Expressing deep concern, the Human Rights Council-appointed experts highlighted the alarming toll on journalists and media workers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Gaza.
“We are alarmed at the extraordinarily high numbers of journalists and media workers who have been killed, attacked, injured and detained in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Gaza, in recent months blatantly disregarding international law,” the experts said.
The experts noted “disturbing reports” of attacks against media workers despite being clearly identifiable in jackets, helmets and vehicles marked “press”, seemingly indicating a “deliberate strategy” by Israeli forces to obstruct and silence critical reporting.
Since 7 October, 122 journalists and media workers have lost their lives in the Gaza Strip, with many others sustaining injuries.
Four Israeli journalists were killed by Hamas on 7 October, when fighters from the extremist group which controls Gaza and other Palestinian militants, attacked Israeli communities in southern Israel.
“We condemn all killings, threats and attacks on journalists and call on all parties to the conflict to protect them,” they said.
Dozens of Palestinian journalists have also been detained by Israeli forces in both Gaza and in the West Bank where harassment, intimidation and attacks on journalists have increased since the Hamas terror attacks.
Courage and resilience
The experts paid tribute to the resilience and courage of media workers in Gaza, noting that rarely have journalists “paid such a heavy price for just doing their job” as those in Gaza now.
“[They] continue to put their own lives on the line every day in the course of duty, while also enduring enormous hardship and tragic loss of colleagues, friends and families in one of the bloodiest, most ruthless conflicts of our times,” the experts said.
They highlighted the case of Al-Jazeera journalist, Wael al-Dahdouh, who lost his wife, two children and a grandson in an Israeli bombing on 25 October. He also survived a drone attack that killed his cameraman in late December.
He lost another son, also an Al-Jazeera journalist, along with another colleague, who were killed by an Israeli drone strike targeting their car on 7 January 2024.
Possible war crimes
The experts stressed the critical importance of the right to information as a “survival right” during times of conflict, on which the very lives of civilians depend, and that journalists play an “indispensable role” as a vital source of information, and as human rights defenders and witnesses to atrocities.
“Journalists are entitled to protection as civilians under international humanitarian law. Targeted attacks and killings of journalists are war crimes,” the experts warned.
The independent expert called on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to pay “particular attention” to the dangerous pattern of attacks and impunity for crimes against journalists.
Access to Gaza
The experts further urged Israeli authorities to permit journalists to enter Gaza and safeguard the safety of all journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
They called on all combatants to facilitate prompt, independent, and impartial investigations into every journalist’s killing, in accordance with international standards.
Mandate to investigate
The experts speaking out are all Special Rapporteurs, who along with other independent rights experts are mandated to monitor and report on specific thematic issues or country situations.
They work on a voluntary basis, serve in their individual capacity, are not UN staff and do not receive a salary.