September 26 marks the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Journalists, initially declared by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in 1996. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights seizes this opportunity to celebrate the tireless efforts of Palestinian journalists and media professionals and to reflect on the manifold challenges they continue to face in their everyday work.
Al Mezan acknowledges the vital role of the media in society, not only as a source of information, but also as a monitor of human rights abuses and violations. For that to be done, however, it is vital that journalists are enabled to carry out their work freely, while realizing their right to freedom of opinion and expression without interference, as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This right also includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds regardless of frontiers. It should also be noted that journalists working in areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilian and afforded the same degree of protection, as stated in Article 79 of Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and in Rule 24 of customary international humanitarian law.
Despite the protected status afforded by international humanitarian law, Palestinian journalists have been deliberately targeted by Israeli forces, as seen in the May 2021 Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, the Great March of Return demonstrations near the perimeter fence between Gaza and Israel, and the recent clashes in the West Bank and Jerusalem. As evidenced by Al Mezan’s documentation, Israel routinely subjects Palestinian journalists to killing, maiming, arbitrary detention, and are denied access to certain areas, making on-the-ground reporting a high-risk mission. Similarly, Israel’s military conduct, characterized by concentrated attacks on civilian objects—including buildings housing media outlets in the Gaza Strip—has inflicted considerable material losses on journalists and impeded media coverage. In some cases, Israel even shut down or hacked Palestinian news offices and TV channels.
According to Al Mezan’s documentation, between 26 September 2020 and 26 September 2021, Israel’s military attacks led to the injury of 14 Palestinian journalists while on duty, 12 of whom were wounded during Israel’s offensive in May and the other two while covering a protest near the perimeter fence last August. Notably, during the 11-day May offensive, 51 media outlets were completely destroyed and 22 others were damaged due to deliberate Israeli attacks. Israeli authorities also prevented some 170 international journalists who wanted to cover the offensive firsthand from entering the Gaza Strip via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing.
While taking this opportunity to reaffirm its solidarity with Palestinian journalists and media professionals and to acknowledge their indispensable role in promoting and protecting human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Al Mezan also strongly condemns Israel’s gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights norms pertaining to the safety of journalists and the freedom of the press. The international community must take effective action to ensure the cessation of all such violations affecting Palestinians—as well as international—journalists and media professionals.