UNESCO awards world press freedom prize to all Palestinian journalists in Gaza

Jury says it wants ‘to share a strong message of solidarity and recognition to those Palestinian journalists who are covering this crisis in such dramatic circumstances’

In the Chilean capital Santiago, Palestinian journalist Nasser Abu Baker receives the 2024 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on behalf of all Palestinian journalists selected as this year's winners at the 31st World Press Freedom Conference. May 2, 2024 (AFP/UNESCO)
In the Chilean capital Santiago, Palestinian journalist Nasser Abu Baker receives the 2024 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on behalf of all Palestinian journalists selected as this year's winners at the 31st World Press Freedom Conference. May 2, 2024 (AFP/UNESCO)

UNESCO on Thursday awarded its world press freedom prize to all Palestinian journalists covering the war in Gaza, where Israel has been battling Hamas terrorists for more than six months.

In announcing the award Thursday, Mauricio Weibel, chair of the international jury of media professionals, said, “In these times of darkness and hopelessness, we wish to share a strong message of solidarity and recognition to those Palestinian journalists who are covering this crisis in such dramatic circumstances.

“As humanity, we have a huge debt to their courage and commitment to freedom of expression.”

Audrey Azoulay, director-general at the UN organization for education, science and culture, said the prize paid “tribute to the courage of journalists facing difficult and dangerous circumstances.”

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 97 members of the press have been killed since the war broke out in October, 92 of whom were Palestinians.

Israel denies targeting journalists in the war zone, and says it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians, blaming the high death toll on the fact that Hamas fights in densely populated urban areas and embeds itself deliberately among civilians who are used as human shields. In a statement on December 16, the Israeli army said “the IDF has never, and will never, deliberately target journalists.”

There have been several cases in which the army said slain individuals identified as journalists were in fact operatives of terror groups.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, two Israeli journalists, Roee Idan and Yaniv Zohar, were killed by Hamas terrorists inside Israel on October 7. Two other Israeli journalists were also killed in the massacre that day, Shai Regev and Ayelet Arnin, but the CPJ removed them from its initial totals because it said they were not working that day. Oded Lifshitz, a lifelong journalist, is among the hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza.

The award comes less than a month after a photograph of an aunt holding the body of her dead niece in Gaza won the world press photo award. The photo of Inas Abu Maamar cradling the body of five-year-old Saly killed in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis on Oct. 17, was taken by Reuters photographer Mohammed Salem.

The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people in Israel and took 252 hostage, mostly civilians. It is believed that 128 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive.

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