palestinian flags from their hands, causing pallbearers to briefly drop the casket. A friend who attended her funeral told Al Jazeera, Shireen was a symbol for Palestinian women and Palestinians. She was the voice for the vulnerable, the underprivileged, the voice for Palestinians and the Palestinian struggle.”

We remember Mohammad Abu Hasira, correspondent for Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA), who was killed by Israeli occupation forces alongside 42 members of his family during a targeted bombing of his home in Gaza City during an overnight Israeli strike in early November 2023. On November 7, the Palestinian WAFA news agency reported that Abu Hasira, his children, and brothers were all killed in the attack.

“Shireen was a symbol for Palestinian women and Palestinians. She was the voice for the vulnerable, the underprivileged, the voice for Palestinians and the Palestinian struggle.”

We mourn Doaa Sharaf, Program Presenter at Al Aqsa Radio, killed October 26, 2023, along with her young child in an Israeli airstrike in the Al-Zawaida neighborhood in central Gaza. Her husband is investigative journalist Mahmoud Haniyah.

We grieve the loss of Salam Mema, leader of the Women Journalists Committee within the Palestinian Media Assembly. On October 9, 2023, Salam Mema and her family were trapped under rubble following an Israeli airstrike on their home in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. Mema and her eldest son’s bodies were pulled out from under the rubble on October 13, according to Coalition For Women in Journalism.

Ibrahim Lafi, age 21, Palestinian photojournalist for Ain Media Foundation, was shot and killed at Gaza Strip’s Erez Crossing on October 7, 2023 — seven days before his 22nd birthday. In an article in the Los Angeles Times, fellow Palestinian journalist and friend Yara Eid wrote: He promised me that we would report on every war together. He would be the cameraman, and I, the television reporter. Our friendship made Gaza, the biggest open-air prison in the world, vast and full of possibilities. But now he has become the news that I must report on. … When Ibrahim was killed, he was wearing his vest and helmet labeled Press.’ My colleagues who were on the ground reporting with Ibrahim emphasized to me that he was not caught in clashes between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers, but was actually targeted by heavy bombardment, when two missiles fell on the street he was at the Erez border crossing. I feel compelled to establish him as a perfect victim’ to convince the callous world of his humanity. But that doesn’t matter. Whether you are resisting the occupation or burrowing your head in the sand, no one in Gaza is safe.”

“He promised me that we would report on every war together. He would be the cameraman, and I, the television reporter. Our friendship made Gaza, the biggest open-air prison in the world, vast and full of possibilities. But now he has become the news that I must report on."

In the article, Eid mentions her colleagues Nidal Alwaheidi, a producer with Al-Najah TV, and Haitham Abdelwahed, of Ain Media Foundation, who are still missing.

Murdering and disappearing journalists is a manifestation of the roots of occupation and imperialism: social, political, psychological, and physical control and domination. Apartheid, military occupation, and genocide are incompatible with a free press. If our governments continue to fund, support, and legitimize attacks on journalists in Palestine, it chips away at freedom and self-determination globally. It is well-documented that Israel’s surveillance tools, technology and military tactics set a precedent for authoritarian governments across the world. This includes cities and states across the United States where police officers train with the Israeli military.

Ida B. Wells, Marvel Cooke, and Ruben Salazar have taught us what Shireen Abu Akleh, Issam Abdallah, Mohamed Mouin Ayyash, Mohamed Nabil Al-Zaq, Farah Omar, Rabih Al Maamari, Ayat Khaddoura, Alaa Taher Al-Hassanat, Bilal Jadallah, Abdelhalim Awad, Sari Mansour, Hassouneh Salim, Mostafa El Sawaf, Amro Salah Abu Hayah, Mossab Ashour, Ahmed Fatima, Yaacoub Al-Barsh, Ahmed Al-Qara, Yahya Abu Manih, Mohamed Abu Hassira, Mohammad Al Jaja, Mohamad Al-Bayyari, Mohammed Abu Hatab, Majd Fadl Arandas, Iyad Matar, Imad Al-Wahidi, Majed Kashko, Nazmi Al-Nadim, Yasser Abu Namous, Doaa Sharaf, Jamal Al-Faqaawi, Saed Al-Halabi, Ahmed Abu Mhadi, Salma Mkhaimer, Mohammed Imad Labad, Roshdi Sarraj, Mohammed Ali, Khalil Abu Aathra, Sameeh Al-Nady, Mohammad Balousha, Issam Bhar, Abdulhadi Habib, Yousef Maher Dawas, Salam Mema, Husam Mubarak, Ahmed Shehab, Mohamed Fayez Abu Matar, Saeed al-Taweel, Mohammed Sobh, Hisham Alnwajha, Assaad Shamlakh, Mohammed Al-Salhi, Mohammad Jarghoun, Ibrahim Mohammad Lafi, Ahmad Masoud, Rajab Al-Naqeeb, Abdul Rahman Shihab, Mustafa Bakeer, Mahmoud Abu Zarifa, Hani Al-Madhoun, Iman Al-Aqili, Haitham Harara, Mohammad Al-Hassani, Assem Al-Bursh, Jamal Haniyeh, Mohammad Matar, Ayed Al-Najar, Zaher Al-Afghani, Mostafa Al-Naqeeb, Nader Al-Nazli, Amal Zohd, Anas Abu Shamaleh, Khamees Salem Khamees, and Huthaifa Al-Najjar, Hassan Farajallah, Adham Hassouna, Montaser Al-Sawaf, Abdullah Darwish, and Shaima Al-Jazzar can all teach us now: how to stand for the truth and live in dignity even when the risk is insurmountably high.

We also acknowledge the less formal but equally important role of community-based media makers, content creators, and organizers functioning as reporters, those using social media to document and publish in real time moments of crisis and violence. Their work is invaluable, especially in the face of corporatized and state narratives. We mourn them when they are targeted and killed. Even when memorializing the dead, it is reporters with more formal ties to mainstream outlets who have received more visibility.

We are U.S. journalists and media makers calling for a permanent cease-fire, freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners including journalists, and a complete end to the military occupation of Palestine and the system of apartheid in Israel.

We are U.S. journalists and media makers calling for a permanent cease-fire, freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners including journalists, and a complete end to the military occupation of Palestine and the system of apartheid in Israel. We are joining these efforts in also calling for direct action to demand more from U.S. media, which has for decades failed to provide historical context and balanced coverage of the occupation. Media coverage that defends and obscures Israel’s violence continuously upholds the propaganda of the powerful, in turn excusing the violence of police departments, the military, and the Christian Right.

Action is at our fingertips. Follow the calls from the Palestinian Youth Movement and Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate for media workers in this moment. Organize strikes, resignations, protests, or other acts of disruption to demand fair coverage and honest reporting on Palestine. Become or work with whistleblowers to expose the systems and persons complicit in manufacturing consent for genocide and ethnic cleansing in Gaza. Use your platforms in video, print, audio and social media to speak the truth, challenge misinformation, reject anti-Palestinian racism, and condemn the targeting and killing of Palestinian journalists and their families. Demand that newsrooms insist their foreign correspondents be let into Gaza and trust the expertise of Palestinian journalists in Gaza. Demand an end to all recrimination against media workers. And finally, publish the names of Palestinian victims.

This is a defining political moment of our lives. We must mourn the dead, learn from their stories, and reject the assumption that journalism can ever be neutral. As we continue to build an internationalist movement for collective liberation, one that rejects all acts of repression and genocide, no one who cares about freedom can afford to see themselves as safe. 

As James Baldwin wrote to Angela Davis during her imprisonment in 1970, If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

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Aja Arnold is a journalist based in Atlanta, Ga. She is the director of Atlanta-based media outlet Mainline and a frequent contributor to nonprofit investigative outlet The Appeal. She has extensively reported on Cop City, policing, prisons, and liberation movements in Atlanta.

Rae Garringer is a writer, oral historian, and audio producer based in southern West Virginia where they were raised. They are the founder of Country Queers, a multimedia oral history project documenting rural and small town LGBTQIA2S+ experiences since 2013. Rae is currently editing an anthology of essays and poems by queer, trans, and two spirit Appalachian writers, and their first book Country Queers: The Story of a Homegrown Oral History Project is forthcoming from Haymarket Books in 2024.

Rebecca Chowdhury is a freelance journalist covering grassroots organizing and focusing on immigration, criminal justice and surveillance issues. Her work has appeared in Time, The Appeal, In These Times, and Grist. She previously worked at Human Rights Watch and completed a Fulbright fellowship. She’s from a strong working-class immigrant Bangladeshi community in Queens, New York City, which continues to inspire her work.

Tina Vásquez is a journalist with more than a decade of experience reporting on immigration, reproductive injustice, gender, food, labor, and culture. Currently she is the editor-at-large at Prism and she serves on the board of Press On, a Southern journalism collective that strengthens and expands the practice of journalism in service of liberation.

Born in New Orleans, raised in Houston, and now living in Manhattan, Irene Vázquez is a queer Black Mexican American poet, translator, and journalist. Irene’s debut chapbook Take Me To the Water was released by Bloof Books in 2022. In 2021, with the support of the Pulitzer Center, Irene reported on environmental justice advocacy and healing in Black and Indigenous communities on the Louisiana coast. When not writing, Irene likes drinking coffee, watching Queen Sugar and reminding folks that the South has something to say.

Victoria Bouloubasis is an award-winning journalist, food writer and Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker. Since 2008, her work has aimed to dispel myths about the global South — its people and places — against the backdrop of complex social, political and personal histories. She reports at the intersection of food, labor, the environment and im/​migration in the U.S. South and Latin America, and often in rural regions.

Charmaine Lang (she/​they/​sista docta) is a Black queer woman from South Central Los Angeles who now resides in North Carolina. All of Charmaine’s work is grounded in Black Feminist Praxis. She has been part of the reproductive and racial justice movement for over a decade as an organizer, writer, and facilitator. As a scholar, Charmaine has presented on Black women’s well-being and organizing traditions. Her scholarship contributes new perspectives on history and the connections between gender, health, and race, using Black Feminism to explore the intimate lives of Black women.

Nour Saudi is a New York City-based writer and audio journalist. She is currently a producer at Futuro Media, where she leads production on podcast series. She envisions a just and equitable media industry as one that goes beyond representation and identity, and actively and unequivocally calls out the harmful policies being enacted against historically marginalized communities.

Lewis Raven Wallace is a journalist based in Durham, North Carolina, the author of The View from Somewhere: Undoing the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity, and a co-founder of Press On, a southern movement journalism collective. He’s currently a Ford Global Fellow, and the Abolition Journalism Fellow with Interrupting Criminalization. He is white and transgender, and was born and raised in the Midwest with deep roots in the South.

Illustrated cover of Gaza issue. Illustration shows an illustrated representation of Gaza, sohwing crowded buildings surrounded by a wall on three sides. Above the buildings is the sun, with light shining down. Above the sun is a white bird. Text below the city says: All Eyes on Gaza
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