In the wake of the recent Israel-Gaza conflict that claimed the lives of at least 79 journalists, press freedom and human rights groups are calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to take immediate action to ensure the safety and protection of journalists covering the hostilities. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Freedom House, Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), Human Rights Watch, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, and Reporters Without Borders joined forces in a plea to the Biden administration.
The letter, sent by the coalition, emphasizes the need for the United States, a staunch supporter of Israel, to use its influence to guarantee that journalists can safely document military operations and report on the compliance with international humanitarian law. The groups argue that the concentration of journalists killed during the Israel-Gaza war is unprecedented, underlining the severity of the situation for journalists on the ground.
As of the latest update, the CPJ has documented the deaths of 79 journalists, including 72 Palestinians, 4 Israelis, and 3 Lebanese. The groups contend that almost all these deaths can be attributed to the actions of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). They express concern about the deliberate targeting of journalists, citing incidents that may constitute war crimes.
The coalition demands President Biden to pressure all parties involved to respect journalists’ rights, ensure their safety, allow evacuation from Gaza, investigate attacks on journalists thoroughly, and hold individuals accountable for these attacks. Additionally, they call for increased access for journalists, provision of personal protective equipment, and transparency in assessing the use of U.S. weapons and military assistance by Israel.
The letter also highlights the challenges faced by journalists reporting on the conflict, including restrictions on access imposed by Israel and Egypt, internet shutdowns, arbitrary detention, harassment, and intimidation. The Biden administration has been criticized for failing to demand Israel to ensure journalists’ safety and accountability.
The press freedom groups urge swift, transparent, and independent investigations into the killings of all journalists, ending the pattern of impunity in the killings by the IDF. The letter specifically mentions the case of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed in the occupied West Bank in May 2022, calling for an investigation into her death.
As U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Middle East this week, the spotlight is on the Biden administration to address these concerns and take decisive action in safeguarding the lives of journalists covering the conflict in the region.