Canada Must Insist on Safety for Journalists Operating in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank

PEN Canada calls on the Canadian government to insist that combatants in the Hamas-Israel war protect and respect the right of journalists reporting from Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, to perform their work safely and without undue interference, in compliance with international humanitarian law. 

PEN Canada strongly condemns violations of freedom of expression by Israel, including the killing and injury of journalists under Israeli bombardment in Gaza, the reported targeting and intimidation of reporters by Israeli authorities in the West Bank, and the silencing of critical voices in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. PEN Canada also condemns Hamas for its part in endangering journalists through its practice of staging military operations within or close to residential areas in Gaza.

Journalists have been killed and injured in alarming numbers since the massacre of Israelis by Hamas on October 7, and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of Gaza. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), as of November 15

  1. 42 journalists and media workers were confirmed dead: 37 Palestinian, 4 Israeli, and 1 Lebanese.
  2. 9 journalists were reported injured.
  3. 3 journalists were reported missing.
  4. 13 journalists were reported arrested.
  5. Multiple assaults, threats, cyberattacks, censorship, and killings of family members were reported.

Of those journalists within Gaza confirmed dead by CPJ, most were killed by Israeli missile strikes.

Coverage of the conflict has been made near impossible by the damage done to dozens of media offices in Gaza, according to reports currently under investigation by CPJ. This compounds the difficulties caused by the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis: power outages, communications blackouts and disruptions, forced evacuations, hospital shutdowns and shortages of water, food, fuel and medical supplies due to the siege. Under such conditions, and without a working information infrastructure, Palestinian reporters are practically unable to cover the hostilities. They face acute risks as they do the critical and dangerous work of reporting on this war.  Foreign reporters are prevented from reporting freely as well. The IDF told Reuters and Agence France Presse in late October that it could not guarantee their journalists would be safe from airstrikes in Gaza because it was targeting Hamas military activity and centres allegedly placed in the vicinity of civilians. 

In addition to the risks of death or injury, journalists are also facing arrests, assaults, threats, cyberattacks, and censorship in the West Bank. Palestinian journalists have been arrested or taken into administrative detention – incarceration without charge – by Israeli forces. Detailed descriptions of some of these arrests can be found here and here. Israeli authorities have also shut down several media organizations, and threatened to shut down the local offices of the Qatar-based, global news outlet, Al Jazeera. 

Journalists and media workers operating in conflict zones are protected by international humanitarian law. They must be treated as civilians and allowed to perform their work without undue interference.