Can journalism still save lives?

Journalists attend the funeral of their al-Jazeera colleague, Hamza Dahdouh, son of Wael Dahdouh, al-Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief. Hamza was killed in an Israeli airstrike on 7 January. 

Bashar Taleb APA images

Amid the tumultuous chaos of Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, a stark question has been posed – can journalism save lives?

Once a beacon of hope for change and life-saving narratives, the courageous efforts of journalists in Gaza now seem futile against the unrelenting genocide consuming this territory.

In a battleground where truth struggles to be heard and lives fade without comment, the pressing question looms: can journalism make a difference?

From the start of my journey in journalism, I was always told that journalism can change lives, it can help alleviate poverty, it can improve health care systems, it can save lives.

Yet, all I see around me now tells a different story.

Poverty persists, and journalists and media offices are targeted. In the blink of an eye, Israel severs all lines of communication, leaving us isolated, vulnerable, voiceless and at the mercy of an unyielding assault.

More than 80 media professionals have met their untimely demise during this ongoing massacre, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Local authorities put the number as high as 118.

They include individuals like my relative Alaa Abu Muammar, murdered along with dozens of my relatives in late December.

Massacre in darkness

On the morning of 20 December, a day when Israel had cut all communications, my heart was racing. Being cut off during a ferocious military assault feels like that: I clung to my phone, yearning for the return of a signal, every minute a torture of ignorance.

“No Service” continued to loom ominously at the top of my iPhone screen.

Then news arrived in an unexpected, jolting manner.

My brother, coming from Khan Younis, carried a heavy burden. His face was etched with the weight of undeliverable news that, with trembling hands and grief in his voice, he still had to impart.

A massacre – unknown to us in the darkness of our communication blackout – had claimed the lives of many cherished family members.

The news left me shattered, my soul gripped by the torment of those left critically injured amidst this unfathomable tragedy.

Israel’s violence claimed the lives of about 30 members of my family, including my aunt Naima, her daughter-in-law Arkan, and her three children Ali, Hani and Batoul.

The assault also took Osama, the son of my aunt Naama. They had been displaced under Israeli orders, seeking refuge near the European Hospital, a place that Israel had falsely claimed to be safe.

A desperate journey to reach them at the European Hospital followed. Mom and I walked from Rafah to the hospital in Khan Younis, a stench of death pervading the air.

When we got there, we were only met by white bags containing the remains of our loved ones, a gruesome testament to the inhumane brutality of war.

I’ve traversed a challenging path in journalism, dedicating myself to media work, only to witness despair take hold as Israel targeted the Shawa al-Husari Tower, home of my workplace.

The tower, 15 floors housing multiple media institutions, became a graveyard for cherished memories, abruptly ending my job security and leaving me in a sea of uncertainty.

All that remains

As a scriptwriter for “Round in Gaza,” my commitment was to unveil the captivating, historical essence of this land, showcasing its beauty and rich heritage.

However, the relentless tides of war regularly interrupted our filming. Each frame we captured – whether it be ancient mosques resonating with tales of resilience, the serene public parks, the solemn churches, the bustling port, the tranquil beaches, the green fields, or the poignant cemeteries steeped in history – now feels like a fading echo from a lost era.

The unrelenting destruction wrought by Israel, annihilating nearly 200 archaeological and heritage sites, has rendered my work a testament not to what is, but to what once was.

Is there a single fragment of Gaza’s soul left to immortalize for a new “Round in Gaza”?

Does anyone hear our cries? Does anyone see our plight?

The words of my mentor and colleague, Refaat Alareer, “If I must die, you must live to tell my story,” only intensifies the weight of responsibility.

Refaat perished in an Israeli raid. He always urged me to continue documenting the truth.

I grapple with uncertainty. Torn between the urge to flee this world of chaos or to persist in reporting this twisted reality, I am no longer sure if journalism can save lives.

But within me a voice keeps urging: continue the struggle. Persist in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

Bear witness until injustice ends and truth prevails.

Bashaer Muammar is a Palestinian activist and translator from Gaza.