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Why it's so hard for journalists to report from Gaza

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Over a month into the war in the Gaza Strip, international news organizations have little, if any, access to Gaza. Israel, which is bombing Gaza in response to the deadly Hamas attack on its soil, controls access. And with the exception of brief tours with a limited number of reporters, Israel has not been granting journalists access to the region. The conflict has been deadly for those trying to report it. Roughly 40 have been killed so far. Four were Israeli, one from Lebanon, the rest Palestinian. This leaves much of the outside world with limited access to news from Gaza and the approximately 2 million people who live there. Sherif Mansour is the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists. He joins us now. Mr. Mansour, thanks for being with us.

SHERIF MANSOUR: Thank you for having me, Scott.

SIMON: What do you hear from local reporters who are working in Gaza about the conditions under which they're reporting?

MANSOUR: Well, this is the most dangerous month or so we've seen over the course of three decades when we documented journalists killing anywhere else also around the world. Palestinian journalists are facing outsized challenge and risk. They were forced to flee after seeing colleagues killed, media facilities bombed and their own homes and their families as well.

SIMON: And in addition to all of that, it's hard to get the story out, isn't it?

MANSOUR: It has been difficult to get electricity, to get in an internet connection. They are struggling to even survive, finding food or water right now. And once the Israeli army bombed communication towers, we almost reached a news blackout several times. And it has been consistent now three times when international media even cannot reach their own journalists or the freelancers. In addition to other harassment and assaults on journalists covering from the West Bank and from within Israel unprecedented level, we have documented at least 13 journalists who are also been arrested in the West Bank, in addition to outright censorship by the passing legislation in Israel. Based on vague, harming national morale charges, they can put someone in jail for up to one year right now.

SIMON: I have to ask, is Hamas welcoming to journalists?

MANSOUR: No. In addition to access problems from the Israeli side, of course, Hamas have enforced its censorship regime within Gaza. For the first time, this war that we have documented Israeli journalists being killed by Hamas fighters, four of them who were killed in southern Israel on October 7 in unprecedented assault.

SIMON: The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for the protection of journalists working in Gaza. And I say this with respect - is that really possible?

MANSOUR: I think the numbers tell the story of the exponential risk. And we're talking here about unprecedented bombardment in addition to other factors that makes this more deadly. But we at the committee, we also try and spread information about safety guidelines. We understand that they may not have that possibility or they are already there near combat situation.

SIMON: I believe the Israeli forces say they have an obligation to review footage and stories so that operational plans aren't revealed. What do you think of that?

MANSOUR: Well, we've seen similar restrictions, but I think the most alarming is when the Israeli government and the Israeli army said to Reuters, AFP and international media that they cannot guarantee the safety of their employees. And of course, journalists are civilian, and they are protected under international law. No international journalists or a media outlet would risk having an headquarter after seeing media facilities bombed.

SIMON: Why is it important for the world to hear what's going on now?

MANSOUR: I think we rely on journalists to have critical, timely information, because otherwise we are left with a sea of dis- and misinformation that can only fuel the conflict.

SIMON: Sherif Mansour is the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists. Thank you so much for speaking to us.

MANSOUR: Thank you for having me, Scott.

SIMON: And for more coverage and for differing views and analysis of the conflict, you can go to npr.org/mideastupdates. 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.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

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