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World Press Freedom Day: Over 100 journalists killed in Gaza

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Over 100 journalists and media workers have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). 

This somber milestone comes on World Press Freedom Day, declared by the United Nations to remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. 

It is a day in support of newspapers, media outlets, and independent journalists who are considered targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Many journalists have been targeted or kidnapped by the Israeli Military, according to the Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ).

On Thursday, UNESCO awarded its World Press Freedom prize to all Palestinian journalists covering Gaza. 

"In these times of darkness and hopelessness, we wish to share a strong message of solidarity and recognition to those Palestinian journalists who are covering this crisis in such dramatic circumstances. As humanity, we have a huge debt to their courage and commitment to freedom of expression," said Mauricio Weibel, Chair of the International Jury of Media Professionals.

The war on Gaza is the deadliest ever to be recorded by the CPJ since the nonprofit began to collect data in 1992. For comparison, the number of journalists killed in the first two months in Gaza surpassed the amount killed in the Vietnam War, which lasted two decades, according to the IFJ.

According to CPJ, Four Israeli journalists were killed, three by Hamas during their attack on Oct. 7.

Three Lebanese journalists were killed by Israeli airstrikes or shelling.

102 Palestinian journalists were also killed by airstrikes, shelling, or snipers, according to IFJ.

They are among the more than 34,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza and around 1,200 Israelis and foreigners killed in Israel.

Journalists, who are citizens, are protected under international humanitarian law.

Back In Chicago, many journalists and media organizations, have called for protection for journalists working in Gaza. 

In December 2023, several Chicago newsrooms held a vigil to honor their fallen colleagues overseas. Journalists and members of the public packed a Pilsen art gallery, and covered the wall with letters and poems to journalists on the ground in Gaza.

The number of journalists killed at the time of the vigil was 71. 

CPJ has tracked numerous forms of censorship: attacks, threats, assaults, and arrests of journalists covering the war in Gaza. Journalists have had family members killed. 

One of those is Al-Jazeera's Wael Al-Dahdouh. In November, he received the call while on air that his wife, children, and grandson were killed after they relocated to an area they were told was safe. 

He escaped death in December after he was wounded by an  Israeli attack on Farhana school in Gaza's Khan Younis. His cameraman, Samer Abu Daqqa, was killed in the same missile strike. 

Then, in January, his son Hamza Dahdouh, who also worked for Al-Jazeera, was killed in an Israeli airstrike. Al-Jazeera said their correspondent's car was targeted as they were driving to interview displaced Palestinians. 

Airstrikes, extensive power outages, disrupted communication networks, and supply shortages, including lack of food, clean water, and shelter, put reporters in Gaza at high risk. CPJ has said Palestine is one of the most dangerous places for a journalist to do their job.

World Freedom Press Day stems from Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a widely influential document of principles put together by a group of African journalists in 1991, explaining what a free press is and why it is vital to democracy.

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