People mourn Gaza journalists

Families, loved ones, and colleagues mourn two journalists killed by Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, Gaza on January 7, 2024.

(Photo: Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Watchdog Condemns Israel's 'Use of Detention to Silence Palestinian Media'

"This intimidation, this terror, these endless attempts to silence Palestinian journalism, whether by chains, bullets, or bombs, must stop," said the head of Reporters Without Borders' Middle East desk.

Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday that Israeli authorities have arrested at least 38 Palestinian journalists since the start of its latest assault on Gaza, which has taken a devastating toll on media workers and their families in the besieged enclave.

The watchdog group, known internationally as Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), slammed the Israeli government's "use of detention to silence the Palestinian media." Most of the Palestinian journalists arrested by Israel since October 7 have been held without charge under a notorious procedure known as administrative detention.

People in administrative detention "can be jailed for periods of up to six months that can be renewed on nothing more than an Israeli judge's order," RSF explained. The group said at least 19 Palestinian journalists are currently being held in administrative detention while others have been jailed "pending trial on trumped-up charges of inciting violence."

Many Palestinian detainees have reported torture and other degrading treatment while in Israeli custody. Said Kilani, a photojournalist who has done freelance work for The Associated Press and other outlets, told RSF that he was arrested along with a medical team as Israeli forces closed in on Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza.

"We were forced to take our clothes off, we were insulted and humiliated," said Kilani, who was detained for 14 hours despite immediately identifying himself as a journalist.

Kilani told RSF that after his release, he reunited with his wife and son, who had also been briefly arrested.

"While they had been held, their house had been set on fire," RSF reported, "and the journalistic equipment that Kilani had hidden in the hospital had also been burned."

Diaa al-Kahlout, a reporter for the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news site who was released from Israeli detention on Tuesday, said he was tortured while in custody for more than a month. His home was also burned down.

Jonathan Dagher, the head of RSF's Middle East desk, said in a statement that "at least 31 Palestinian reporters are currently held in Israeli prisons in connection with their journalism."

"This intimidation, this terror, these endless attempts to silence Palestinian journalism, whether by chains, bullets, or bombs, must stop," said RSF. "We call for the immediate release of all detained journalists and for their urgent protection."

Dozens of journalists, most of them Palestinian, have been killed in Israel, Gaza, and Lebanon since October 7, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)—a death toll the group has described as "unparalleled."

Throughout the war, journalists have been violently beaten by Israeli soldiers, targeted by airstrikes, and fired on by tanks. Over the weekend, an Israeli airstrike killed two journalists in southern Gaza, including the eldest son of Al Jazeera's Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh. Five members of Dahdouh's family have now been killed by Israeli bombing.

RSF has filed two war crimes complaints against the Israeli government at the International Criminal Court, accusing the country's forces of intentionally massacring members of the press.

Asked about Israel's targeting of journalists during a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, "To the journalists who've lost their lives or have been injured in Gaza, we feel very strongly for them as well, and the essential work that they do is more vital than ever."

Blinken did not pledge to investigate or hold Israel accountable for deliberately killing members of the media, which is a war crime.

Chris McGreal, a former Guardian correspondent in Jerusalem, condemned the lack of outrage from the West in the face of such atrocities.

"It would surely be different if American or European reporters were the ones dying," McGreal wrote in a column on Wednesday.

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