The following statement was released by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate to the global media on Nov. 9. This article appeared in popularresistance.org on Nov. 10, 2023.
As Palestinian journalists and trade unionists, we call on our fellow journalists around the world to take action to stop the horrifying bombardment of our people in Gaza and to adhere to the ethical principle of our profession.
The world watches in horror as Israel attacks civilians in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip from the land, sea and air, killing more than 9,000, injuring more than 30,000, and leaving many others trapped under the rubble. Meanwhile, Israel has distributed thousands of automatic weapons to extremist settlers in the occupied West Bank, who are openly planning and executing acts of wholesale ethnic cleansing.
These events — and the prospect of even worse to come — have shaken us to our core, compelling us as journalists to speak out. We remind our colleagues, particularly those working in Western media, about the need to adhere to basic journalistic standards. We are distressed that some in the global media have frequently failed to meet these standards when covering the ongoing massacre in Gaza.
Even by the low standards set by media coverage of previous massacres in Gaza, the media discourse surrounding recent events represents a new low for the principles of journalistic integrity. Shorn of any pretense of objectivity or truth, some Western media organizations have parroted Israeli government talking points, failed to challenge or even attempt to verify blatant misinformation and propaganda, and adopted dehumanizing and violent language about the Palestinian people.
When, for example, the Israeli and U.S. governments suggested — with no evidence whatsoever — that the Palestinian Health Ministry had inflated the number of Palestinians registered as killed in Gaza, many news agencies uncritically adopted this talking point. By engaging in such unfounded speculation — driven by the propaganda of the Israeli war machine — media organisations are facilitating the mass death of Palestinians and laying the groundwork for a genocide.
As the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, we note that:
- Since Oct. 7, 25 Palestinian journalists and nine workers for media agencies have been killed by Israeli bombardment. Over the same period, there have been direct attacks on the homes of 35 journalists, killing dozens of their family members, including the strike against the house of Al-Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh, killing his wife, two of his children, and his young grandchild. Based on the information obtained by the Syndicate, at least 20 of the 25 journalists killed since Oct. 7, were intentionally targeted by strikes on their homes or during their work covering Israel’s attacks. These atrocities are part of a long pattern of Israel’s lethal targeting of Palestinian journalists. The Israeli government has killed 55 Palestinian journalists between 2000 and 2022, most famously Shireen Abu Akleh in May 2022.
- Israel severed all communication with the Gaza Strip and cut off internet, telephone, and mobile communication on Oct. 28 and communication continues to be heavily disrupted and restricted. As in previous wars, they have also prevented foreign media from entering into the Gaza Strip. These actions, taken together, are intended to allow Israel to commit its massacres in the dark, away from the lenses of the world media.
- Israel has a well-established track record of misleading the media and world public, including by repeatedly and systematically producing fabricated ‘evidence’ to justify its war crimes and crimes against humanity. We have documented numerous such cases in the recent weeks alone.
- On Oct. 18, 250 leading journalism, media and communications scholars issued a public statement in which they denounced the biased media coverage, the omission of key context and facts, the selective use of evidence, and double standards and discrimination against Palestinians by the British media. (tinyurl.com/y6ajjpyc) These critiques are applicable to Western coverage more generally.
- More than 800 international legal scholars have published a statement (tinyurl.com/4fkkvfu3) warning of the “possibility of the crime of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” and the Center for Constitutional Rights has issued a detailed legal and factual analysis describing “Israel’s unfolding crime of genocide.” Leading genocide scholars have noted that Israel’s actions, along with statements about intent by Israeli government officials, together point to the commission of acts of genocide against the Palestinian people. One of these experts—prominent Israeli Holocaust and Genocide Studies scholar Raz Segal—has described Israel’s actions in Gaza as “a textbook case of genocide.” (tinyurl.com/yc8xynj9) Scholars have also warned that the media’s dehumanization of Palestinians is enabling this genocide.
- Much of the global media, particularly Western media outlets, have mindlessly repeated Israeli government talking points and used dehumanizing language when referring to Palestinians. In so doing, these media organizations have utterly failed to adhere to fundamental journalistic principles of objectivity and integrity. They risk becoming accessories to genocide.
Given this reality and the dire situation developing in Palestine, we call on journalists, trade unions and news agencies around to the world to:
- Publicly condemn the targeting of Palestinian journalists and take all possible measures to support Palestinian journalists.
- Publicly reaffirm their commitment to journalistic ethics, the pursuit of truth and objectivity, and to adhere to the standards established in IFJ Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists. (tinyurl.com/vdjd9sp7)
- Consider the track record of parties providing information before reporting that information as fact and verify the claims of unreliable sources before reporting those claims as fact.
- Adopt standards of the IFJ Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists and The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) Guidance for accurately covering issues related to Israel and Palestine. (tinyurl.com/mryj8k24)
- Refuse to engage in dehumanising language that facilitates genocide. We call on individual journalists to adopt principled stances on the side of truth and take protest measures if their agencies do not act accordingly.
As journalists, we have a duty to accurately and impartially report facts, especially in situations of conflict, when propaganda and misinformation threaten to obscure dire realities on the ground. Now is the time for courage, honesty, and adherence to the highest principles of our profession. Time is running out. We urge our colleagues around the world to do the right thing.