Understanding The Importance Of Murdered Journalists In The Israel-Hamas War

Since the start of the recent Israel-Hamas war, at least a dozen reporters covering the conflict have been killed, with more injured. In the first week of this festering war, 10 Palestinian journalists, along with 1 Israeli and 1 Lebanese have been caught in crossfire and killed. This includes one reporter from Reuters, Issam Abdallah, a video journalist who died on Friday during a live report at the Israel-Lebanon border when an explosion hit the area he was reporting in. This strike also led to 6 other journalists being injured including 2 others from Reuters as well as 2 from both Al Jazeera and Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The conflict arose violently almost two weeks ago, when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7th, murdering, kidnapping, and torturing Israeli citizens. Since then Israel has responded, leading to more than 4,000 deaths on both sides with many of these being civilians and 12, as of now, being journalists covering the attack. Along with the dead and injured journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has reported that at least 2 other reporters have been deemed missing, possibly kidnapped along with other civilians. International humanitarian laws view journalists as immune and protected from direct attacks, but when journalists report in densely populated areas such as Gaza, which is only approximately 2 times the size of Washington D.C., the risk and liability of being harmed increase. Organizations such as Reuters and AFP who have had journalists killed are investigating the incidents, while Al Jazeera has held “Israel legally and morally responsible” for the death of its 2 journalists, citing “blatant disregard” of international norms protecting the press. 

The Israel-Palestine conflict has a long and complex history, leading to violence dating back centuries on both sides. Throughout this conflict, numerous civilians have been killed and injured, historical and cultural sites have been destroyed, and residents have been facing the harsh conditions of war and conflict. While any violence towards civilians during wartime should be condemned, the murder of journalists has exclusive dangerous implications. As stated by the Committee to Protect Journalists, journalists should be protected when doing their work, and immune from violent acts of war between or within nations.

Following the death of these 12 journalists, a United Nations spokesperson stated that “Journalists need to be protected and allowed to do their work”, condemning the attacks. The suppression of journalists and the media has a global impact, which is why the international community must agree that the media should be protected to allow them to do their important work. If journalists feel threatened when reporting on events, they are unable to fully present the issue at hand to a global audience, causing a suppression of news and information.

Being informed on severe conflicts and events such as the one currently happening, is crucial. Without being informed, less awareness of the devastating consequences is present, which could prolong the war as the international community is less incentivized and motivated to become involved and work towards peace. In the present case of the murder of 12 journalists from multiple nations, the international community has acknowledged the moral issues this brings up, condemning those responsible for the attacks. As already stated, Al Jazeera has held Israel responsible for the murder of its journalists with the United Nations echoing the notion that journalists should be protected from attack. However, this war has had the general issue of accurately and quickly placing responsibility on attacks, with several moments of confusion as to which side instigated an attack. In response to the murder of the journalists, the United Nations envoy to Israel, Gilas Erdan, stated that Israel “would never want to hit or kill or shoot any journalist”. Despite this acknowledgment of humanitarian law, Erdan also stated that in the case of war, it is almost impossible to fully protect journalists with the current severity of wars. 

While the condemnation of the murder of journalists by multiple international communities is a step in the right direction to ensuring a free press, the immunity of journalists must be better adhered to internationally, in order to prevent journalists from being threatened, allowing them to wholeheartedly serve global audiences unbiased and unrestricted news and information. Journalists are typically harmed and caught in conflict when civilian communities are attacked, although both of these groups are supposed to be protected, according to international humanitarian law. Despite this law, there have been numerous and continuous events of civilians and journalists being killed indiscriminately. In order to protect journalists and disengaged civilians, international humanitarian law must be updated to hold uncooperating nations and actors accountable for their crimes. Wars where civilians are left completely immune and unimpacted by the violent actions of war rarely, if ever, occur despite the supposed prohibition of these actions according to international humanitarian law. Not only do nations get away with killing civilians, but civilians are often the target of human rights abuses during wartime with little or no accountability and justice taking place. The continuous violations of humanitarian law allow actors and states to continue these violations, as they don’t fear the accountability they should receive.

The murder of journalists in an intentional manner must be explicitly and strictly addressed in humanitarian law, as journalists should not be attacked for military objectives. According to the Geneva Convention, which was established in 1949 following the devastating events of the Second World War, journalists are guaranteed the same protections that civilians have during wartime, meaning that they should be protected as civilians unless they become actively and directly engaged in the hostilities. While this, in theory has the right principles of protecting civilians and journalists, in practice more needs to be done to enforce these clauses, as there are numerous examples of both civilians and journalists being killed in war despite their supposed protection. International humanitarian law must be updated to explicitly provide journalists with protection during times of warfare, and the international community must find a better way of holding states and actors accountable for violations of these principles.

As governments continue to get away with the murder of journalists, whether unintentional or to achieve a political or military goal, the practice will continue and media actors will be unable to perform their objective duty of providing information to the public as they fear attacks in war-stricken regions. This protection is not only necessary to protect human lives from being lost but also to ensure that we, as a global audience, receive the most informative and objective news and updates from around the world, in order to raise awareness and make informed decisions by understanding an event in an unbiased and impartial manner. 


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