The IOF has targeted the press since the start of the latest war in Gaza, killing 9 journalists within a single week.
Qatar’s Sheikha Moza bint Nasser has called out the “deception” of coverage on the ongoing Israeli bombardment of Gaza, stressing the need to “distinguish facts”.
In a post on Instagram, Sheikha Moza, the mother of Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, took aim at “misinformation, deception and distortion” in modern wars.
“Misinformation, deception and distortion are the most prominent elements of the propaganda discourse of modern wars in general, but it is shocking to see some commentators adopting stories of rape and slaughter of children without scrutiny,” Sheikha Moza said.
The Qatar Foundation founder and chairperson stressed that “it is imperative to distinguish the facts from false narrative”, though she made no mention of examples of misinformation.
The Qatari royal also quoted a Quranic verse that says: “Do not think ˹O Prophet˺ that Allah is unaware of what the wrongdoers do. He only delays them until a Day when ˹their˺ eyes will stare in horror” (Quran 14:42).
The post, accompanied by an image of a press jacket, was made as Israel continued its brutal bombardment of Gaza, in which at least 2,215 Palestinians, including 724 children, have been killed in just under a week.
Notably, it was posted after confirmed reports of an Israeli strike targeting a group of international press crews covering the border attacks between Israel and south of Lebanon on Friday evening. Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah was killed and a number of others, including two Al Jazeera crew members, were injured.
The journalists attacked in the Alma Al-Shaab area included Al Jazeera correspondent Carmen Jokhadar and photographer Elie Barkhia. Other press members were identified as AFP photographer Christina Assi and video journalist Dylan Collins.
The journalists in Lebanon were all wearing helmets and blue flak jackets that clearly identified them as members of the press.
In a statement, Al Jazeera confirmed that the IOF had fired “a guided missile” at its crew as yet another attempt “to silence the media”.
“Israel’s targeting of Al Jazeera team is a blatant disregard of international safety standards that clearly distinguish the press, as they shelled and burned Al Jazeera broadcast vehicle despite our crew’s presence alongside other international media in an agreed upon location,” Al Jazeera said.
The Qatar-based network condemned the “repeated atrocities” which it said had also previously killed veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in 2022. To date, Israel has not been held to account for that killing.
“Al Jazeera holds Israel legally and morally responsible for this brutal attack and calls on the international community to take action to ensure the safety of journalists. We demand that the perpetrators behind this heinous crime are held accountable and brought to justice,” the network said.
Al Jazeera further expressed its condolences “to the journalistic community, the families of the martyrs and wishes the wounded a speedy recovery”, noting that attacks “will not deter” its journalistic work.
Meanwhile, Reuters released a statement regarding the killing of its journalist, saying the agency is “urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region, and supporting Issam’s family and colleagues.”
Abdallah’s mother Fatima Kanso told Reuters that Israel “deliberately killed” her son.
“They were all wearing journalists’ gear and the word ‘press’ was visible. Israel cannot deny this crime,” she added.
The border between Israel and Lebanon has been the centre of intensifying fighting between the IOF and Hezbollah, raising concerns of a potential spillover across the border.
The IOF has targeted the press since the start of the war in Gaza, killing nine journalists within a single week, per figures shared by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Meanwhile, Israeli police held BBC journalists at gunpoint and dragged them out of their vehicle, despite it being clearly marked with “TV” in red tape.
“One of our BBC News Arabic teams deployed in Tel Aviv, in a vehicle clearly marked as media, was stopped and assaulted last night by Israeli police. Journalists must be able to report on the conflict in Israel-Gaza freely,” a BBC spokesperson said.
“CPJ emphasises that journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties,” Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator, said.
Last week, the Qatar Press Center slammed the IOF’s targeting of the press.
“The Center stresses the need to prevent the Israeli occupation forces from using ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ as a pretext to continue their violations against journalists and media workers who carry out their professional duties in covering the events taking place,” the statement said.
The IOF has killed more than 50 Palestinian journalists since 2000, per figures shared by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.
Rise in fake news
Last week, Western media and pro-Israel social media users spread uncorroborated allegations on Palestine’s Hamas fighters allegedly “beheading” Israeli babies.
The disturbing claims spread further following remarks made by the President of the United States Joe Biden on Wednesday, who claimed he had seen “confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children”.
The following day, a White House spokesperson clarified to The Washington Post that President Biden’s remarks were primarily based on the Israeli reports and claims by Israeli diplomats.
The Washington official said on Thursday that no member of the Biden administration, including the president himself, had seen such images.
Other Western headlines have also appeared to push the Israeli narrative of the occupation forces’ (IOF) aggression on Gaza by selecting wording that attempts to distort the readers from holding Israel accountable.
“There is a famous saying that ‘truth is the first casualty of war’. This is what we are witnessing in Western media coverage of the war in Gaza today,” Sheikha Moza explained.
This also comes under a wider online propaganda campaign that has existed for years, fuelled by what activists have called a bias by the Western press and social media giants in pushing pro-Israel content to overshadow Palestinians narratives.
The Arab Center for the Development of Social Media (7amleh) documented on Thursday more than 19,000 cases of hate speech and incitement using the Hebrew language on X, formerly known as Twitter. The watchdog noted that the increase of such content started on 7 October, the first day of the escalations.
At least 30% of the hate content documented by 7amleh included fake news or the promotion of violence or incitement.
“The Israeli government is taking advantage of the current international sentiment to continue exerting pressure on social media companies to censor the Palestinian narrative and silence voices critical of Israeli policies,” 7amleh said in a statement last week.
Despite X’s policies against “harmful content”, the thousands of incidents reported by 7amleh have continued despite the presence of so-called content regulations.
The platforms have instead been accused of serving as a breeding ground for misinformation, most notably over last weekend’s surprise attack by Hamas.