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Israel Must Allow Foreign Journalists Entry to Gaza, UN Secretary General Says

“Denying international journalists entry into Gaza is allowing disinformation and false narratives to flourish.”

Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, speaks during a press conference in front of the Rafah border crossing on March 23, 2024, in Rafah, Egypt.

On Monday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded that Israel allow foreign journalists to enter the Gaza strip. Currently, only correspondents accompanied by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are allowed access to Gaza.

“An information war has added to the trauma of the war in Gaza — obscuring facts and shifting blame,” Guterres said on X. “Denying international journalists entry into Gaza is allowing disinformation and false narratives to flourish.”

On the same day, the Foreign Press Association (FPA) released a statement requesting immediate access to Gaza. The FPA statement says that the association is concerned that Israel has continued to bar international journalists from entering Gaza six months into the conflict.

While Israel has claimed that it is refusing to let foreign journalists into Gaza because of “a variety of security-related and logistical arguments,” the FPA said that the country’s refusal “raises questions about what Israel does not want international journalists to see.”

“Immediate and unrestricted international media access to devastated areas of Gaza and the West Bank is essential if the world is to fully comprehend the far-right Israeli government’s genocidal campaign targeting the Palestinian people,” Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement that was emailed to Truthout. “Israel hopes its crimes can be committed without witnesses. This cynical shielding of the ongoing genocide, ethnic cleansing and forced starvation from public scrutiny must come to an end.”

The FPA had previously filed a petition demanding access to Gaza, arguing that it is “in the public interest to get a fuller picture of conditions inside Gaza after 10 weeks of extremely limited and highly controlled access.” However, in January, Israel’s High Court ruled that the IDF could continue to bar foreign journalists from accessing the Gaza strip. The ruling cited ongoing security and safety concerns, claiming that the measure was appropriate given “extreme security concerns at this time and concrete security threats that go with approving entry permits for independent journalists.”

The FPA condemned the ruling, saying that “ban on independent foreign press access to Gaza… [was] unprecedented.”

“At the same time, Palestinian journalists inside Gaza have faced unprecedented threats and harm while courageously covering the story,” the FPA said.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Israel has killed at least 103 journalists and media workers since the conflict began.

“These 103 journalists are not numbers, they are 103 voices that Israel has silenced, 103 fewer witnesses of the catastrophe unfolding in Palestine, 103 lives extinguished,” RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire said in a statement. “If the numbers show anything, it is that since 7 October, no place in Gaza is safe, no journalist in Gaza is spared, and the massacre has not stopped. We reiterate our urgent appeal to protect journalists in Gaza.”

Gaza’s Government Media Office lists the number of Palestinian media workers killed by Israel at more than 126.

“Since 7 October, more than one journalist a day has lost their lives during the war in Gaza, a scale and pace of loss of media professionals’ lives without precedent,” the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said in a December press release.

Palestinian journalists and free speech organizations have accused Israel of intentionally targeting and killing journalists.

“Israel says it does not target journalists. It needs to explain whether it used one of its drones for a precision attack on these two journalists [Al-Jazeera journalist Hamza Al Dahdouh and freelance journalist Mustafa Thuraya] and why it launched strikes on those like Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah, who was clearly wearing press insignia and away from direct fighting,” Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, said in a January statement.

In March, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) found that Israel breached international law in its October killing of Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah in Lebanon. The Unifil report substantiates claims that the IDF breached international law by “firing at civilians,” which notably included journalists easily identifiable as press members.

Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians since October 7. According to UN officials and the Gaza Ministry of Health, within just six months, Israel has killed 1 in 50 children in Gaza — equating to an average of 75 children per day since October. Israel is also responsible for starving Palestinians in Northern Gaza, dismantling the health and hygiene systems in Gaza, and destroying the vast majority of Gaza’s hospitals.

“Intentionally depriving people of food is clearly a war crime,” UN special rapporteur on the right to food and University of Oregon law professor Michael Fakhri said in a February interview with The Guardian. “Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people, in whole or in part, simply for being Palestinian. In my view as a UN human rights expert, this is now a situation of genocide. This means the state of Israel in its entirety is culpable and should be held accountable — not just individuals or this government or that person.”

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