The suffering of Wael al-Dahdouh in “deadliest conflict for journalists”

Wael al-Dahdouh, the al-Jazeera bureau chief in Gaza, has become the symbol of the suffering of Palestinian journalists. Footage of him continuing to work after an Israeli airstrike killed his wife, two of his children and a grandson gained global attention in October. His suffering was compounded this month when his son, Hamza, also a journalist, was killed in a targeted drone attack. This week 53-year-old Wael left Gaza for treatment on an injury sustained during a strike last month that left an al-Jazeera cameraman dead.

Youmna el-Sayed, the al-Jazeera English correspondent in Gaza, was very close to both Wael and his son Hamza. Speaking from Cairo, where she and her family were evacuated this month, she told Index: “I consider Wael as an older brother while Hamza is, or was, younger than me. He was a very nice and kind person. He was loved by everyone. If you go to the Gaza Strip and speak about Hamza, no one will tell you anything bad about him… And Hamza was always there. With us at all times. I saw him every day.”

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has produced documentation to show that Hamza al-Dahdouh took money from the terrorist group Islamic Jihad and that his colleague, Mustafa Thuraya, also killed in the airstrike, was a member of Hamas’s Gaza City Brigade.

El-Sayed said she did not accept the IDF’s version of events: “Israel has made so many claims before but has produced no strong and solid proof or evidence other than just claims that it has given out to the public.”

She said she didn’t know Thuraya but could vouch for Hamza. “I know him very well. I was at his wedding last winter so I know the whole family very well. I know who Hamza is, and I know he’s not associated with any of the Palestinian factions or fighters. Hamza was a journalist.”

As for Wael al-Dahdouh himself, el-Sayed said the veteran correspondent was driven by his faith to continue reporting despite his personal grief. “Despite the killing of his family, he went back on air to pursue his message because, for him, it’s a duty. He’s not just doing it because he’s al-Jazeera correspondent. He’s doing it because it has so many other meanings deeper than that. He tells me this is a duty I will be asked upon from God before anyone else.”

El-Sayed said she spoke to al-Dahdouh after the death of his son: “I gave him my condolences. And I know Wael is a very strong person. But that day, he cried when he spoke to me, and I was already crying. I told him, ‘I don’t even know what to tell you. Hamza wasn’t just your son. He was my brother’. He told me, ‘Hamza loved you very much, you know. He always spoke about you even after you evacuated’. That really pricked my heart because Hamza was like a younger brother to me. We always joked and we always spoke together and we discussed everything that was going on.”

Since the war began more than 83 journalists have been killed, the majority killed in Gaza, according to the CPJ. Of these, 76 are Palestinian, four Israeli, and three Lebanese. The CPJ have called it the deadliest conflict for journalists on record. The IDF insists that it is targeting terrorists and that many of those victims identified as journalists are in fact militant fighters. But Youmna el-Sayed does not believe this. “Many of the journalists in the Gaza Strip were targeted in their homes. Hamza was targeted along with Mustafa in their car directly — after three months of this war. How can people associated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad… be left freely to move around and work as journalists in every targeted area for over three months?”

With experienced journalists such as Youmna el-Sayed and Wael al-Dahdauh forced to leave Gaza, it is difficult to imagine how the world will ever find out what is really happening on the ground.

“I’m a mother with four children. I’m married. Like any other war, of course, any escalation that breaks out in the Gaza Strip, it’s our first mission to cover what’s happening,” said el-Sayed. But this war was different. “Everything was happening so quickly. The war wasn’t just in limited areas or on a certain sector or against a certain group. Our families, like any other person in the Gaza Strip, were in constant danger all the time. It was the constant worry about my family and my kids and are they safe or not. It’s very challenging. It was a struggle I had never lived before.”

As a reporter in Gaza, el-Sayed had to negotiate not just the Israeli bombardment but working in territory ruled by Hamas. “If you have watched my reporting, I will tell you that every single thing that happens in the Gaza Strip from Hamas I report it as neural, as I had seen it. I tried to be as objective as I can because it’s a moral duty.”

She added: “My first reporting on 7 October was about the barrages of rockets that were fired from the Gaza Strip and from different areas and the unprecedented attack that we have witnessed from Gaza and from the Palestinian fighting groups in the Gaza Strip against the Israeli towns. So, I’m not going to shut my eyes about what is happening in the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian fighters or Palestinian factions simply because I’m a Palestinian journalist reporting from Gaza. Then I’m not a journalist.”

At the same time, she said the actions of Hamas should not prevent her from reporting what the Israeli army is doing in Gaza. “I’m not supposed to be only reporting what is happening from or within Gaza, from Hamas against Israel, and totally turning a blind eye towards what’s happening in the Gaza Strip from the Israeli army. That’s not being impartial. That’s just giving one side of the story against the other.”

El-Sayed finally decided to make the difficult decision to leave Gaza because she no longer felt her family was safe. She had already been displaced five times before she finally evacuated to Egypt. “But I’m only here with my body,” she said. “My heart and my mind are totally in the Gaza Strip. I’m just in front of the news every single hour. I’m always looking at my phone, checking the news websites on a minute-by-minute basis to see what is happening there. And at the same time, I’m very much heartbroken and worried about the people, my friends that are there, my colleagues, everyone that I have left there. But at the end, I had to choose between being a journalist and continuing to pursue my job and being a mother with four children, who I need to look out for their lives. And this is the only reason why I had to leave.”

Media freedom in the US under threat, report finds


  • Threats to media increased during the Obama administration, which brought record number of whistleblower prosecutions.
  • President Trump’s verbal attacks on the media have worsened a hostile climate to the press.
  • Journalists’ ability to report is being undermined by attacks, arrests, border stops, searches of devices, prosecution of whistleblowers and restrictions on the release of public information.
  • Latest report comes after US falls two places on the RSF World Press Freedom Index.

The United States media – one of the best protected in the world – is facing challenges that threaten the freedom of the press. This is the finding of an unprecedented press freedom mission that took place in January 2018, one year after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration.

The mission’s report was published on May 3, 2018, World Press Freedom Day. It shows that President’s Trump’s attacks on the media, via his Twitter account and in press conferences, are exacerbating an already hostile environment for journalists in the US.

By openly and aggressively accusing journalists and media outlets of lying and producing ‘fake news’, the current US administration risks undermining the First Amendment and creating a culture of intimidation and hostility where journalists find themselves less safe.

However, the report also identifies threats to the media that pre-date Trump. Many were present under the Obama administration, which used the Espionage Act 1917 to bring a record number of whistleblower prosecutions.

Other major threats to media freedom in the US include:

  • A failure by law enforcement officials to recognise the rights of journalists to report freely on events of public interest. Journalists have been arrested and even assaulted by law enforcement officials at a local and state level, while covering protests.
  • An increase in border stop and searches. Journalists have been asked to hand over electronic devices, detained or even denied entry to the US.
  • A slow and unresponsive freedom of information system, which is preventing the release of information that is in the public interest.


Quotes from participating organisations:

Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive Officer, Index on Censorship said:

“The pressures that journalists are facing in the US are reflective of the toxic atmosphere toward journalism being stoked by global leaders. Animosity toward the press is undermining the public’s right to information.”

Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director, CPJ said:

“The President’s hostility towards the press is trickling down to states and local communities, where officials are refusing interviews, denigrating the press, and obstructing access to information.

“This report should be a wake-up call to everyone—especially those in power—to the very real threats to freedom of the press in the U.S.”

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19 said:

“The alarming rise in threats to press freedom in the US over recent years must be challenged. Not only do these threats impact on freedom of expression in the US, but they have repercussions around the world.

“A free press is a vital part of democracy. The rights of US journalists must be protected so that they can continue to report freely on matters of public interest and hold the powerful to account.

Annie Game, Executive Director, IFEX said:

“Members of IFEX know from experience that efforts to control, degrade and disable a free press will always be met with great gestures of solidarity and resistance, and it will be no different in the US.”

Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary General said:

“This joint report highlights the very real threats journalists are facing in the country of the First Amendment. But what is increasingly alarming is President Trump’s constant media bashing. Trump himself is dangerous for press freedom, but the Trumpisation of the treatment of journalists at the local level is equally, if not more, dangerous.”  

Martha Steffens, IPI North American Chair said:

“All across the US we are feeling the effects of a relentless attack on the role of the press in our society. The constant bashing out of Washington is emboldening local officials to obstruct and interfere with the important watchdog role of the media.  It is clearly an attempt to discredit the media in an attempt to divert attention from government mismanagement or wrongdoing. A great America depends on unfettered freedom of the press”

The full report is available here.


For media interviews, please contact:

RSF: Margaux Ewen, RSF North America Director [email protected]

Index: Sean Gallagher, Head of Content, [email protected]

IPI: Martha Steffens, IPI North America Committee chair, [email protected]

ARTICLE 19: Pam Cowburn, Communications Consultant [email protected]


Notes to Editor

  • The 2018 press mission was organised by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and IFEX, and included ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship, International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF – Reporters Sans Frontières).
  • The mission took place between January 15-19. It included fact-finding visits to Columbia and St. Louis in Missouri, and Houston in Texas; remote interviews with journalists in Wisconsin and Illinois; and meetings with senior policymakers and national media representatives in Washington.
  • In April 2018, it was announced that the United States had fallen two places in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index. It is now ranked 45 out of 180 countries for press freedom.
  • In 2017, 30 press freedom groups came together to create the US Press Freedom Tracker, which documents press violations in the US. These violations include journalists being arrested, charged, stopped at borders or having their devices seized and searched. Visit to access this information.


USA: Climate for press freedom worsens in Missouri and surrounding states

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Climate for press freedom worsens in Missouri, surrounding states

St. Louis, Missouri — An already adverse environment for journalists in the Midwestern United States has worsened in the year since President Trump’s inauguration, an international group of media watchdogs concluded after travelling to the state of Missouri. The group also met with journalists from Illinois and Wisconsin.

The fact-finding mission this week concluded in St. Louis, where journalists were indiscriminately arrested in 2014 and 2017 during protests in response to police shootings in the city and its suburb, Ferguson. The group also met with journalists from the city of Columbia and the capital, Jefferson City, as well as representatives of the Missouri Press Association and national media groups headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism.  

The group, which included leaders of Index on Censorship, the Committee to Protect Journalists, IFEX, Article 19, and the International Press Institute, found that local public officials have embraced Trump’s rhetoric toward the media and bypassed the press in favour of social media. A Wisconsin sheriff used expletives to deny an interview. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has called the media “fake news,” refused interviews, and directed his staff to use software that immediately erases mobile chats.

“The hostility to the press at the national level gives a free pass for state officials to use harmful rhetoric and has contributed to a polarisation in public attitudes toward the press,” said Marty Steffens, North American chair and member of the executive board of the International Press Institute, a global network of journalists and editors. Steffens, also a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, served as local host for the mission.

Journalists stressed that the threats are not new, but an acceleration of existing trends of public mistrust and political obstruction of the press. They were split on how the national discourse has affected their daily reporting, with some saying they see it as simply one more factor in an already difficult environment.

A longstanding unwillingness of authorities in Missouri to comply with freedom of information laws has worsened since Trump’s election, with extended delays, prohibitive costs, and the use of technological tools to prevent the release of public records, journalists said. They cited a lack of effective independent oversight and inadequate training of public officials regarding what is known as the Sunshine Law.

“The reality of shrinking newsrooms and financial resources for news media makes the adherence of authorities to both the letter and spirit of the Sunshine Law ever more important. The disregard being shown poses the question whether the current legal structure is fit for purpose,” said Thomas Hughes, executive director of Article 19.

Hostility to the media comes as the Midwestern press corps has been hit hard by changing economic conditions. News staffs in Missouri as well as Chicago and Milwaukee, Wisc., told the group that declining revenues have reduced reporting ranks by two-thirds. One Wisconsin editor said some public meetings go uncovered, leaving the public uninformed about the use of tax dollars.

Proposed legislation in some Midwestern states would shift mandated paid public notices to government websites, making the information harder to find and exacerbating the media’s economic woes, especially at small community newspapers. This also raises the spectre that authorities could use public notice revenues as a means to influence editorial content.

“While many reporters are more galvanised than ever in the current news climate, local media and city newspapers said they did not receive the bump in funding and subscriptions that bolstered national papers after the election,” said Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Journalists said lack of financial resources make it harder to fight back when politicians deny access.”

One photographer from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch told the delegation that at public demonstrations, journalists are increasingly caught between aggressive police and sometimes hostile protesters. In St. Louis and Ferguson, police have adopted increasingly militarised tactics such as “kettling”— a surround-and-arrest tactic that sweeps up working journalists and bystanders. In the fall of 2017, at least 10 journalists were arrested in St. Louis during protests over a police shooting. Two new protest laws up for consideration in the state could raise the stakes for journalists who are swept up in arrests.

“Nothing fake about the dedicated and resilient journalists working in Missouri encountered during this tour. They continue to play a key role in keeping the public informed and the democracy healthy in spite of myriad challenges,” said Annie Game, IFEX executive director.

CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organisation that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

Media contacts: 

Bebe Santa-Wood
Communications Associate
[email protected]
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Mapping Media Freedom: In review 2-16 June

Click on the dots for more information on the incidents.

Each week, Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project verifies threats, violations and limitations faced by the media throughout the European Union and neighbouring countries. Here are five recent reports that give us cause for concern.

Azerbaijan: Relatives of journalist face 8.5-year prison sentences

A Baku prosecutor asked for an 8.5-year sentence for Rovshan and Rufat Zahidov, relatives of Azadliq (Radio Liberty) newspaper editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahid on charges of drug possession, the media outlet reported. Rufat and Rovshan Zahidovs were arrested in July 2015 and accused of the possession and sale of drugs. The hearing of the case began in February 2016. Ganimat Zahid lives in exile and runs Azerbaijan Hour online TV channel. Zahid served 28 months of a four- year sentence in retaliation for his critical journalism wrote CPJ following Zahid’s release in 2010. Zahid was convicted under articles 127.2.3 (hooliganism with intentional infliction of minor bodily harm) and 221 (hooliganism).

France: Police hit journalists with batons during protests

Police forces pushed, shoved and hit journalists with batons while dispersing a protest against the proposed labour law in Rennes, France 3 reported. The police charged the crowd from their cars, using tear gas against protesters and hitting them with batons, France 3 reported. Bruno Van Wassenhove, a France 3 reporter, explained journalists who had been criticising the violence of the assault were pushed to the side by the police officers and hit intermittently with batons. Rennes Press Club has firmly criticised the attacks against journalists perpetrated by the police. “Journalists were not targets but ‘they were hit by batons'”, the Club wrote on twitter, quoting an article of newspaper Le Parisien.

Italy: Editor-in-chief given two-year prison sentence for libel

Editor Pasquale Clemente was sentenced to two years in prison and fined €1,500 on libel charges (Art. 13 of the press law n.47 /48) in the criminal court of Nola in Naples, Ossigeno reported. Clemente is the former editor-in-chief of the Gazzetta di Caserta and currently editor-in-chief of Roma newspaper. On 22 July, 2010, Pasquale Giuliano, a former judge and senator at the time, sued the journalist for an article published on 30 April, 2010 edited by Clemente. In that article, Clemente criticises the politician: “A province like ours – he writes – can not afford to blow up the first Provincial Council …. A shame ratified by threats from the courtroom of two parliamentary politicians like Coronella and Giuliano, who had nothing to do with anything”.

Russia: Two journalists arrested while working with US film crew on Olympic Games corruption report

Journalists Aleksandr Valov and Dmitry Saltykovsky along with a film crew for US channel HBO were detained while working near the southern Russian city of Sochi. The Russian journalists and the six-person TV crew were reportedly investigating claims of misuse of real estate properties constructed during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games which were held in Sochi. The US citizens were released after seven hours, while the two Russian journalists were detained further and transported to the FSB headquarters in Sochi. Initially, law enforcement claimed they were operating in a near-border zone without “necessary permits.” Valov’s lawyer reports that a court in Adler charged him with “organising a public event in a near-border zone.” Valov is set to remain in jail for five days. Dmitry Saltykovsky, who worked as an interpreter for the HBO crew, was released, but fined 1,000 rubles ($15), according to the journalists’ lawyer, Alexander Popov, on Twitter. Aleksandr Valov is the editor-in-chief of Blog Sochi.

Turkey: Syrian journalist survives second murder attempt

Syrian independent journalist Ahmed Abd al-Qader survived second murder attempt in Urfa, where he is based. Exiled Syrian news outlet, Eye on Homeland, said, Ahmed Abd al-Qader was attacked while out shopping by two gunmen riding a motorbike, RSF reported. Injured in the head, he was taken to a hospital in Urfa and is now placed in intensive care and is reportedly in stable condition. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State according to ABC news. In March of 2016, Ahmed Abd al-Qader survived a first attempt at his life when two men ambushed his residence in Urfa. His brother Ibrahim Abdelqader was murdered in Urfa on 30 October 2015 together with a friend, Fares Hammadi, which the Islamic State also claimed responsibility for. In April, another Syrian journalist Mohammed Zahir al-Shergat died as a result of gunshot wounds in Turkish city of Gaziantep. Shergat was shot when walking on a street by members of the IS, who have since confirmed their responsibility of the attack.

Mapping Media Freedom

Click on the bubbles to view reports or double-click to zoom in on specific regions. The full site can be accessed at