Israel’s Systemic Targeting of Journalists

Tomorrow marks one year since veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by the Israeli military while covering an Israeli invasion of Jenin refugee camp. The brutal silencing of her voice, and the images of Israeli riot police beating mourners at her funeral, will be remembered as defining moments exposing the cruelty of Israeli apartheid.

As part of our ongoing series on freedom of expression, we recognize that Shireen’s case is not an anomaly, but reflects decades of Israeli impunity for the systemic targeting of journalists. This visual honors the journalists who were killed simply because their voices exposed the atrocities of Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid.

This visual covers the period from 2000–2022, based on a comparative review of six different sources of documentation. Organizations citing lower figures usually adopt a narrower focus on journalists killed on assignment. Higher figures sometimes cover a wider time period, use a broader definition of journalist, or include cases involving other perpetrators.

The stories of James Miller and Shireen Abu Akleh show a recurring pattern. Both journalists were killed with a single shot just below their press helmets. In both cases, they were clearly identifiable by their blue press vests and were standing in a group with other journalists. Israeli military spokespeople lied about crossfire from Palestinian armed groups in both incidents. In Miller’s case, a leaked Israeli report revealed severe evidence tampering by the soldiers involved in the shooting, while in Shireen’s case, Israeli officials refused to cooperate with independent investigations.

Major media has also been complicit in obscuring the facts of Shireen’s murder.  In an op-ed in Mondoweiss earlier this year, VP’s Executive Director Aline Batarseh highlighted how “mainstream media played a major role in perpetuating a pattern of exclusion and erasure of the truth.” Needless to say, no one has been held accountable for even these most egregious and high-profile injustices.

In 2019, an independent UN Commission found “reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot journalists intentionally, despite seeing that they were clearly marked as such” during the Great March of Return. In 2022, a case was filed before the International Criminal Court on Israel’s killing of Yaser Murtaja and Ahmad Abu Hussein and its bombing of multiple media towers.

The Palestinian Syndicate of Journalists documented a total of 1,877 violations against journalists from 2019–2021. Under Israeli apartheid, killing represents only the most overt and visible fraction of the daily violence affecting Palestinians. Israel’s systemic targeting of journalists takes many other shapes and forms including:

  • Censorship and gag orders
  • Travel bans, denial of freedom of movement
  • Arbitrary arrests, interrogations, and detentions without charge
  • Invasions or bombings of media offices
  • Confiscation or destruction of media equipment

Without pressure and accountability, Israel will continue to maintain a system of silencing at the expense of the Palestinian people.

Visualizing Palestine is the intersection of communication, social sciences, technology, design and urban studies for social justice. Visualizing Palestine uses creative visuals to describe a factual rights-based narrative of Palestine/Israel. Read other articles by Visualizing Palestine, or visit Visualizing Palestine's website.