Not only must Gaza’s journalists worry about Israeli snipers at the fence — they are also forced to work without sufficient protective gear, access to psychological support, or free speech protections.
By Dina Saeed
GAZA CITY — The deaths of Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein, who were shot by Israeli snipers while covering the Great Return March protests on the Gaza–Israel fence, uncovered Israel’s brutal crackdown on the nonviolent movement.
But their deaths also highlighted the dangerous conditions that journalists in Gaza work in, often risking their personal safety to document the lives of Palestinians in the strip.
Without sufficient protection gear, access to psychological support, stable streams of payment, and free speech protections, journalists in Gaza are struggling to build their careers.
Hosam Salem gave up his studies in computer engineering to follow his childhood dream of becoming a photographer. After self-funding an exhibition, and promoting his photos on social media, he succeeded in landing freelance gigs with news agencies.
According to Salem, lack of personal security is the most common problem that freelance journalists encounter. For example, the Israeli government prevents the entry of helmets and protection vests, under the pretext that Hamas uses them for terrorist purposes. The protective equipment that is available within the strip is often too expensive for journalists to buy independently.
Some have found it more affordable to simply sew their own press vests. Others, like Salem, can only do their jobs if and when colleagues are willing to share their gear: “Whenever I come closer to the borders, I borrow the vest and helmet from my colleagues to take good and clear pictures. I do not have another choice, taking pictures is my only income.”
Another problem that journalists in Gaza face is timely payment. Because of the high rate of unemployment, journalists work with news agencies based outside the enclave. But it’s not easy; Salem, for example, said he is still owed $1,200 from a European news agency for his work covering the 2014 war on Gaza. After Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2006, the Israeli government imposed even harsher restrictions on the besieged population, which...