'Far too many’ journalists killed in Gaza war, Biden says

It was the first time President Joe Biden acknowledged Palestinian journalists killed in Gaza

US President Joe Biden said the media's work is essential to democracy. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

President Joe Biden on Friday said “far too many journalists” have been killed in Gaza, where the death toll among reporters and media workers has reached nearly 100 since Israel launched its offensive in response to the October 7 Hamas-led attacks.

In a statement marking World Press Freedom Day, Mr Biden said the media's work is essential to democracy, and noted that journalists go to great lengths to expose corruption, document wars and inform the public about critical world events.

“On World Press Freedom Day, we honour the bravery and sacrifice of journalists and media workers around the world risking everything in pursuit of truth,” Mr Biden.

“This is especially resonant today, 2023 was one of the deadliest years for journalists in recent memory. One reason for that is the war in Gaza, where far too many journalists, the vast majority of them Palestinian, have been killed,” he said.

“Journalism should not be a crime anywhere on Earth.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented the deaths of 97 journalists and media workers since October 7. Of those killed, 92 were Palestinian.

The death toll marks the deadliest period for journalists since the CPJ started collecting data in 1992.

Israel has blocked the entry of foreign journalists into Gaza, with the exception of a few embeds with its army, leaving the coverage of this war entirely up to local journalists.

Palestinians and news organisations say Israel directly targets journalists in Gaza, a charge the Israeli military denies.

Mr Biden's statement came after he drew criticism for failing to mention the Palestinian journalists killed in Gaza during his remarks at the annual White House Correspondents' Association gala dinner.

The event, held in Washington, is arguably the highest profile celebration of journalists and the freedom of press in the US.

The war in Gaza, now in its seventh month, has been deadly for Gaza's entire population, not just journalists.

More than 34,500 Palestinians have been killed in the enclave, the majority of them civilians, according to local health authorities.

And Mr Biden's full support of Israel in the war has infuriated Arab Americans, progressives and university students around the country.

His administration has continued to back Israel politically, diplomatically, and militarily. Last month, Mr Biden signed a bill that would send $26 billion in additional funds to Israel, $14 billion of which includes weapons.

“Far too many journalists have been killed in Gaza, but according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, it's because they are being targeted by Israeli forces,” said Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“More than recognition of the more than 100 who've been killed, more than any other conflict in modern times, President Biden must take action against Israel by suspending offensive weapons,” Ms Hassan told The National.

According to the World Press Freedom Index, this year has marked a “clear lack of political will” on the part of the international leaders to enforce the principles of protection of journalists, which is mandated under international law.

“The war in Gaza has been marked by a record number of violations against journalists and the media since October 2023,” the World Press Freedom Index says on its website.

“More than 100 Palestinian reporters have been killed by the Israel Defence Forces, including at least 22 in the course of their work,” the group said.

A statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday made no mention of Palestinian journalists killed in Gaza.

Updated: May 03, 2024, 5:31 PM