According to the International Federation of Journalists, more than 70 journalists (very possibly far more) have been killed in just over two months of the Israel-Gaza war. The vast majority have been Palestinians; four Israeli journalists and three Lebanese journalists have been killed.

This is a horrific and unprecedented toll; it is more than the number killed in the entire Vietnam War, which lasted 20 years. The South West England branch of the NUJ expresses its horror and outrage at this death toll. We are horrified too by the deaths of a reported 18,200 civilians, about 40% of them children, in Gaza, caused by Israeli bombardment, and the deaths of a reported 1,200 Israelis in the Hamas attack of October 7, in which approximately 240 civilians were taken hostage. We note that intentionally targeting journalists and civilians is considered a war crime under international humanitarian law. We believe that the role of those brave journalists who work to cover this conflict and ensure that the world beyond the Middle East has a full understanding of events is vital.

The latest killings of journalists come against a backdrop of Israeli Defence Forces apparently targeting journalists—among them Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in 2022—which led the IFJ to bring action at the International Criminal Court.

The NUJ and IFJ have rightly condemned the Israeli government’s declaration that journalists could not be guaranteed protection as a breach of international humanitarian law.

We endorse the call of the union’s NEC on October 13 to Hamas and all Palestinian authorities to respect human rights, and the rights of all journalists to report freely on the conflict, and for the Israeli Government and Defence Forces to act in accordance with humanitarian principles, respect the rights of the vast majority of residents of Gaza who played no part in these attacks, and to act according to international law. We support the call by Reporters Without Borders for foreign journalists to be allowed to enter Gaza, and to be able to work freely there. We call for all hostages to be immediately released, with a mutual cessation of violence and a permanent ceasefire declared.

We also condemn the toll of deaths and injuries suffered by the families of journalists, including (for example) the death on December 11 of the father of Al Jazeera journalist Anas Al-Sharif at the Jabalia refugee camp, shortly after Anas Al-Sharif reported he had received threats from Israeli officials via phone. Neither journalists nor their families are legitimate targets in war.

In her statement issued on December 5, Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ, said: “Most critically, the slaughter that we have seen, from October 7 to this day, should trigger an unprecedented international effort and commitment to negotiate and secure a just, sustainable peace and a future of respectful coexistence—one that delivers security, dignity and a future for all. In this future, a mutual respect for free expression and unfettered reporting should be a key foundation.”

National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

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