Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

Canadian journalists for free expression is concerned about Palestinian journalists on the ground, and calls for independent investigations.

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Photoreporter Motaz Azaiza

  • Mouaad El Yaakabi (View profile)Mouaad El Yaakabi

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“Unprecedented” is how Michelle Shepard, journalist at the Toronto Star and co-president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, describes the heavy toll paid by his sisters and brothers in Gaza. “We don't talk about it as much as we think we should,” she summarizes, speaking on behalf of her organization.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalist's daily count, 83 journalists have already lost their lives since the start of the Israeli counter-offensive in the Gaza Strip. 76 of them were Palestinians.

The profession is on the front line, from the first day of the Israeli military intervention, the Gaza Strip is cut off from the world and journalists Palestinians become its eyes and ears.

Israel does not allow independent media to enter the Gaza Strip and it is Palestinian journalists who provide most of the coverage. Their work is vital because they are the only window into what's happening on the ground, says Michelle Shepard.

International editorial teams have no choice but to rely on local journalists and a whole generation of young journalists find themselves thrust onto the information front.

Middle East, the eternal conflict

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At 22, with a journalism degree in hand, Plestia Alaqad wanted to take the time to see what life had to offer her before making a decision on her career, but this fateful October 7 decided otherwise.

From the first hours of the conflict, she documented her daily life and published short videos of her and her family on her social networks.

During one of them, and while the young woman is speaking to the camera, a missile blows out a nearby building. For a few seconds, no more words come out of his mouth, but his eyes say enough. The video goes viral and media from around the world contact Plestia Alaqad to offer collaborations.

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After the shock has passed, the young woman puts on a helmet and protection to cover what, from the very first days, United Nations rapporteurs described as genocide in progress (New window).

She who stayed away from conflicts, and wanted to show the beauty of Gaza, plunged into horror. Nothing had prepared her for what she was going to experience: We were walking in the street and I asked my cameraman what that bad smell was, he told me it was the smell of corpses under the rubble .

I didn't know what a dead body smells like, how could I know?

A quote from Plestia Alaqad, Palestinian journalist

Like her, a young generation of journalists is starting their careers in the worst circumstances, both in traditional media and on social networks, where they are followed by millions of people across the globe.

Whereas before they were confined to the role of fixer, responsible for finding interlocutors, doing the translations without receiving any credit or recognition, they now embody the information. It marks a profound change, explains Jodie Ginsberg, president of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Anglophones, mastering the codes of social networks, they managed to turn the focus of the world on an area placed under cover, and to give a voice and a face to a population often reduced to numbers.

More than 4 million people follow and watch the videos whose candor contrasts with the horror of everyday life, and where Alaqad films himself with children, or caressing a turtle that a Gazan took care to take with him. her, and which she named Plestia. It's sad that it's 2024 and we're making all this effort just because we want the world to see us as humans, the young woman laments.

Bisan Owda, another young journalist aged 25, describes daily life in the camps which are improvised according to the offensives of the Israeli army. More than 3 million people follow these videos, which always begin with the same message: I am Bisan and we are still alive.

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Without electricity, and connected to the Internet thanks to the eSIM, daily work is akin to an impossible mission. The risk is constant and the profession has paid a heavy price.

Photojournalist Motaz Azaiza addressed his 18 million subscribers in an anticipated funeral oration: now ends the stage where I risk my life to inform you and begins the stage where I try to survive.

A few days ago, he announced that he would have to leave the Gaza Strip: this is the last time you will see me with this heavy and stinking vest he explained, visibly moved, as he unzipped his blue Press vest.

This is the deadliest conflict for journalists that the Committee has documented in more than 30 years

A quote from Jodie Ginsberg, president of the Committee to Protect Journalists

Death does not spare Gazan journalists, any more than the rest of the population.

Among the last names on the list, Hamza Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuraya, victims of an airstrike by the Israeli army.

The first is none other than the son of the head of the Al Jazeera bureau in Gaza, Wael Dahdouh, whose recent tragic story sums up the situation experienced by his compatriots.

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Journalist Wael Dahdouh holds the hand of his son Hamza killed during an Israeli airstrike.

Before Hamza, 27 years old, Wael buried his wife, two children and a grandson, who died during bombings, then his cameraman, Samer Abou Daqqa, victim of another bombing from which he emerged miraculously unscathed. A few hours later, Wael Dahdouh was back on duty, live and with bandages.

Organizations defending journalists do not rule out possibility of targeted strikes by the Israeli army.

Reporter sans frontières has filed two complaints with the International Criminal Court.

And in the complaint filed by South Africa before the International Court of Justice, an entire section is devoted to journalists. It is important and essential that governments request this type of investigation, explains Michelle Shephard. The co-president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression says she is concerned and asks that at least investigations be carried out to find out whether journalists are targeted or not.

The minute the ceasefire begins, the minute the bombs stop, that's when the war will begin. This is when people will realize what they have lost, when they will wonder where are my parents? Where is the house where I grew up?

A quote from Plestia Alaqad, Palestinian journalist

In December, CNN exclusively reported (New window) the conclusions of American spy services according to which almost half of the bombs dropped by Israel were dumb bombs.

For a few weeks, Plestia Alaqad and her family have found refuge in Australia where one of her uncles lives. She continues to closely monitor the situation in Gaza and cannot seem to stop. When we ask her how she feels, she replies that she doesn't know, they don't give us space for our emotions, the bombings are 24/7, it's a privilege to know how we feel.< /p>

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