Media freedom under siege in Gaza

By Nur Sa’adah Batrisyia

Recent weeks have seen Israel and Palestine going to war with Israel facing condemnation for its excessive use of force and a crime against humanity. Israel raided and bombed the building that housed the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other international media in Gaza. Since then, this has been the focus of the media with Israel being accused of violating media freedom. 

There have been various articles on the issue with some focusing on the short notice the families and staff who lived in the al-Jalaa tower were given to leave the building. They had to evacuate within an hour considering the panic that engulfed them at that moment. Such was crimes against humanity as the property was destroyed, leaving families homeless and further destroying the tower that housed several international media houses. 

The assault on the building had sparked intense debate due to its shocking nature. It seems like the attack was a catastrophic attempt aimed at to shut down the media in the country, silence the criticism against the Israeli’s military aggression, and further created a cloak of secrecy around the conflict. Israel has been heavily criticised on humanitarian grounds due to the high number of deaths reported. Notably, the world mainly learned of the outcome of the war through the media, which explained why the al-Jalaa tower was targeted. 

The media covered the destruction in live footage that was broadcast on television and social media. However, the attack was not only on the tower but on media freedom. There was limited coverage on the destruction but this raised further concern on who was interested in controlling the message despite this being an age of online information. Attention can easily and rightfully be shifted from the destruction of the property to the attack being a brazen attempt to silence the media covering the ongoing offensive attack that the Israeli military was committing. 

It should also be remembered that Israel had targeted media organisations in the past during its military offensive in the Gaza Strip. In 2014, it was reported that there were indiscriminate pounding on media houses during the fighting. The United Nations (UN) reported that the attacks by the Israeli military had led to the death of over 1,500 Palestinians, with over 500 being children.

In return, Israel turned on the media. It launched a direct hit on journalists and media organisations raising eyebrows on whether or not the current developments are a repeat of the same situation. Although many people are debating the attacks, they may fail to understand the reason as to why Israel is doing this; the reason being to keep the media in the dark and hence, ensuring secrecy as it carried out the military aggression. 

The attack on al-Jalaa tower is a direct attack on journalism and on the information flow. The freedom of information is under attack. How international news media was shut down in Gaza, considering the tragic imagery of the bombing that showed down Israel’s attack on human rights, freedom of information, democracy and freedom of speech. People need to think of the aggression from this point of view; how much would the world have known about the destruction was it not for the international media? 

The attack was intent on disrupting the media from covering the human sufferings in Gaza. The media had been at the forefront in covering live footage and recorded videos of the sufferings people were undergoing, with the bombings leading to property and human rights loss. As a result, the UN and the United States, among other powers, have pleaded for a ceasefire in the country. However, Israel seemed uninterested in the calls and would want to hide as much as possible any coverage from reaching the world.

The attack on the media houses is because the international media has been the link between Gaza and the rest of the world, reporting the destruction and catastrophe resulting from bombings. Israel is seeking to continue with its operations while keeping the rest of the world in the dark; the only way to do this is by silencing the media. ***

(This opinion piece is written as part of individual assignment series for Feature Writing class)

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