For Palestinian journalists

A few words I delivered to Bristol’s stalwart supporters of the Palestinians outside Elbit Systems Filton death factory, in the icy rains of Saturday 2 March 2024

With snow still on the ground more than hundred supporters of Palestine rallied outside Elbit Systems factory in icy rain.

Thank you for inviting me to address this gathering. 

I know some of you are may be sceptical if not downright hostile to the mainstream media, but without the work of investigative and news journalists we would all know little about what is happening in the world around us, nor how culpable Elbit Systems are in the carnage of Gaza.

Journalism has become one of the most dangerous trades in the world, as Israel’s assault on Gaza has shown. Estimates of casualties inevitably vary but it is thought that as much as one per cent of Gaza’s entire population have been killed since 7 October. Two per cent of the Strip’s health workers have also been killed at work. But at least 10 per cent of all journalists in Gaza have lost their lives so far. 

The latest confirmed death was of photographer Mohammad Yaghi on Friday 23 February

Journalists around the world have been mourning our colleagues and raising funds to provide safety equipment and support for them and their families. The South West Branch of the National Union of Journalists held a vigil at the Fountains in Bristol’s Centre recently, where we read out the names of all those killed in the line of duty. It is a tribute conducted by other branches of the NUJ (UK and Ireland).

According to the American-based Committee to Protect Journalists 94 journalists and media workers have been confirmed dead: 89 of them Palestinians, 3 Lebanese and 2 Israelis. 4 others have been reported missing, 16 injured and 25 arrested.

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), with whom I have often worked, says that at least 103 journalists and media workers have been killed. And the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, an IFJ affiliate, reports some 50 local and international media outlets in Gaza have destroyed or damaged by the Israeli armed forces.

Three Palestinian journalists were killed on 7 October itself, along with one 1 Israeli, and one of the worst days since then came on 10 October when were 4 killed, including Salam Mema, head of the Women Journalists’ Committee. She was at her home in the Jabalia refugee camp. 

On 25 October 5 were killed; and 6 lost their lives on 18 November. Four died on the first of December.

In a poignant final message, 27 year old Ayat Khadoura, who was killed on 20 November, wrote: “We had very big dreams, but unfortunately  today our dreams are that if we are killed we are killed in one piece.’ 

Unrolling the handwritten names of 12,500 Palestinians killed in Gaza since 7 October 2023

And while the statistics are shocking enough, the circumstances of these deaths are even more horrific. 

Since the shooting of Shireen Abu Akleh at Jenin refugee camp in May 2022, it has been a widely held view that journalists have been specifically targeted by the IDF. And certainly there have been some shot by snipers while wearing, as she was, quite evident Press insignia. 

Gradually all 30,000+ names will be added and carried through Bristol City centre on 16 March

While it is true that journalists are more likely to run towards explosions rather than away from them, but many of those killed have died with members of their family when their homes have been the target. The message is clear – to be a journalist is to put your whole family at risk.

It is also clear that the Israeli government does not want its own population to know what is going on behind the fences that enclose Gaza – none of the live footage we can watch everyday on Al Jazeera ever reaches an Israeli audience for fear of their reaction. 

I would like to end by reading you the short letter that has been sent to the Egyptian and Israeli authorities by 55 well-known journalists from leading western media outlets including the BBC, ITN, Channel 4 News and Sky News.

‘Almost five months into the war in Gaza, foreign reporters are still being denied access to the territory, outside of the rare and escorted trips with the Israeli military.

We urge the Governments of Israel and Egypt to allow free and unfettered access to Gaza for all foreign media. We call on the government of Israel to openly state its permission for international journalists to operate in Gaza and for the Egyptian authorities to allow international journalists access to the Rafah Crossing.

There is intense global interest in the events in Gaza and for now the only reporting has come from journalists who were already based there. It’s vital that local journalists’ safety is respected and that their efforts are bolstered by the journalism of members of the international media.

The need for comprehensive on-the-ground reporting of the conflict is imperative. The risks of conflict reporting are well understood by our organisations who have decades of experience of reporting in warzones around the world and in previous wars in Gaza.

Let us hope if they can get in there their reports will help to persuade Israeli citizens to join those of us demanding an immediate ceasefire. Better still let us hope that more coverage will persuade Western governments to take a stand against the genocide Palestine is enduring in front of everyone’s eyes.


Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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