Ten questions to ask US officials about attacks on journalists in Gaza

Seth Stern

Director of Advocacy

The Israel-Gaza war is the deadliest conflict for journalists in modern memory, with 48 journalists killed to date, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Israel has said it can’t guarantee journalists’ safety and has not committed to any concrete steps to try to protect them.

Nonetheless, journalists from the U.S. and elsewhere are demanding access to the Gaza Strip so they can help local journalists document history. Reliable reporting is essential to counter government propaganda and social media disinformation coming from all sides of the conflict.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has said little to nothing about the deadly attacks on journalists covering Gaza or the limitations on outside access.

It’s time for that to change. The administration needs to do everything it can to ensure that Americans have the information they need to decide whether they think our government’s support and funding for the war is a good idea (so far, they don’t). It needs to exert maximum pressure on its ally to protect press freedom and to allow transparency and accountability.

Here are 10 questions American journalists can ask U.S. officials — at White House or State Department press briefings, interviews, or wherever else the opportunity presents — about the threats facing journalists in Gaza.

1. What has President Biden said to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the unprecedented killing of journalists during this war and what steps does Biden expect Israel to take to protect journalists?

2. Is Biden aware of reports that the Israeli Defense Forces has told news outlets it cannot guarantee the safety of journalists? What’s his response?

3. What steps does the United States take to protect journalists when it is at war? Does Biden believe that Israel’s military can and should take similar steps, given the funding, weaponry, and other assistance the United States provides to Israel?

4. Will Biden commit to conditioning further military aid to Israel on its respecting core democratic values like freedom of the press, including by not targeting journalists in attacks, undertaking reasonable efforts to keep journalists safe, and allowing international journalists access to Gaza without requiring them to embed with the IDF?

5. What is Biden’s reaction to the Reporters Without Borders’ investigation of the death of Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah in Lebanon, which concluded, based on the information available, that the IDF targeted Abdallah?

6. Will Biden consider the case of Shireen Abu Akleh in evaluating the credibility of denials by Israel that it targets or fails to protect journalists? (Abuh Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist, was killed in the West Bank last year. Israel initially blamed Palestinian militants but, after numerous investigations contradicted that claim, admitted its troops likely killed her).

7. Eleven major news outlets recently sent a letter to the Israeli and Egyptian governments asking for access to Gaza so they can counter disinformation and propaganda with reliable reporting. Will Biden urge Israeli and Egyptian officials to grant this request?

8. In the 2024 presidential election, Biden will need to make his case to a skeptical American public that his support for Israel’s war in Gaza is justified. How can he make that argument to Americans and expect them to believe it if U.S. media is not able to report firsthand on the war?

9. Recently, an organization called HonestReporting issued a report baselessly speculating that U.S. news outlets had advance notice of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. Netanyahu cited it to condemn the news outlets, and Sen. Tom Cotton said outlets should be investigated for aiding terrorism. Will Biden publicly defend U.S. news outlets against these accusations?

10. The United States has repeatedly condemned Russia’s efforts to degrade or block internet access in Ukraine as part of its war there, noting the need “for sharing and learning information, including about the war.” Does the president feel similarly about Israeli-imposed blackouts and other attacks on the internet infrastructure in Gaza? And what is he doing to stop further blackouts?

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