/ 11 January 2024

Journalist killings are a loss to all

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Journalists take pictures and videos of media equipment on the ground representing the reporters killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza as part of January 10 Working Journalists' Day commemorations organised by Ankara Palestine Solidarity Platform at Guvenpark of Ankara, Turkiye on January 10, 2024. (Photo by Harun Ozalp/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Palestinian journalist Hind Khoudary’s last conversation with her colleague Hamza Dahdouh moved between the brutal realities of living under Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and the human tenderness too commonplace to snuff out. 

“We were talking. And we were giggling and we were joking — despite all the atrocities that we have been going through every single day,” Khoudary recalled in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Dahdouh — the son of Wael Dahdouh, the news network’s bureau chief in Gaza — was killed by an Israeli missile strike in the western part of Khan Younis last Sunday. Journalist Mustafa Thuraya was also killed in the attack.

That day, photojournalist Sharef Okasha wrote a social media post expressing his condolences to Wael. On Wednesday, Okasha was also killed.

Late last year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) reported that the last three months of 2023 marked the deadliest quarter for journalists in conflict zones since at least 2007. The large number of those killings (19 out of 38) were in Palestine, where Israel continues to rain down terror, stealing many more lives and breaking countless hearts.

In its statement, Unesco noted that these figures do not include deaths of journalists and media workers in circumstances unrelated to their profession.

The killings are only the tip of the iceberg, the UN body added, “with widespread damage and destruction of media infrastructure and offices and many other kinds of threats such as physical attack, detention, the confiscation of equipment or denial of access to reporting sites”. Under these gruelling circumstances, large numbers of journalists have also fled or simply stopped working.

Unesco pointed to what it terms “zones of silence” in many conflict zones. When newsrooms and journalists disappear, access to information is cut off, leaving both local populations and the world at large worse off.

We’ve written before how important this year is to democracy. The truth is, in the wake of multiple crises, the stakes will be higher with every year that passes. Without information, it will be near impossible to wade through the muck.

As journalists, we cannot turn our eyes away from the unfolding horror that has been inflicted on Palestinians these past 94 days. And as Israel’s siege on Gaza threatens to wipe out the soft edges of humanity, we have to count every loss as our own.

Because, as we enjoy the relative safety of our newsrooms, beleaguered as they are — and as we deal with the often soulless business of clicks and deadlines — at the end of the day, our work is about empathy. 

We have a duty to look and to listen and to get as close as we can to uncovering the truth. But in Gaza and in Israel, and in so many other corners of this troubled world, our truth is quite literally under attack.