The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today joined 17 other media freedom and journalist organisations in writing to the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, the High Representative for the European Union on Foreign and Security Policy, urging him to call for the protection of journalists and respect for the freedom of the press amidst the Israel-Gaza war.
The letter outlines the unprecedented number of journalists who died: the Israel-Gaza war one of the single worst events for the loss of journalistic life in such a short space of time. On 15 January 2024, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) documented the killings of 96 journalists: 89 Palestinian journalists, four Israeli journalists and three Lebanese journalists.
The unprecedented killing of so many journalists in so brief a period of time “has obvious and profound implications for the ability of the public, including the citizens of the European Union, to be informed about a conflict with local, regional, and global implications,” said the letter. “We are writing to entreat you to act immediately and decisively to promote the conditions for safe and unrestricted reporting on the hostilities.”
The EFJ and our global network have previously called for the targeted and indiscriminate killing of journalists and civilians in Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to stop, and stressed that perpetrators must be held fully accountable for any violations of the Geneva Conventions and other international human rights treaties and obligations.
Read the joint letter in full below.
Mr. Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/ Vice-President of the Commission
Re: Protecting journalists and press freedom in the Israel-Gaza war
Dear High Representative Borrell,
At least 83 journalists and media workers have been killed in Israel, Gaza, and Lebanon amid hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian and Lebanese armed groups since October 7, when Hamas-led fighters carried out horrific attacks and hostage-taking in Israel. The killing of so many journalists in so brief a period of time is unprecedented. It has obvious and profound implications for the ability of the public, including the citizens of the European Union, to be informed about a conflict with local, regional, and global implications. We are writing to entreat you to act immediately and decisively to promote the conditions for safe and unrestricted reporting on the hostilities.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), more journalists have been killed in the first 10 weeks of the hostilities than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year. Four journalists were killed in Hamas’ assault on October 7, and at least 75 journalists have been killed since, almost all of them by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), according to CPJ.
There is growing evidence that, in some cases, the IDF may have deliberately targeted these journalists. Credible reports by human rights and media organizations indicate that the IDF strikes in southern Lebanon on October 13 that killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and injured six other journalists from Reuters, Al Jazeera, and Agence France-Presse were unlawful and apparently deliberate.1 The IDF has also acknowledged deliberately targeting a car in which journalists were traveling on January 7, killing two journalists and seriously injuring a third. In at least two other cases, journalists reported receiving threats from Israeli officials and IDF officers before their family members were killed in Gaza. Of course, the targeted or indiscriminate killing of journalists, if committed deliberately or recklessly, is a war crime, and the International Criminal Court has said that it will investigate reports of war crimes committed against journalists in Gaza.
Journalists reporting on the war contend with challenges beyond the ever-present risk of death. These challenges include the refusal of Israel and Egypt to allow international journalists access to Gaza except under Israeli military escort (and even then, with restrictions on reporting),2internet shutdowns that prevent news and testimonies from Gaza from reaching the outside world, arbitrary detention, and harassment and intimidation. In addition, the Israeli government is requiring media outlets in Israel to submit almost any detailed reporting on the war to its “Censorship” office for review, while banning reporting on significant topics of public interest related to the war in Gaza. It has also acted against its domestic press, for example, by threatening to retaliate against the country’s oldest newspaper, Haaretz, for its coverage of the war, and threatening to shut down local bureau offices of foreign news agencies.
The European Union describes its relationship with Israel as “one of the most wide-ranging and deepest relationships that the EU enjoys with any third country in the world”. As such, the European Union will be judged on how this relationship can ensure that all parties to the conflict abide by international law, including the protection of journalists who are civilians and must be able to freely and safely report on every aspect of the conflict. We would therefore urge you to:
- Publicly call on all parties to the armed conflict to respect the right of journalists to report on the hostilities, ensure journalists’ safety, allow all journalists seeking to evacuate from Gaza to do so, abjure the indiscriminate and deliberate killing of journalists, promptly and thoroughly investigate all attacks on journalists, and hold accountable individuals found to be responsible for them.
- Demand that Israel and Egypt provide international journalists with independent access to Gaza, and that Israel cease communication blackouts and take whatever steps are necessary to assure the safety of journalists admitted to Gaza as well as those already working there.
- Demand that Israel allow the passage of personal protective equipment and materials used for newsgathering, such as helmets, flak jackets, phone chargers, eSIM cards, and laptops, to reporters in Gaza and the West Bank.
- Support swift, transparent, and independent investigations into the killing of all journalists and ending the longstanding pattern of impunity in the killings of journalists by the IDF.
Thank you for your attention to these matters.
- Access Now
- ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression (ARTICLE 19)
- Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
- DEMAS – Association for Democracy Assistance and Human Rights
- European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
- Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
- Index on Censorship
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
- International Press Institute (IPI)
- Media Diversity Institute (MDI)
- OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
- PEN International
- Public Media Alliance (PMA)
- Rory Peck Trust (RPT)
- South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
- The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation