RSF’s response to the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate allegations about the annual round-up for killed journalists

In response to serious accusations about the number of Palestinians journalists killed reported in its 2023 annual round-up, RSF points out that its figures relate to journalists killed in the course of their work or because of their work. Since the start of the war, RSF has been investigating and denouncing abuses against journalists and urging the international community to end Israel’s impunity.

In a statement issued on 15 December, the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate (PJS) criticised RSF after the publication of the annual Round-Up of violence and abuses against journalists worldwide, on 14 December. The round-up reported that, of a total of 56 journalists killed in the Gaza Strip as of that date, at least 13 were killed in the course of their work or because of it. 

In its press release, the union, which does not distinguish between the number killed in the line of duty and the overall number killed, accused RSF of “whitewashing the image of the occupation” of “shielding Israel from any responsibility before international justice”, of “bias in favour of the occupation” and of “lack of professionalism.”

RSF deeply regrets that the PJS, a member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), is threatening legal action, which is very inappropriate in the light of the facts and the issues at stake. In its statement, the PJS said: "The union will take legal action guaranteed by international law and the national laws of countries to hold accountable anyone who answers for the occupation and justifies Israeli war crimes against Palestinian journalists.”

“At this tragic time for Palestinian journalists, we are convinced of the important role that the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate is playing alongside colleagues in the field. Our organisation will be at its side as much as we can, defending the right to information. Nonetheless, we do not want to leave unanswered serious and inane accusations that damage our organisation’s image at a time when our team is doing everything possible to help Palestinian journalists. These accusations indicate, at best, a misunderstanding of RSF positions. These attempts to impugn our motives and these quarrels over numbers make no sense.

Christophe Deloire
RSF secretary-general

In a letter to PJS president Nasser Abou Baker on 23 December, RSF pointed out  that, the methodology used to draw up the organisation's annual report, allows to state that at least 14 of the journalists killed in the Gaza Strip as of that date had been killed in the course of their work or because of it. But RSF did not yet have sufficient evidence or indications to say the same with regard to all the other journalists killed. This does not in any way minimise the tragic impact of Israel’s bombardments on Palestinian journalists, along with the rest of the civilian population. 

Four complaints with ICC since 2018

For years, RSF has systematically denounced the targeting of Palestinian journalists by the Israeli military and security forces, and has urged the international community to end Israel’s impunity. And since 7 October, RSF has repeatedly condemned how “Israel is eradicating journalism in Gaza,” and how Israel’s strikes are killing “more than one journalist a day.” Its investigation into Lebanese journalist Issam Abdallah’s death on 13 October established that the spot where he and his media colleagues were standing was deliberately targeted.

RSF has filed two complaints with the ICC since 7 October – one on 31 October and one on 22 December – about a total of 14 Palestinian journalists killed by the Israeli military in the course of their work or in connection with their work. They follow two earlier complaints that RSF filed with the ICC about Palestine, the first in 2018 calling for an investigation into the killings of two Palestinian journalists by Israeli, and the second in 2021 about Israeli airstrikes on more than 20 media outlets in the Gaza Strip. RSF also supported the complaint that Al Jazeera filed with the ICC about the fatal shooting of Palestinian journalist Shirin Abu Akleh in the West Bank on 11 May 2022.

Investigation and support for Palestinian journalists

As Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary-General pointed out in his letter to the PJS, the methodology, used in every country in the world, allows to say that at least 14 of the 65 journalists killed in Gaza were killed in the course of their work or because of it.

“For the others, we do not yet have sufficient evidence or clues,” Deloire says. “We believe that the burden of proof lies with us. We therefore do not include in our figures the cases of journalists who were killed without our having the substantiated conviction that they died as a result of being journalists. We continue to investigate the circumstances of abuses against reporters every day, with correspondents on the ground. This has not prevented us from issuing press releases on all journalists killed in Gaza, which is further proof of the tragic effects of the bombardments on the entire civilian population. We do not wish to get into a dispute about the figures with the IFJ and the SJP, but in our view your count raises questions of methodology, insofar as it includes people who are not all journalists. Our methodologies differ on this point.” 

RSF also continues to provide concrete assistance to the journalists who are trapped in the Gaza Strip and are constantly threatened by Israeli strikes. In partnership with Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), RSF’s Assistance Desk has so far disbursed 27 grants to Gazan journalists for the acquisition of professional equipment – including phones, e-sims, laptops and solar batteries, etc. – so they can continue to inform the rest of the world.

157/ 180
Score : 31.92
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