Injuring Objectivity? The Multiple Kinds of Violence against Palestinian Photojournalists

Curator's Note

Editor's Note: The accompanying video may not play in Internet Explorer, but works fine in both Firefox and Safari. If you are having trouble viewing the video, please use one of those browsers.


This excerpt from the documentary, In the Line of Fire, produced by Patricia Naylor, shows journalist Nael Shiyoukhi, of the Reuters news agency, as he is being shot by Israeli soldiers in his hometown of Hebron.  A 20-minute version of the documentary, which was made in 2002, can be seen on the Frontline website.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Israeli forces have killed 9 journalists in the West Bank and Gaza since 2001, 7 of whom were Palestinians.  Some were apparently not targeted, like Basel Faraj, who died of shrapnel wounds from an Israeli attack during the Gaza War in January 2009.  He was killed as many other Palestinian civilians have been killed.  Palestinian journalists say that others may have been targeted.  They tell of how journalists’ cars were marked “TV” and “PRESS,” how they were carrying cameras, and wearing helmets and bulletproof vests.  They tell of how they were located far from Palestinian protesters or militants, away from the line of fire.  They tell of how they shouted out to soldiers that they are journalists, in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. 

It’s difficult to discern the full facts concerning any one shooting, though, since Israel does not generally investigate these incidents.  Instead, what we have to go on are statements like this one from the head of the Israeli Government Press Office, Daniel Seaman, who was skirting around a question about why shootings of Palestinian journalists were not seriously investigated:

"There's a war on the survival of the state of Israel by the Palestinians. … The past two years has been an assault against the state of Israel. It's combat. And in this combat almost every Palestinian is engaged in one way or another, either deliberately or (being) used by the Palestinian Authority." (

Not only does this statement offer insight into how the press office regards these shootings – but it also must be seen as part of Israel’s larger public relations effort.  The lack of professional recognition of Palestinian journalists has been a fairly consistent message from this office.  In the same interview, Seaman accused Palestinian journalists of being in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority, and thus, he insinuated, posing a threat to Israel.  Is this a kind of speech act that makes possible violence against Palestinian journalists, not only by casting aspersions against Palestinian journalists as professionals but also by categorizing potential negative coverage of Israel in the same category as physical attacks against Israel?

Second, I want to briefly consider what this documentary in itself does.  Obviously Naylor’s documentary has raised awareness about attacks on Palestinian journalists.  How about the video shot by the Nael Shiyoukhi’s colleagues?  The camerapeople of Hebron have an agreement that if one of them is being attacked, another will document the beating or shooting.  On this night, a cameraperson turned on his camera, and it not only recorded the shooting, making possible a distinct kind of advocacy, but also illuminated the target.  How can we account for the multiple effects of video like this, both at the scene of an attack, and in their many lives after the fact?


Thanks Amahl for an interesting post (I have trouble viewing the video for some reason).

A few things come to mind... Back in 2003, I happened to be standing within eyesight-range of a Palestinian camerama, Nazih Darwazeh, as he was shot and killed in Nablus. It was a relatively small gathering at the time, with a few youths throwing rocks and slingshots at the Israeli military patrolling town. Nazih was wearing a bullet-proof vest with a big 'TV' sign pasted with white tape on it. He was shot in the head and died instantly. One of the many, it sounds like... (for articles on his story, see: And it occurred to me, as you bring up in your post, that protection of journalists is not within the mandate of the military; and that indeed, Israel wants to protect herself from certain kinds of media coverage, not just from violence or terrorism, thereby equating the two in her rhetoric. As we all know, media has long been a component in the propagandizing of wars, conflicts, and one group's attempt of legitimitizing its actions over another. I would guess the same happened in ex-Yugoslavia too. And I wonder what impact, if any, groups like CPJ end up having. So I end up quite pessimistic in my outlook...

The second thing that comes to mind is B'Tselem's  recent tactic of handing out video cameras to Palestinians so that they can document any attacks they suffer, whether by Israeli military or settlers. There was one video that surfaced on the BCC a while back of settlers attacking and beating up Palestinian farmers. It didn't take long for the link to be defunct. B'Tselem also began its own YouTube channel as a way to share some of these videos: Clearly, as video technologies get cheaper and easier to disseminate, those without a voice increase their capability of being heard / seen. While it doesn't stop them from getting killed in some instances, it does speak to the power of media technology. And in a conflict where one group clearly has the (media and other-) upper-hand, this is actually a moment where I'm willing to embrace the view held by proponents of new technologies that they can be revolutionary. Here, I actually end up somewhat more optimistic...

Thanks very much for posting this video Amahl.  It reminds me of a very morbid conversation I once had with a producer in Bethlehem.  One of his journalists had just been shot and very nearly died.  Needless to say the mood was somber.  But making the human tradgedy all the more painful was the economic reality of the situation.  Medical care and disability payments are of course expensive and there was no insurance available to cover the costs.  This is an often forgotten factor that can impinge on the ability of journalists to cover war and conflict.  While I have no doubt that nearly every journalist in the area would have been willing to take the place of their fallen colleague, the lack of an economic net can serve as a motivating factor for organizations to avoid taking risks.  In this case I believe a story went unreported because the need to concentrate on compensating the fallen journalist made paying a new one impossible.

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.