AFP journalists worldwide rally for Gaza colleagues amid safety concerns

AFP journalists around the world staged rallies Wednesday to show solidarity with nine colleagues in Gaza, with agency chiefs calling on Israel to ensure their safety and let them leave the war-torn territory.

Journalists and other AFP staff in Paris and bureau across AFP’s global network gathered with portraits of Gaza colleagues who have been unable to leave since the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7.

The demonstration was organized by AFP’s management, with unions and the Journalists’ Association (SDJ).

“The AFP newsroom wanted to express its whole-hearted support for our Gaza colleagues who are working in dire conditions and under constant fear of bombardment,” said Phil Chetwynd, AFP’s Global News Director, in a statement.

“We are humbled by their professionalism and commitment to do their jobs to the very best of their abilities,” added Chetwynd.

“Not only are they trying to report on the story around them, they are also having to seek food and shelter for their families as the humanitarian situation becomes more desperate every day.”

AFP employees in Gaza include journalists Mahmud Hams, Yahya Hassouna, Bilal al-Sabbagh, Mohammed Abed, Saïd Khatib, Adel Zaanounn, Mai Yaghi, technician Ahmed Eissa and office manager Mohanad Shahwan. The team also includes freelance videographer Youssef Hassouna and administrator Zuhair Abuatila.

“We reiterate our call to the Israeli authorities to ensure that journalists working in Gaza are protected and allowed to work in safety and security. Too many colleagues have been killed and injured,” said Chetwynd.

“It is also essential that all journalists be allowed to freely leave and enter the Gaza Strip. Some of our staff and their families have suffered real trauma. They have lost friends and family, and seen their houses destroyed. They need to get to safety,” he added.

“Every morning and throughout the day, we fear hearing the worst” from Gaza, said SDJ president Emmanuel Duparcq, “that is intolerable to us both as colleagues and as journalists.”

AFP’s Gaza bureau was badly damaged in an Israeli army strike in early November.

The United Nations Human Rights commissioner has expressed concern at the high death toll among media workers in Gaza.

At least 81 journalists have been killed in Israeli strikes in the territory since the October 7 attack, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Of those, 18 were working at the time of their death.

Israel’s supreme court rejected on January 9 a request from international media for free access to Gaza.

The fighting was triggered by Hamas militants’ assault on southern Israel, the worst since the country’s 1948 founding. Around 1,140 people died in the attack, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said Wednesday that 24,448 people had been killed there in the war Israel launched in response, with more than 70 percent women, children and adolescents.

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