- The Guardian
- Issue #2081
An armoured Land Rover used by Reuters for reporting in Palestine. Photo: Mx. Granger – flickr.com (CC0 1.0)
(Editor’s note: attached is an open letter from Australian journalists. It has been signed by just under 300 journalists so far. Disgracefully, Nine, which publishes the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers has told its staff that anyone who signs the letter will be “unable to participate in any reporting or production relating to the war.“)
Israel’s devastating bombing campaign and media blockade in Gaza threatens news gathering and press freedom in an unprecedented fashion. Newsrooms around the world have a duty to cover these events with integrity, transparency and rigour.
As of November 23, more than 14,000 Palestinians have been killed – including roughly 6,000 children – by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza since the October 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,200 Israelis. Included in the mounting death toll are at least 53 journalists – 46 Palestinians, 3 Lebanese and 4 Israelis – according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which it says is the deadliest conflict for journalists since it began tracking deaths in 1992.
As reporters, editors, photographers, producers, and other workers in newsrooms around Australia, we are appalled at the slaughter of our colleagues and their families and the apparent targeting of journalists by the Israeli government, which constitutes a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
We join hundreds of our colleagues in the US, Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists and others in calling for an end to attacks on journalists and journalism itself. We also call for an end to violence against civilians in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel and Lebanon; the perpetrators of crimes against journalists and civilians be held to account; and Australian newsroom leaders to be as clear-eyed in their coverage of atrocities committed by Israel as they are of those committed by Hamas. We stand by our Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, and Israeli colleagues during a time that is personally and professionally confronting for them. The rise in both Islamophobia and antisemitism has ripple effects for those communities worldwide.
It is our duty as journalists to hold the powerful to account, to deliver truth and full context to our audiences, and to do so courageously without fear of political intimidation. Audiences are viewing much of this war through the lens of social media, fuelling suspicion of the mainstream media’s ability to properly inform audiences of events on the ground. We risk losing the trust of our audiences if we fail to apply the most stringent journalistic principles and cover this conflict in full.
We – journalists from across the Australian media landscape – call on Australian newsrooms to undertake these steps to improve coverage:
1. Adhere to truth over ‘both-sidesism.’ Both-sidesism is not balanced or impartial reporting; it acts as a constraint on truth by shrouding the enormous scale of the human suffering currently being perpetrated by Israeli forces. The immense and disproportionate human suffering of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza should not be minimised.
2. Centre the human tragedy in the coverage of the conflict. Human-focused coverage can include, as examples, daily updates on the civilian death tolls, sharing the profiles and stories of the lives lost, and highlighting the humanitarian catastrophe.
3. Apply as much professional scepticism when prioritising or relying on uncorroborated Israeli government and military sources to shape coverage as is applied to Hamas. The Israeli government is also an actor in this conflict, with mounting evidence it is committing war crimes and a documented history of sharing misinformation. The Israeli government’s version of events should never be reported verbatim without context or fact-checking. This is our basic responsibility as journalists.
4. Give adequate coverage to credible allegations of war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and don’t avoid using the term ‘Palestine’ where appropriate.
5. Provide historical context when referencing the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. The conflict did not start on October 7 and it is the media’s responsibility to ensure audiences are fully informed. Important contextual references include:
a. the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their native lands in 1948 to make way for the state of Israel
b. the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel since 1967, including that the UN deemed Gaza an Israeli-occupied territory even after Israel’s withdrawal from the enclave in 2005
c. the roughly 5,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, including around 150 children, thousands of whom are held without charge and many of whom are tortured
6. Provide full and fair coverage of Australia’s growing anti-war movement, including the large weekly protests in capital cities, and the traumatising impact of the conflict on Arab, Muslim, and Jewish communities.
7. Be transparent about journalists who have been on all-expenses paid trips to Israel organised by pro-Israeli government groups. It is essential for audience transparency that reports include disclosures of a journalist’s participation in all-expenses paid trips to Israel. We also urge all Australian journalists from hereon to reject offers of paid trips to the Middle East.
8. Trust Australian journalists of Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and Jewish backgrounds to do their jobs. Diversity is an asset in newsrooms and should be harnessed to enrich coverage. Journalists with identities that intersect with a live issue bring insights and perspectives otherwise unattainable from a disconnected, privileged vantage point.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .