Committee To Protect Journalists Lists Hamas Members on List of Journalists Killed in Gaza

6 of 23 journalists killed in Israel-Gaza war worked for outlets run by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Pro-Hamas rally in New York City (Adam Gray/Getty Images)
October 24, 2023

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) included members of a U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist group on its list of journalists killed or injured in Gaza.

At least 6 of the 23 individuals on CPJ's list of "journalists killed" worked for broadcast outlets run by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including Al-Aqsa TV, Sowt Al-Asra Radio, and Palestine Today.

The U.S. government in 2010 designated Al-Aqsa Television as a terrorist group, saying it was part of an effort by Hamas to "create institutions with the trappings of legitimacy that are in fact controlled by and used to support a terrorist organization."

CPJ's list comes as anti-Israel activists have pointed to the journalist death statistics to accuse Israel of targeting legitimate media activities in Gaza.

The committee did not respond to a request for comment.

"CPJ emphasizes that journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties," said CPJ program coordinator Sherif Mansour in a statement. "Journalists across the region are making great sacrifices to cover this heartbreaking conflict. All parties must take steps to ensure their safety."

According to CPJ, at least 19 Palestinian journalists—and 23 journalists in total—have been killed since the war was initiated by Hamas on Oct. 7. The list includes four people who reportedly worked for Hamas's Al Aqsa TV and Radio: Khalil Abu Aathra, Sameeh Al-Nady, Issam Bhar, and Husam Mubarak. The list also includes Ahmed Shehab, who reportedly worked for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Sowt Al-Asra, and Mohammad Balousha, who reportedly worked for Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Palestine Today.

CPJ said it was "unclear whether all of the journalists were covering the conflict at the time of their deaths."

Alex Safian, a research director for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting, accused CPJ of including "Hamas terrorists with press passes" on its list.

"CPJ claims to be investigating all reports of journalists killed, injured, detained, or missing in the war. But they show their pro-Hamas slant by listing Israeli journalist Roee Idan as missing, when his funeral has already taken place," said Safian. "He was murdered, as was his wife, and one of his children is still missing. However, CJP seems much more engaged when it comes to listing Palestinian journalists, some of whom are Hamas terrorists with press passes."

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members have used media outlets as a cover to engage in terrorist activities. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Hamas uses Al Aqsa TV to air "programs and music videos designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood." The network is run by senior Hamas leader Fathi Hamad.

Sowt Al-Asra, also known as the Voice of Prisoners Radio, is bankrolled by Palestinian Islamic Jihad and lobbies for the release of convicted terrorists imprisoned in Israel. Palestine Today, which is also run by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was raided by the Israeli military in 2016 for reportedly broadcasting calls for terrorism. The outlet's website was also reportedly seized by the U.S. government in 2021 as part of a crackdown on Iranian-linked organizations.

Al Aqsa TV drew international attention in the early 2000s for its children's show Tomorrow’s Pioneers, which featured a knockoff Mickey Mouse character named "Farfour." The mouse called for a "world led by Islamists," advocated for the Palestinian takeover of Jerusalem, and wielded military-style weapons. In its final episode, Farfour was depicted as being "martyred" by Israeli interrogators.

The networks regularly glorify terrorism. Last month, Al Aqsa TV aired an interview celebrating a young boy whose older brother, a Gaza militant, had accidentally blown himself up while planting a roadside bomb. The boy told the network that he wanted to "fight the Jihad and I will be martyred, just like [my brother]," according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Palestine Today aired a show last spring during which an Islamist scholar outlined the rewards that "martyrs" are supposed to receive. "They are married to 72 black-eyed virgins," he said, according to MEMRI. "A crown of honor is placed on the martyr's head. A jewel in that crown is finer than this world and all that is in it."