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Nearly 60 journalists and media workers killed since start of Israel-Hamas war

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says it has documented the deaths of nearly 60 journalists and media workers since the start of the war. That's the highest number of deaths since the organization began gathering data more than three decades ago. NPR's Fatima Al-Kassab reports from London.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AYAT KHADOURA: (Non-English language spoken).

FATIMA AL-KASSAB, BYLINE: "This might be the last video I post" - the words of Ayat Khadoura, a Palestinian journalist and podcaster. She posted this to her Instagram account just weeks before she was killed in an Israeli airstrike on her home in northern Gaza. She is one of several journalists killed since the start of the Israel-Gaza war. Of a total of 57 deaths, 50 have been Palestinian, four Israeli and three Lebanese. But the majority of those killed since then have been Palestinian journalists in Gaza. With no access into Gaza for foreign journalists until a limited number were allowed in with the Israeli army recently, it has fallen to Palestinian journalists on the ground to document the war whilst also living through it.

NOOR SWIRKI: I'm playing two roles in this war - the professional one as a journalist and my one as a mother. And I'm terrified of losing myself as a civilian, as a journalist.

AL-KASSAB: Like many others, Noor Swirki, a journalist and mother of two, was forced to evacuate her home in Gaza City and move south to Khan Yunis. She sent NPR voice messages from a shelter where she is now staying with her family.

SWIRKI: I was thinking about, what if something happened to my children? So it's not an easy situation at all for us - not only for me, for us as journalists, males and females and as mothers and fathers.

AL-KASSAB: Journalists like Swirki have continued to report even as they have been displaced, lost friends, family and colleagues.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SALMAN AL BASHIR: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-KASSAB: This was the moment Salman Al Bashir tore off his protective gear while reporting live for the Palestinian Authority's TV channel. He had just found out his colleague had been killed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AL BASHIR: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-KASSAB: "We are victims live on air. It is only a matter of time until we are killed," he cries. The anchor in the studio can be seen crying, too. There have been many moments like this. Al Jazeera correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh was broadcasting when he received the news that his entire family had been killed in an Israeli airstrike. And when he came back on air just days later...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WAEL AL-DAHDOUH: (Non-English language spoken).

AL-KASSAB: He told viewers that despite what he called his open wound, he felt it was his duty to carry on reporting. Indeed, just moments after he had learned the news, he did just that. The satellite channel had switched to footage of him kneeling over the body of his dead son. He was still wearing his protective press vest.

SWIRKI: I didn't feel safe at all with the press vest.

AL-KASSAB: Journalist Nour Sawirki says she sometimes feels at risk because of her press vest.

SWIRKI: As journalists here, it's considered part of the danger and the risk to wear this vest.

AL-KASSAB: She says she believes some of her colleagues have been targeted by Israel. Israel denies that and says it tries to avoid civilian casualties.

SWIRKI: There is no such place at all in the Gaza Strip and with these targets. For our colleagues, we know we are not protected. We are facing the death every single moment in the field.

AL-KASSAB: The Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, says it has found evidence of the Israeli army targeting journalists in the past.

SHERIF MANSOUR: The IDF have not respected insignia in the past.

AL-KASSAB: Sherif Mansour is the coordinator for the committee's Middle East program. A CPJ report published back in May showed that the majority of journalists killed by the Israeli military in the past 22 years had press insignia showing on their body and their vehicle. Mansour says the committee has documented similar things happening this time around.

MANSOUR: What we have seen in this war is a deadly pattern becoming more deadly. This pattern leaves Palestinian journalists in a precarious situation and leads to a chilling effect about covering IDF operations.

AL-KASSAB: It's a pattern, Mansour says, that has wider implications for the war. The lack of access into Gaza for the foreign press, as well as communication blackouts, mean the work of Palestinian journalists in Gaza is all the more vital. And attacks on journalism, both in Gaza and the wider region, are all the more troubling for those trying to understand the conflict. Fatima Al-Kassab, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Fatima Al-Kassab