Samer Abu Daqqa loved being a journalist. A cameraman for over 20 years with Al Jazeera, Abu Daqqa, 45, had covered at least seven wars. Israel’s war on Gaza, however, would turn out to be his last.
While covering an air strike at a United Nations–run school on December 15, Israeli forces shot Abu Daqqa. Intense shelling prevented an ambulance from reaching him—three paramedics were killed trying to get to the area—and he was left to bleed for over five hours, succumbing to his injuries just as the Palestinian Health Ministry got approval from the Israeli military to retrieve him. In the end, they brought his body to the hospital, where his family said goodbye. Medical workers removed his bloodied press vest and helmet, which were placed over his body at his funeral.
Since the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza, which has now killed more than 20,000 Palestinians, journalists have been on the front lines, both as witnesses and victims. For more than two months, as Israel has rained bombs on Gaza, they have rushed from refugee camps to hospitals, and from hospitals to schools and back, trying to stay safe while covering what they describe as their own genocide. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 68 journalists have been killed in Gaza, Israel, and Lebanon since October 7, making this the deadliest conflict since the CPJ began tallying press fatalities. The International Federation of Journalists estimates that at least 66 journalists have been killed in Gaza alone. Many have also lost their families. On October 26, Ahmed Abu Artema, a contributor to The Nation as well as a poet and activist, was seriously injured and lost his young son when Israel bombed his father’s house.
“What is happening now is unprecedented,” said Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator at the CPJ. In 2022, the CPJ reported that a total of 68 journalists and media workers were killed worldwide; Gaza reached that number in just over two months.
Journalists, said Mansour, “are the ones on the front lines and they are the ones we need the most, but they are also the most vulnerable.”
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of the Palestinian journalists in Gaza right now. They, after all, are the only ones who have been reporting from the Strip since Israel instituted a total siege on October 9 and banned foreign press from entering. Their work has been essential and their commitment unceasing; yet, as the weeks have passed, the mounting challenges of reporting have meant that the world outside of Gaza is getting only a fraction of the story. Even social media has offered only a partial solution, as many of the platforms regularly censor Palestinian voices.
By far, the biggest challenge for journalists is simply staying alive. [Continue reading…]