By Lee-Yandra Paulsen
South African journalists convened for a vigil on Sunday, following the tragic deaths of 83 reporters amidst the Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip. The vigil aimed to highlight the perilous conditions under which journalists operate in conflict zones and to demand protection for their invaluable work.
One of the organizers of the vigil, Raeesa Pather, emphasized the profound impact of journalists’ reporting from Gaza.
“For the past almost 120 days, we have been witnessing the events in Gaza through the eyes and ears of journalists on the ground. People wake up every day wondering if these journalists are still alive,” Pather remarked during an interview with Sunday Live.
Pather cited discrepancies in the reported number of journalists killed, noting that while the Committee to Protect Journalists reported 83 deaths, the Gaza Health Ministry documented around 119 fatalities. Regardless of the exact count, Pather underscored the urgent need for a ceasefire and the protection of journalists, stressing their status under the Geneva Convention.
Highlighting journalist killed in Palestine.
Among the casualties, Hamza Al-Dahdouh, son of Chief Al Jazeera journalist Wael Al-Dahdouh, and colleague Mustafa Thuraya were killed in an Israeli strike. Pather condemned Israel’s allegations that the journalists were associated with terrorism, highlighting Hamza’s reputable journalistic work. “The allegations that he was a terrorist are intolerable and incorrect without proof,” Pather stated, suggesting a deliberate targeting of journalists by Israeli forces.
Pather drew attention to previous instances around the targeting of journalists, citing the case of Shireen Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot by a sniper in Palestine in 2022. Despite Israel’s initial denial, Pather emphasized the lack of accountability and impunity for such actions. “The same impunity that allowed Shireen to be killed without justice has now allowed 83 journalists to be killed in Palestine,” she remarked.
Highlighting the indispensable role of journalists in conflict zones, Pather stressed their contribution to shedding light on atrocities and holding perpetrators accountable. “Without journalists, the case would have not been possible,” she asserted, referring to the use of journalists’ reports by the South African legal team in international advocacy efforts.
The vigil underscored the global outcry against the targeting of journalists and the urgent need for their protection amidst escalating aggression. Pather called on the international community to recognize the crucial role of journalists in documenting human rights abuses and ensuring accountability.
As an African journalist, Pather emphasized the importance of speaking out against threats to press freedom and violence targeting reporters in conflict zones. She further cited the silence from regions like Sudan and Congo due to the intimidation faced by journalists.