Feminist journalism is essential to public discourse. It is essential to political debate. And it absolutely essential to free and fair democracy. Explore more at Feminist Journalism is Essential to Democracy—Ms. magazine’s latest installment of Women & Democracy, presented in partnership with the International Women’s Media Foundation.
In the face of the growing threats and attacks against women journalists covering the war, it is imperative that we unite and take a stand for press freedom.
This article was originally published by The Coalition For Women In Journalism.
During the ongoing Israel-Gaza War, the fundamental principles of press freedom have come under dire threat. As the conflict unfolds, women journalists are facing grave dangers, including physical assaults, threats, and even the loss of their lives. This situation is not only a concern for those directly involved but is also a significant issue for the freedom of the press worldwide. Women journalists covering the conflict globally, particularly Muslim and Jewish journalists, have faced threats for commenting on the conflict on social media. The Coalition For Women In Journalism condemns attacks and threats against women journalists. Both sides of the conflict must respect press freedom and allow journalists to report without fearing for their safety. Deliberately targeting journalists on the frontlines is a war crime and must be thoroughly and independently investigated.
On Oct. 7, over 1,400 people were killed when Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, executed their most horrific attack on Israel to date. They breached the security fence around Gaza, which confines 2.3 million people, and carried out a deadly assault on numerous Israeli towns and kibbutzim. They also captured at least 200 hostages, taking them back to Gaza.
Israel’s responsive action was swift and overwhelming; they commenced their most extensive bombing campaign in the region, leading to the reported deaths of more than 10,000 Palestinians. The situation further intensified as Israel implemented a strict siege, depriving Gaza’s residents of food, water, electricity, and fuel.
Since the conflict’s inception, a chilling tally of 40 journalists have been confirmed dead, with others either missing, detained or grievously injured.
The Coalition For Women In Journalism is closely monitoring the situation on the frontlines and documenting violations against women journalists covering the conflict:
Shai Regev, a 25-year-old entertainment reporter, was killed by Hamas in its massacre at the Supernova music festival on Oct. 7. The promising entertainment reporter, known for her work as an editor for TMI, was confirmed dead on Oct. 14, 2023, after a week of anguish for her loved ones.
Hamas militants also killed Ayelet Arnin, a 22-year-old news editor with Israeli public broadcaster Kan, at Supernova on Oct. 7. Her death was confirmed by a close friend who was with Arnin at the music festival and relayed the devastating news to her parents.
On Oct. 9, journalist Salam Mema and her family were trapped under rubble after an Israeli airstrike on their home in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. Tragically, on Oct. 13, it was confirmed by CFWIJ that both Mema and her eldest son had lost their lives. Mema was the leader of the Women Journalists Committee within the Palestinian Media Assembly.
Freelance journalist Salma Mukhaimer was killed alongside her child in an Israeli bombardment on Rafah on Oct. 25, 2023.
On Oct. 26, 2023, Israeli airstrikes targeted the Al-Zawaida area in central Gaza, killing Palestinian journalist Duaa Sharaf and her young daughter. Her death was confirmed by Al-Aqsa Radio, which is operated by Hamas, where Duaa Sharaf worked as a radio presenter.
Physical Assaults and Injuries
Reporter’s Without Border’s correspondent in Gaza, Ola Al Zaanoon, was hospitalized with a leg injury following an Israeli bombardment in south Gaza. She was injured after evacuating her home in Gaza City to Khan Younis on Oct. 13. “I was injured in a shelling attack on the house next to the one where we had taken refuge,” said Al Zaanoon. The journalist had left her home following an evacuation order from the Israeli army. “There is no safe place in the Gaza Strip. Neither in the north or in the south,” said the reporter.
Israeli shelling in southern Lebanon on Oct. 13, 2023, resulted in the death of Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah and injuries to several journalists, including Al Jazeera’s Carmen Joukhadar and Agence France-Presse’s Christina Assi. The incident occurred near Alma al-Shaab, close to the Israeli border, in an area with frequent clashes. The journalists were on assignment, covering the back-and-forth shelling between the Israel Defence Forces and Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah when they were hit.
On Oct. 19, the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate reported an attack against Palestinian photojournalist Latifa Abdel Latif and the Italian network Channel 4 crew in the West Bank. Israeli settlers from Beit El assaulted the journalists, injuring them. They also attacked their car and damaged their equipment.
Threats and Intimidation
On Oct. 30, Al Jazeera’s Gaza correspondent Youmna ElSayed said her husband received a phone call from the Israeli army telling the family to evacuate their home in Gaza City. The caller identified himself as an Israeli soldier, giving his full name, and told ElSayed and her family to evacuate south as “it is going to get very dangerous where you are.” Reporting live on Al Jazeera with the sound of explosions in the background, the journalist said she does not know how to evacuate her family safely amid Israeli bombardment.
Reporter Dalia Al-Nimri with Russia Today was threatened at gunpoint by Israeli border guards in Al-Quds, in the West Bank on Oct. 16. The officers told the journalist to stop reporting and that they were submitting a file about Al-Nimri to Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence agency.
Some Israeli journalists are experiencing fear and difficulties when expressing dissenting views about the country’s response to the conflict. Journalists and press advocates are facing harassment, threats, and social media attacks for questioning government actions.
Tal Shalev, a political commentator and reporter for Walla told the New York Times she has faced online harassment for writing critical articles about the Israeli government since Oct. 7. She believes it is her duty to continue writing columns about the government and asking tough questions of officials, despite facing criticism on social media. She emphasizes the importance of unity during wartime but also believes that journalists should not stop being vigilant and carrying out their responsibilities. In a disturbing incident on Oct. 15, a group of at least 12 people surrounded the home of a left-wing Israeli commentator, Israel Frey, who had voiced concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza. They yelled “traitor” and launched flares in his direction.
On Oct. 19, CNN Turkey correspondent reporting from Israel Fulya Öztürk received an ominous phone call from an Israeli number. The man calling said in English, “Are you in Israel?” He said, “Take care of yourself; I will call again.” Her photograph was also shared in Telegram groups in Israel, where commenters threatened her with rape and murder. Days earlier, a Palestinian journalist in Gaza, Motaz Azaiza, also received threatening phone calls warning him to stop covering the conflict in northern Gaza.
On Nov. 6, Palestinian journalist and Al Mayadeen TV correspondent Hanaa Mahameed stationed in Jerusalem was ambushed, harassed and threatened by an Israeli journalist. The reporter said she was lured by an Israeli Channel 12 TV correspondent and a news crew who falsely informed her that she had a package awaiting collection at a local post office. Upon arriving at the location, she quickly discerned that it was a ruse, designed to harass her on behalf of the Israeli TV outlet.
Mahameed said she was pursued and intimidated by the journalist and his associates, who prevented her from entering her vehicle and made explicit threats against her. She asserted that this incident is emblematic of a systematic Israeli policy aimed at silencing and intimidating Palestinian voices, illustrating the establishment’s concerted efforts to suppress dissenting narratives. She noted that since the commencement of Israeli aggression against Gaza on Oct. 7, she has been relentlessly targeted by an Israeli incitement campaign across various platforms.
#AlMayadeen's correspondent in occupied #AlQuds, Hanaa Mahameed, was lured into a post office branch and ambushed by a group of Israeli far-right journalists and a channel 12 correspondent, where she was surrounded and accused of publishing fake news about the IOF's practices.… pic.twitter.com/ZEy4nMrzT9— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) November 6, 2023
Two Jewish women journalists based in Israel said on Nov. 8 they have received violent, rape and death threats over social media since Oct. 7.
“The rape threat has been most prevalent for me,” said freelance journalist Rolene Marks, who is based in Modi’in, Israel. The threats were made by anonymous accounts on Twitter. Marks said that she has not informed the police but has reported it to the social media company.
“I don’t think anything was done,” Marks said. “I shared the threat so that people could see for themselves the type of threats and invective aimed at Jewish journalists and often toward women.” Marks believes, “without a doubt I was threatened because I am Jewish, a female journalist.”
American Israeli journalist and activist Emily Schrader said she has been sent threatening emails, sexually graphic content, and antisemitic messages. Schrader said she is threatened because, “I am a feminist, journalist, and Zionist in the public eye.” Despite the threats, Schrader is determined to continue reporting on the conflict. “The harassment of women like me on social media is a tactic intended to silence us,” she said. “It’s a way of intimidating and bullying people, especially women, into shutting up, but I’m not going to give in to their threats.”
Palestine TV correspondent Journalist Khawlla Khaldi’s home was destroyed during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
On Oct. 16, Israel introduced new emergency regulations that could suspend foreign media broadcasts deemed detrimental to “national morale.” Authorities have issued warnings about the potential closure of Al Jazeera’s local offices under these proposed regulations, aiming to restrict the global news outlet from reporting freely on the ongoing conflict. These measures have raised concerns about curbing freedom of expression and the press. Israeli critics argue that these regulations could harm Israel’s international reputation and undermine public access to information.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate strongly condemns the Israeli government’s recent legislation, which restricts media freedom, viewing it as a dangerous precedent and a significant setback in the history of media freedom. They believe this law represents a declaration of war against media freedom and a violation of international press freedom principles.
On the same date, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) issued an order to close the West Bank-based J-Media agency, as reported by the Palestinian press freedom organization MADA. The IDF described J-Media as an “illegal organization” and justified the closure as necessary for “the security of the State of Israel and the well-being of the public and public order.”
Plestia Alaqad, a Palestinian journalist known for her on-the-ground reporting from the Gaza region, was hacked. Her Instagram account, @byplestia, a vital tool in her reporting arsenal, was compromised, leading to misleading posts that have sowed confusion and concern among her followers.
The hack was first noticed when Alaqad’s Instagram stories featured an unexpected post—a QR code, purportedly soliciting donations for Palestinian children. In an urgent response, Yara, a close friend and colleague of Alaqad, took to the journalist’s Instagram to issue a stark warning. “Urgent! Plestia’s account has been hacked. Do not engage or send any donations. We’re trying to fix it,” Yara’s post read. She further cautioned followers against the deceptive nature of the hack, asserting that Alaqad would never personally solicit donations and highlighting the potential dangers associated with such unauthorized requests.
The post went on to suggest that the hack might be part of a larger, more insidious effort targeting journalists in the region. “Zionist bots are trying to hack all of our accounts. Don’t engage and share widely,” Yara warned, hinting at a possible politically motivated cyberattack aiming to undermine the credibility and work of Palestinian journalists.
Global Violations Against Women Journalists Triggered by the Conflict
New York Times Magazine Journalist Resigns In Opposition to War
Jazmine Hughes, a writer and editor for The New York Times Magazine, resigned on Nov. 3 following a conversation with her editor. Hughes had signed a letter denouncing the Israel-Gaza War, an action that was deemed in violation of the newspaper’s newsroom policies, according to The New York Times. The letter, organized by Writers Against the War on Gaza, expressed solidarity with Palestinians and condemned Israel’s siege of Gaza. Hughes declined to comment on her resignation.
The letter opposing the Israel-Gaza war was also signed by Jamie Lauren Keiles, another contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, along with numerous other writers and journalists from various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Jewish Currents, Al Jazeera, Vox Media and New York Magazine.
Jewish-American Sports Presenter Sent Rape and Death Threats
Emily Austin, an Israeli activist and journalist, has hired a bodyguard in New York City after receiving online death and rape threats amidst escalating tensions over events in the Middle East. She expressed concern about growing instances of anti-Israel rhetoric and demonstrations in New York and worldwide. She believes some of the threats are coming from people with a history of antisemitism.
Palestinian-Canadian Journalist Fired For Social Media
On Oct. 17, Canadian media outlet Global News fired Palestinian-Canadian journalist Zahraa Al-Akhrass for her post about the war on social media. She was first told to take down all posts and comments with #FreePalestine, #GazaGenocide and #GazaUnderAttack. According to the journalist, her employer told her the posts made her look unbalanced. “I was told the problem was me expressing my beliefs. My opposition to Israel’s genocide of my people,” she said, adding, “Global was literally asking me to look at these horrific images of my people and detach.”
Al-Akhrass said her dismissal was further sealed by her decision to send a graphic war image from Gaza to the individual at her company responsible for investigating her social media activity. The journalist said she felt unsupported and isolated, as she received no expressions of sympathy, understanding or acknowledgment from either the company or her colleagues regarding the unfolding situation in Gaza. Al-Akhrass said she has no regrets for speaking up. “A policy that tells me to shut up about the killing of my own people is unethical,” said the journalist.
U.S. Journalist Bari Weiss Targeted with Anti-Semitic Graffiti
Vandals scrawled anti-semitic graffiti outside the New York office of Jewish journalist Bari Weiss. On Oct. 22, Weiss, a former writer for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, and the founder of Free Press, shared images of graffiti that said, “F*** Jews” and “F*** Israel.” Her publication supports Israel and has spoken out against rising antisemitism in the United States.
Two Tunisian Women Journalists Resign from French Channels
Two Tunisian journalists resigned from French media outlets in protest of their coverage of Israel’s recent conflict with Gaza. Achouak Hannachi and Amani Oueslati resigned from Canal+ and Cnews, respectively, due to their dissatisfaction with the channels’ support for Israel during the conflict. The French channel Cnews has a history of biased content, and in 2021, it was sanctioned for broadcasting hate speech against immigrants. These resignations reflect a growing discontent among journalists with how outlets cover the conflict.
BBC correspondent Bassem Bounneni also resigned, citing his professional conscience and dissatisfaction with the BBC’s coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Muslim Women Journalists Threatened in Canada
Saba Eitizaz, an esteemed Canadian journalist, has become the target of a distressing wave of online Islamophobic threats, some of which have explicitly detailed intentions of physical harm. The escalation of these threats coincides with Israel’s response to Hamas’ sudden and deadly strikes on Oct. 7 in Gaza. Eitizaz told CFWIJ she wasn’t the lone recipient; other women journalists have also been targeted with the same hateful messages. While the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has been informed of these incidents, there has, unfortunately, been no visible action taken as of yet.
Managing Editor of LA Times Accused of Supporting Hamas
The Los Angeles Times has defended its managing editor, Palestinian-American Sara Yasin, against accusations made by the media watchdog group Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA). The group accused Yasin of being sympathetic to Hamas due to her social media posts, which included references to Israel’s actions in Gaza as “genocide” and other anti-Israel comments.
According to CAMERA, her social media activity indicates a bias in favor of Hamas over its victims, and this alleged bias may be influencing the content produced by the newspaper. CAMERA has criticized The Los Angeles Times for appointing Yasin to a position of authority, and they encourage readers to seek other news sources for information on the conflict. The Los Angeles Times responded by stating that any suggestion of Yasin sympathizing with Hamas is “inaccurate, irresponsible, and reckless.” They expressed their commitment to journalistic standards of accuracy and fairness.
Palestinian Journalist Traumatized from Afar
Yara Eid, a Palestinian journalist living in the U.K., was hospitalized in London on Oct. 15 due to the trauma of losing 15 family members in Israeli shelling in Gaza. She fell unconscious upon receiving this devastating news and later learned that her aunt’s side of the family was also affected. Before her hospitalization, her colleague Ibrahim Lafi, a close friend, was killed while on assignment, which left Eid in deep grief.
Altered Video of CNN Correspondent Goes Viral
A doctored video falsely alleged CNN’s war correspondent, Clarissa Ward, had staged a scene wherein she took cover in a ditch near the Israel-Gaza border as rockets flew overhead. The video, released Oct. 11, garnered significant attention. The doctored video was disseminated by The Quartering, which describes itself as a “news and content organization.” Although they openly admitted to overlaying fake audio atop the original footage, they nonetheless asserted that Ward’s response was insincere. This manipulated version has been viewed over five million times on Twitter.
CNN swiftly responded to call out the alterations, but millions of people seeing the footage believe it to be legitimate.
Ward was subsequently confronted by a pro-Palestinian protester at Rafah Crossing. The protester challenged Ward on CNN’s coverage, calling her “a puppet” and demanding that the network cover the Palestinian perspective more comprehensively. “You’re just a puppet. Come talk to me like a human being,” the protester can be heard saying. The impassioned interaction has since been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter. A CNN spokesperson said Ward was “glad to have the chance to hear this woman’s perspective, and allowing our audience to hear these voices was why we were reporting from the protests in the first place.”
In the face of the growing threats and attacks against women journalists covering the Israel-Gaza War, it is imperative that we unite and take a stand for press freedom. The Coalition For Women In Journalism unequivocally condemns the attacks on and threats to journalists. Both parties to the conflict must uphold the tenets of press freedom. The deliberate targeting of frontline journalists is not only morally reprehensible but constitutes a war crime that demands a comprehensive, independent investigation. The safety and well-being of these dedicated journalists must be a global concern, transcending borders, and political divides. The Coalition For Women In Journalism demands accountability for those who target journalists and infringe upon press freedom. It’s not only a matter of justice but a fundamental principle of democracy.
Care about uplifting women‘s voices? We do too. Let Ms. keep you up to date with our daily + weekly newsletters. (Or go back to the essay collection.)