UN: End humanitarian catastrophe in the occupied Gaza Strip

UN: End humanitarian catastrophe in the occupied Gaza Strip - Protection

Photojournalist documenting conflict in a refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 4 December 2023. Photo: www.mariomartija.es / Shutterstock

Summary

ARTICLE 19 delivered this statement during the interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory at the 55th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

ARTICLE 19 is horrified by the humanitarian catastrophe in the occupied Gaza Strip. With the death toll set to pass 30,000 civilians, we reiterate our urgent call for an immediate and maintained ceasefire. 

We condemn Israel’s continued disregard for the safety and security of 1.5m civilians in Gaza, underpinned by their failure to ensure unhindered journalistic reporting, and access to the internet. These are violations of freedom of expression, violations which are egregious and constant in this conflict. They prevent civilians having access to information that would secure their safety at a time of unimaginable suffering as a result of the invasion of Gaza.

Since the horrific Hamas-led attacks and hostage-taking of 7 October, at least 88 journalists and media workers have been killed, almost all of them by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Many Palestinian journalists have been arrested, assaulted, threatened, subjected to cyberattacks, and have seen their family members killed while carrying out their journalistic duties. Media outlets have also been shut down. There is growing evidence that the IDF have deliberately targeted journalists. This includes credible reports that the IDF strikes in southern Lebanon on 13 October that killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and injured 6 other journalists were deliberate. The targeted or indiscriminate killing of journalists is a war crime.

Meanwhile, Israel has also imposed multiple internet shutdowns in Gaza. These shutdowns have sabotaged the operations of humanitarian organisations, including by preventing ambulance calls and communication to those trapped under rubble, and contributed to the suffering of Palestineans. These shutdowns help to cover up violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and significantly hamper documentation and accountability efforts.

Israel must stop its assault on the right to freedom of expression and its other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. It must also immediately implement the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice.

Those States that claim commitment to upholding human rights and are steadfast in their promotion of the freedom of expression and media freedom here at the Human Rights Council are also being judged on whether or not they they call for an immediate and maintained ceasefire and work to prevent and ensure accountability for these unimaginable violations in practice. We call on these States to:

  • Call for an immediate and maintained ceasefire in Gaza;
  • Condemn the severe freedom of expression violations committed during this conflict, including the targeting and longstanding pattern of impunity in the killings of journalists by the IDF;
  • Call for effective, independent, and prompt investigations into these violations, including by the International Criminal Court; and
  • Uphold their responsibility to prevent any potential violations of the Genocide Convention.