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Number of journalists killed in Gaza since Oct. 7 attacks called unprecedented loss

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Gaza Health Ministry says at least 19,000 people have died since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, and Israel responded with an aggressive military campaign in Gaza. Among them are at least 64 journalists. The nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists says that is unprecedented, that the month following the October 7 attacks is the deadliest for journalists since the group started keeping track in 1992. The president of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Jodie Ginsberg, is with us now to talk more about this. Good morning, Jodie.

JODIE GINSBERG: Morning.

MARTIN: In a statement to NPR, Israeli Defense Forces said that covering active combat areas is inherently dangerous, and unintended casualties are a tragic possibility. Now, I think we all understand that. But is there something more that makes covering Gaza so dangerous?

GINSBERG: That's right. Of course covering war is dangerous, but as you said, this is the deadliest conflict that we have ever documented, and we've been doing this work for more than 30 years. The reason it's inherently dangerous in Gaza is because of the nature of the bombardment, which means it's very difficult, almost impossible, for people to stay safe. Journalists in Gaza are reporting on the injured in hospitals, for example, and hospitals have been attacked, or they're reporting on convoys trying to flee the north to the south and those roads have been attacked. It's - they've - people have been told to move from the north to the south, yet the south was bombarded. So it's impossible for journalists to report in a way where they can be safe or get to a place of safety.

MARTIN: Well, just to contrast that, I think you were telling us earlier that in Ukraine, for example, you've documented two deaths of journalists this year and 15 last year, and this is also an active war.

GINSBERG: Exactly. And that, I think, illustrates some of the differences in the way that this war is being conducted compared to other wars. You've got to also remember about the size of Gaza. Gaza is a very small strip of land. It's very concentrated. And that's also one of one of the defining factors of this war.

MARTIN: So the IDF says "certain journalists" - and they put that in quotation marks - who were reportedly killed, they say were active terror operatives. Is your group able to verify or dispute that?

GINSBERG: What we do at the Committee to Protect Journalists is try to verify and work very hard to verify that the individuals we have documented are journalists. They're doing journalistic work. They're trying to document the facts on the ground, provide news to the communities involved, which is why our numbers compared to perhaps some of the other numbers that you might seen are slightly lower, because we're really painstakingly trying to make sure that we have at least two sources of information about the journalists themselves and about the killing.

MARTIN: Who should be held accountable here? What does accountability look like?

GINSBERG: Accountability looks like holding those responsible for the killings of journalists - holding those responsible and accountable. And that means us being able to investigate those deaths and particularly see if any of those deaths involved the killing - the deliberate killing or targeting of journalists. Journalists are civilians, and civilians should not be targeted in war. International humanitarian law is very clear about that. So one of the things we really want to understand is to look at the patterns where we've seen in particular journalists who have been clearly wearing press insignia, clearly carrying press equipment, where they appear to have been targeted.

MARTIN: And who would take responsibility for that? What would be the entity that would do that, as briefly as you can?

GINSBERG: The responsibility for investigations - there are a number of bodies that can do that, including the International Criminal Court. We've had independent bodies look at that - in some cases, the governments of different nationalities, and of course, Israel itself.

MARTIN: That's Jodie Ginsberg. She's president of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Jodie, thank you so much. 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.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.