update deskIsrael at War

‘Significant challenges to press freedom’ in Gaza, 25 members of Congress say

The representatives, all Democrats, claimed there have been "more journalists killed in three months than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year."

Stock photo of journalist covering war. Credit: Presslab/Shutterstock.
Stock photo of journalist covering war. Credit: Presslab/Shutterstock.

The United States should work with Egypt and Israel to address “significant challenges to press freedom in the current war in Gaza,” 25 members of Congress wrote on Wednesday to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Since Oct. 7, at least 88 journalists and media workers have been killed during the conflict. This includes the four Israeli journalists who were killed by Hamas during the violent terror attack on Oct. 7, as well as 83 Palestinian journalists and three Lebanese journalists reportedly killed as a result of Israel’s response in Gaza and Lebanon,” wrote Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and the 23 others.

“As Israel conducts operations against Hamas, we ask that you work with the Israeli and Egyptian governments to protect press freedom and ensure journalists are able to execute their ‘vitally important role,’ as you have described, in providing accurate reporting on the full scale of the war,” the 25 wrote to Blinken.

“With more journalists killed in three months than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year, we remain concerned that not enough steps have been taken to safeguard the lives of the civilian population in Gaza, including journalists,” the congressmen wrote.

“Hamas, which has a history of harassing and physically torturing journalists in Gaza in attempts to obstruct the free flow of information, has already created an environment dangerous for journalists,” they added. “Palestinian and foreign journalists in Gaza now must contend with constant aerial bombardments and the repeated internet blackouts caused by damage to network facilities.”

The 25 members of Congress called on Blinken to press Israel and Egypt to better protect the lives of Gazan journalists, allow foreign journalists to enter Gaza, allow both foreign and local journalists to leave Gaza “if they wish” and give journalists access to protective gear (“distinguishing insignia, bulletproof vests, helmets and phone chargers”).

“Palestinian journalists already in Gaza should also be allowed access to these necessary products,” added the 25, who also called for the State Department to push Egypt and Israel to protect internet and phone access and to investigate allegations of harassment and attacks on journalists.

The other signatories, all of whom are Democrats, are Reps. Don Beyer (Va.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), André Carson (Ind.), Joaquin Castro (Texas), Judy Chu (Calif.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Madeleine Dean (Pa.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Maxwell Frost (Fla.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Sara Jacobs (Calif.), Hank Johnson (Ga.), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (Calif.), William Keating (Mass.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), Dan Kildee (Mich.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), James McGovern (Mass.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Mike Quigley (Ill.), Jamie Raskin (Md.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.).

J Street, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Middle East Democracy Center and Human Rights Watch endorsed the letter.

Journalists working in Gaza have been credibly and extensively accused of having participated directly in Hamas’s terrorist attacks on Oct. 7, and otherwise be supportive of Hamas.

On Feb. 13, Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, said during a department press briefing that Foggy Bottom continues “to engage with the government of Israel to make clear that journalists ought to be protected.”

“We understand, of course, that this is an active war zone. Journalists are doing—are putting themselves in harm’s way to bring us the truth, and we support their work in bringing us the truth, and we want to see that they’re protected to the maximum extent possible,” Miller said.

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