CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward entered Gaza on December 12th without an I.D.F. escort, marking the first time a Western reporter had done so during the war. She captured images of the bombed-out buildings and streets of Rafah, a city in Gaza near the Egyptian border. Eighty-five percent of Gaza’s residents had fled to the city, as reported by the U.N. The Israeli military had launched over 22,000 strikes in the area encompassing intense and ferocious warfare. These strikes had devastated residential buildings and ultimately led to the deaths of many civilians, including journalists.
Harrowing and raw coverage from Arab media journalists in Gaza had been disseminated. However, such reporting is inherently risky and not sufficient to provide a holistic view of the situation. The challenge of getting accurate and independent reports from inside Gaza was further complicated by the difficulty of communication and the growing skepticism over various statistics related to the conflict.
Western journalists who ventured into Gaza for media coverage were often under the protection of the I.D.F., leading to issues around the objectivity and authenticity of their reporting. In November, the BBC’s Gaza producer and CNN’s Gaza producer departed due to the escalating violence, with the former losing nine relatives in an air strike. Meanwhile, outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post used open-source visual investigations to independently report on the conflict, focusing on the I.D.F.’s intense bombing campaign in densely populated areas.
Ward, an experienced journalist with extensive international reporting experience, had been advocating for allowing reporters into Gaza in the early days of the war. She expressed concerns that accompanying the I.D.F. would impede her ability to conduct typical reporting by limiting conversations with ordinary people. While some Western media outlets did accompany the I.D.F., a CNN spokesperson noted their transparency with the audience about the conditions set forth by the military. However, this raised concerns around the impartiality of their reporting and the potential for it to be viewed as a form of propaganda.