10 things to remember when reporting on Palestine

This guide was created by the team at The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy and curated by Slingshot Media’s advocacy team

As reporters, journalists, and editors, the integrity, accuracy, and honesty of your reporting is integral in shaping people’s understanding of our reality. Accuracy and ethical reporting are not synonyms of “ objectivity”  or “neutrality” which are both harmful in asymmetrical conflicts, and other situations with injustice and harmful power dynamics.

Therefore, when communicating and reporting on Palestine, it is very important to:

1. Contextualise your reporting

Violence never happens in a vacuum. Israel is a settler colonial regime practicing apartheid. Specific events cannot be disconnected from Israel’s daily practices and policies that actively maintain that subjugation and domination over the Palestinian people, and have done so for over 7 decades. When reporting, use this framework and context

2. Do not use the passive tense

The use of the passive tense to describe facts without clearly stating who the agent and perpetrator is, continuously whitewashes Israel’s assaults, and responsibility and perpetuates its impunity. It also gives a misleading portrayal of events.

3. Do not dehumanize Palestinian lives

Very few of the Palestinians brutally killed by the Israeli forces (more than 1500 as of October 2023) are being reported on and named. Their stories have not been shared, nor have their families and close ones been given a platform. This leads to a consistent cycle where Palestinian lives are treated as mere numbers and their death, imprisonment, torture, injuries, and traumas are trivialized.

4. Avoid using misleading and inaccurate terminology

The use of terms such as “clashes”, “confrontations” or “riots” between “two sides” feeds into the false narrative that this is a war or conflict between two equal parties. This erases the context of extreme asymmetry of power and creates a false equivalence far-removed from reality.

5. Stop the immediate presumption of guilt of Palestinians 

Decades of media delegitimisation and criminalisation of Palestinian voices have led to a vicious cycle of media outlets treating Palestinians with suspicion and assumption of bad faith. Palestinians are almost immediately treated as potential “militants”, “anti-semites” or “terrorists”. A person throwing a stone is equated to a heavily armed soldier. While Palestinians are living under a reality of severe system of violence, they are gaslighted and asked to justify their humanity and the legitimacy of their quest for fundamental rights.

6. Do not take Israeli officials’ statements at face value

While Palestinian voices are doubted, Israel’s apartheid regime is taken with credibility and reliability. This is part of the blatant racism shaping our world order, where systems of supremacy dictate the dominant narratives. Israeli authorities have a long history of whitewashing their war crimes and crimes against humanity and use bad faith, lies and disinformation to cover up their crimes and practices. Don’t equate the victim’s voice with its oppressors.

7. Centre Palestinian voices and narratives

Any reporting or interviews on Palestine must centre Palestinian voices as they are the ones experiencing the reality and are best placed to describe it. Palestinians should not be invited only occasionally to give “testimonies” of their perceptions or feelings. Space must be given to Palestinian expertise as authoritative analysis. Palestinian voices surely should not be validated by an Israeli voice or asked to be put as opposite to their oppressor.

8. Don’t focus on factions as the source of violence and don’t place the lens on “Palestinian violence”

Focusing and insisting to report on “Palestinian violence” and reducing Palestinians to identification of political factions reinforces the presumption of guilt and downplays or erases the structural violence of the Israeli regime of military occupation and apartheid, while reversing the oppressor and oppressed reality. Such angles reinforce the false narrative that attacks on Gaza, Nablus or Jenin are a bilateral confrontation between Israel and armed factions. Furthermore, avoid using misleading terms, such as “Hamas-controlled” Gaza. While Hamas is the political party in power, Israel still controls Gaza’s boundaries and the movement of people and goods through an ongoing land, air and sea blockade, while Egypt controls the Rafah crossing.

9. Palestinians are one people

Framing and describing the reality of Palestinians and events happening as separate and disconnected, among different cities across Gaza, Jerusalem, Lydd, Ramallah, Palestinian refugee camps etc., reinforces Israel’s policy of fragmenting Palestinians and erasing their identity and collective belonging.

10. Do not be intimidated or be (self-)censored by pro-apartheid watchdogs

When reporting on Palestine is done accurately, ethically and is attuned to the overall reality of Israel’s occupation, oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, pro-apartheid watchdogs will be ready to attack and smear the reporting. Journalists should resist yielding to these intimidations as they are intentional tools used to silence and discredit truthful coverage.

Palestinians continue to fight to gain ownership over their narrative and portrayal of their reality to the world. Media outlets still have the opportunity, and especially now more than ever, to bridge the gap and ensure that Palestine stops being an exception to accurate, fair and ethical reporting.

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