This piece originally appeared in the South Seattle Emerald, republished here with permission.
(The following is the transcript of the reading given at the vigil on Dec. 10, 2023 and has been slightly modified for publication.)
On December 10, over a hundred community members joined in a candlelight vigil to honor the 63 journalists and media workers whose lives have been lost in the latest Israel–Hamas war. Some held drawings by artist Gianluca Costantini while others held candles.
Supporters of press freedom gathered to commemorate the journalists who have given their lives in the past two months to keep the world informed of what is happening in Palestine. This siege has proven to be the most dangerous battlefield for journalists since the collection of names began by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in 1992.
As of December 10, CPJ’s investigations have revealed that 63 journalists and media workers have been killed in this conflict — comprising 56 Palestinians, four Israelis, and three Lebanese. Additionally, 11 journalists have been reported injured, three are currently missing, and 19 have been arrested. Beyond these statistics, journalists have encountered various threats, cyberattacks, and, distressingly, the immense loss of family members and friends.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), as reported by Reuters and Agence France-Presse, chose not to provide assurances regarding the safety of journalists operating in Gaza. Despite facing perilous conditions, including Israeli airstrikes, communication disruptions, media blackouts, and power outages, these journalists demonstrated unwavering commitment to their duty to tell the truth and to show the resilience of Palestine and Palestinians.
On World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2023, the Secretary-General of the United Nations made this statement: “Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and justice. It gives all of us the facts we need to shape opinions and speak truth to power. And as this year’s theme reminds us, press freedom represents the very lifeblood of human rights.”
At least 67 media workers were killed in 2022 — an unbelievable 50% increase over the previous year. That number has now been exceeded almost entirely from the killing of journalists in Palestine since Oct. 7 by the IDF and other Zionist forces. Additionally, nearly three-quarters of women journalists have experienced violence online, and 1 in 4 has been threatened physically.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Humanitarian Law Databases, journalists are civilians and must be protected: “Rule 34. Civilian journalists engaged in professional missions in areas of armed conflict must be respected and protected as long as they are not taking a direct part in hostilities.”
The National Press Club statement on journalists in Gaza reads, “The work of a free and independent media is essential in wartime to alert civilians to threats to their safety, to provide the global community with reliable reports of conditions on the ground in real time, and to document potential war crimes and atrocities.”
Speakers at the vigil reminded attendees that these journalists “are your neighbors, friends, and family, who are working for us, to be where others cannot and shine a light into the darkness.”
An open letter is circulating in the journalism community, and the author of this article has signed it. In part, it reads, “We stand with all of our colleagues and condemn the killing of journalists. We remind all parties that attacks targeting civilians — including journalists — violate international law. We call on the international community to uphold freedom of the press and to protect the lives and safety of members of the media. We demand an end to the impunity in the killing of journalists and we call for those found responsible to be held to account.”
Editor’s Note: As of Jan. 2, 2024, 77 journalists and media workers were confirmed dead, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.