reporter review

One-third of journalists killed in Gaza were affiliated with terrorist groups

The U.S. head of Reporters Without Borders acknowledged that the NGO applied different standards for Gazan and Israeli journalists killed during the war

Doaa Albaz/Anadolu via Getty Images

Journalists dismantle their tents and pack their equipment to move after Israeli army ordered the displaced Palestinians in neighborhoods east of Rafah city to leave on May 11, 2024.

One-third of the Palestinian journalists listed by the Committee to Protect Journalists as being killed in the war in Gaza were employed by terrorist groups, Jewish Insider has learned.

The high number of journalists reported by NGOs killed in Gaza has made headlines in the Washington Post, The New York Times and elsewhere, without any mention of their affiliations with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Out of 100 Palestinian journalists on the list on May 17, 33 worked for “Hamas-affiliated” media, such as Al-Aqsa Voice Radio, Al-Quds Al-Youm, Quds News Network and others. Another two worked for Palestinian Islamic Jihad outlets Kan’an and Mithaq Media Foundation. 

Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV was named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2010; the outlet employed 13 of those listed by CPJ.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) claims that 105 journalists were killed in Gaza, but only lists 23 of them. Several worked for terrorist organizations’ media outlets, but those affiliations are not listed on the RSF website.

These include Hassouna Salim, the director of the Hamas propaganda arm Quds News; Mohamed Khalifeh, director at Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV; Abdallah Iyad Breis, the lead photographer for the Hamas Education Ministry’s TV channel; and others.

RSF reported that Yasser Mamdouh El-Fady was killed while “reporting on the presence of Israeli tanks near the Al-Nasser hospital in Khan Younis.” It does not mention that he worked for Islamic Jihad through its Kan’an news agency, which CPJ reported on its list.

CPJ says Ibrahim Mohammad Lafi was shot and killed at the Erez crossing, while RSF said that he was “one of the first reporters to venture out in Gaza on the morning of 7 October.” Other Gazan news photographers who documented Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israeli civilians have been accused of having foreknowledge of the attack.

Both organizations say that they only included journalists “killed in connection with their work or where there is still some doubt that their death was work-related,” according to CPJ. RSF also noted in a statement to JI that they list journalists “killed in the line of duty or for reasons related to work.”

In that vein, CPJ removed journalists Shai Regev and Ayelet Arnin from its list because they were attending the Nova festival, but not reporting on it. RSF did not include Oded Lifshitz, a hostage held by Hamas in Gaza since Oct. 7, who wrote for Haaretz as recently as last year. Both included Roee Idan, who took photographs for Ynet on the morning of Oct. 7 before being killed by Hamas.

But a review of their lists indicates that their standard of only including journalists who were on duty was not applied consistently.

Shaima El-Gazzar, for example, “was killed along with her family members in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah city,” according to CPJ, which gave no indication that she was working at the time. Also on the CPJ list is Mohamed Mouin Ayyash, “killed in an Israeli airstrike on his home,” as was Jamal Mohamed Haniyeh, grandson of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and a sports reporter. RSF lists Montaser Al-Sawaf, who “was killed by an Israeli airstrike…while standing outside his home with his relatives.” 

A spokeswoman for CPJ told JI that when they “have difficulties verifying that someone was a journalist, active in the profession, their names are not included. However, given the destruction of newsrooms and the reality of a war where the entire population is affected, journalists are considered to be engaged in reporting unless CPJ finds information and is able to conclude otherwise, as was the case with the two Israeli journalists removed from our journalist casualties list.”

The CPJ spokeswoman said in response to specific examples of inconsistencies that the NGO “includ[es] them by default until we get definite information that they weren’t working.”

RSF USA Executive Director Clayton Weimers said of the standard for leaving out Israeli journalists who were not at work on Oct. 7: “These are sensitive distinctions of course, but we take all of these cases seriously and do all we can to verify our information.” 

In an admission of different standards for Gazans, Weimers told JI that they have been “trapped inside the territory, within a wider context of targeting the press” and that he made “the fair assumption that many [Gazans] could be working from their homes.”

Weimers called the war in Gaza “by far the deadliest conflict for media that we have ever documented.” 

Weimers told JI it verified the 22 cases it listed “applying our standard methodology,” and asserting that they were “killed because of their job.”

“It is extremely dangerous to conflate journalism with terrorism in this or any other context, and we continue to condemn comments in this regard by Israeli officials,” Weimers said.

Asked about the inclusion of affiliates with terrorist groups on its list, CPJ said that its research covers all journalists engaged in news-gathering “for a broad range of news organizations … We make our determination by researching whether a journalist’s past coverage meets our news and public affairs criteria, rather than on who owns or controls their outlets.”

“We do not include journalists if there is evidence that they were participating in violent acts or serving in a military capacity at the time of their deaths … In the cases we have documented, multiple sources have found no evidence to date that these journalists were engaged in militant activity,” the spokeswoman stated. 

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