Less than a month since Hamas’ heinous acts of violence and torturous murders of innocent people in Israel, plus taking over 200 Israeli and foreign nationals hostages, this Middle East conflict has hit journalists covering this catastrophic story very hard. The number are literally unprecedented.
At least 24 journalists are among the more than 7,000 individuals killed in the escalating conflict, according to the latest numbers released the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
This is the deadliest count for journalists in the region during a conflict since the committee first tracked journalist deaths in 1992.
Of those who have been killed, 20 were Palestinian, three were Israeli and one was Lebanese. Eight more journalists have been injured. Three others are believed missing or detained, according to the CPJ.
The last time journalists faced such heightened danger in Israel was during the Second Intifada of the early 2000s when more than 4,300 people died over more than four years of fighting.
The CPJ documented the deaths of 13 journalists during the Second Intifada.
CPJ is investigating at least 100 additional reports of journalists killed, missing, detained or threatened.
"Based on preliminary reporting, we've also estimated that 48 media facilities in Gaza have been hit or destroyed," said Lucy Westcott of CPJ to National Public Radio.
The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association issued a statement this week condemning the recent killing of journalists in Palestinian territories, Israel and Lebanon.
"Targeting journalists is a stark violation of press freedom and international human rights law," the press association said. "AMEJA calls for accountability based on swift, thorough, and transparent investigations into the killings of our fellow journalists."
The Foreign Press Association similarly called on both Israel and Hamas "to ensure the safety and freedom of reporting of our Palestinian members on the ground in Gaza, who are reporting the news despite extremely dangerous circumstances."
The organization called on all authorities "to ensure the safety of journalists inside Israel, where reporters have been subject to verbal and physical abuse by civilians and security forces on multiple occasions."
Reuters has reported that Issam Abdallah, a Lebanese photojournalist, who was working for the news agency, was killed in southern Lebanon by a missile strike from the direction of Israel on Oct. 13.
The Palestinian journalists killed were based in Gaza and were "incredibly vital to the world's understanding of what's going on on the ground in Gaza," Westcott said.
Most recently, CPJ updated its tally Wednesday to reflect the death of Mohammed Imad Labad, a journalist from the Al Resalah Foundation's news website. He was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza City, according to CPJ.
On Monday, Palestinian journalist, filmmaker and Ain Media co-founder Roshdi Sarraj was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, according to his company.Ain Media called Sarraj "a brilliant photo-journalist and film-maker."
His death came five years after the killing of Ain Media's other co-founder, Yaser Murtaja, by Israeli forces at the border of the Gaza Strip, the company said in a statement. After initially saying they would open an investigation into his death, Israeli officials later said Murtaja was a Hamas militant — a claim his family and colleagues have denied.
"With the killing of Roshdi, Ain Media loses another precious part of its soul. In 2012, Yasser and Roshdi, worked together heart-to-heart on a photo documentary project about daily life in the Gaza Strip, not about death. Gaza is life. Roshdi and Yaser are life: they gave voice to the people of Gaza, to their smiles, to the stories locked in fear, to hopes cherished secretly from the oppression of the Israeli occupation," the company said.
The death of Sarraj and other colleagues underscore the risks facing journalists based in Gaza.
"Freelance local and photo journalists are particularly at risk, because they not only lack that traditional support of a newsroom, but because of the very nature of their work," Westcott said. This often involves capturing images and videos of the fighting and its aftermath, which means getting as close as possible to the danger.
Even before the outbreak of this recent war, the Israeli government was under fire by humanitarian groups for the deaths of journalists. Last year, the Israeli military initially denied that one of its soldiers shot and killed Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh of Al Jazeera. At the time she was wearing a helmet and vest that was labeled "press."
The CPJ issued a report this year highlighting how her death was not a one-off, but rather part of a long, devastating pattern. The organization's report found that at least 20 journalists have been killed by Israeli military fire since 2001 for which "to date, no one has been held accountable."
Israeli officials have maintained that they don't deliberately target civilians or journalists, and they respect press freedom. In the case of Abu Akleh's death, the Israeli authorities have acknowledged Israeli gunfire probably killed the journalist, but they denied soldiers intentionally targeted her.
There have been reports of assaults on journalists outside of the front lines.
Research by CPJ found that there were more than 10 incidents of assaults, arrests, threats, cyberattacks and censorship targeting journalists as they carry out their work in Israel and in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank.
That includes arrests of Palestinian journalists by the Israel Defense Forces.
Israeli journalist Israel Frey went into hiding after "hundreds of right-wing people stormed my house and tried to hurt me and my children," he said in a video he posted from hiding.
He's also been subject to a barrage of threatening messages.
CPJ is similarly concerned about new regulations passed in Israel that allows the country's communications minister to shut down foreign media outlets during a state of emergency in the name of national security, which could very well hamper news once the Israelis launch a full-throttle ground invasion.
The Times of Israel reported that the regulations were passed with the goal of shutting down Al Jazeera, which the country's communications minister, Shlomo Karh, has accused of "incitement against Israel."
Whether those regulations lead to censorship or a black out on covering this conflict, only time should tell.
What these figures and treatment reveal is that inexperienced free-lance journalists thinking of covering this conflict should be aware that this conflict may present unforeseen challenges for those who have never covered a war.
Ten years ago, in Syria, free-lance journalists covered the war but their inexperience led to being caught in the cross-hairs of fixers and terrorists which led to their horrendous murders.
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