Auckland Palestine rally honours Gaza journalists for freedom award


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Asia Pacific Report

About 500 people honoured Palestinian journalists in the heart of the New Zealand city of Auckland today for their brave coverage of Israel’s War on Gaza, now in its seventh month with almost 35,000 people killed, mostly women and children.

Marking the annual May 3 World Press Freedom Day “plus two”, the crowd also strongly applauded UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano Award being presented to the Palestinian journalists for their “courage and commitment”.

Several speakers gave tributes to the journalists, the more than 100 Gazan news workers killed had their names read out and put on display, and cellphones were lit up due to the breeze preventing candle flames.

Part of the crowd at the New Zealand rally in Auckland today honouring the Palestinian journalists
Part of the crowd at the New Zealand rally in Auckland today honouring the Palestinian journalists for their Media Freedom Day award for their coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza. Image: Asia Pacific Report

Activist MC Anna Lee, wo represents several groups including NZEI Te Riu Roa Educators for Gaza/Palestine, praised the journalists and said they set an example to the world.

“Journalists there have experienced a prolonged onslaught against press freedom with the arbitrary killings, arrests and intimidation,” she said.

“These acts have also restricted the world’s ‘right to know’ what has been happening in Palestine.”

She said they stood in solidarity with the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions-Gaza.

Bex Silver, a young New Zealand Jewish woman, spoke about how she experienced first hand the disinformation in Israeli news media and the oppression of Palestinians when she visited the Occupied West Bank last year and “found out what was really happening”.

Shut the Gaza war down chants in Auckland.     Video: Café Pacific

Journalist Dr David Robie, convenor of Pacific Media Watch, said 143 journalists had been killed, according to Al Jazeera and the Gaza Media Office, and it was mostly targeted “assassination by design”.

He paid tribute to several individual journalists as well as the group, including Shireen Abu Akleh, shot by an Israeli sniper more than a year before the October 7 war outbreak, and Hind Khoudary, a young journalist who had inspired people around the world.

He also shared Hind’s message to the world: “Don’t forget Palestine. We are weary, and your voice is our strength. Remember our voices, remember our faces.”

The Guillermo Cano Prize was awarded to the Gaza journalists in Santiago, Chile, as part of World Press Freedom Day global events.

Nasser Abu Baker, president of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) and vice-president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), received the UNESCO prize on behalf of his colleagues in Gaza.

Candles for the Palestinian journalists
Candles for the Palestinian journalists – named those who have been killed. Image: Asia Pacific Report

‘Unique suffering, fearless reporting’
The UN cultural agency has recognised the “unique suffering and fearless reporting” of Gaza’s journalists by awarding them the freedom prize.

Apart from those journalists and media workers have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza since October 7, nearly all the rest have been injured, displaced or bereaved.

From the start of the conflict, Israel closed Gaza’s borders to international journalists, and none have been allowed free access to the enclave since.

A thousand Gazan journalists were working at the start of the war, and more than a 100 of them have been killed.

“As a result,” reports the IFJ, “the profession has suffered a mortality rate in excess of 10 percent — about six times higher than the mortality rate of the general population of Gaza and around three times higher than that of health professionals.

PJS president Baker said: “Journalists in Gaza have endured a sustained attack by the Israeli army of unprecedented ferocity — but have continued to do their jobs, as witnesses to the carnage around them.

“It is justified that they should be honoured on World Press Freedom Day.

Naming the martyred Gaza journalists.   Video: Café Pacific

‘Most deadly attack on press freedom’
“What we have seen in Gaza is surely the most sustained and deadly attack on press freedom in history. This award shows that the world has not forgotten and salutes their sacrifice for information.”

IFJ general secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “This prize is a real tribute to the commitment to information of journalists in Gaza.

“Journalists in Gaza are starving, homeless and in mortal danger. UNESCO’s recognition of what they are still enduring is a huge and well-deserved boost.”

Kia Ora Gaza – doctors speak out.      Video: Café Pacific

Gaza Freedom Flotilla blocked
Also at the rally today were Kia Ora Gaza’s organiser Roger Fowler and two of the three New Zealand doctors who travelled to Turkiye to embark on the Freedom Flotilla which was sending three ships with humanitarian aid to break the Gaza siege.

Israel thwarted the mission for the time being by pressuring the African nation of Guinea-Bissau to withdraw the maritime flag the ships would have been sailing under.

However, flotilla organisers are working hard to find another flag country for the ships and the doctors vowed to rejoin the mission.

Palestinian children at today's Auckland rally
Palestinian children at today’s Auckland rally . . . one girl is holding up an image of an old pre-war postage stamp from the country called Palestine with the legend “We are coming back”. Image: David Robie/Cafe Pacific Report
Cafe Pacific Publisher
Cafe Pacific Publisher
Café Pacific's duty editor.
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