Biden hails ‘press freedom, democracy’ but ignores Gaza media death toll of 142

White House correspondents dinner with President Biden
White House correspondents' dinner with President Biden . . . allegations of US "media complicity" with genocide by protesters. "CNN" sign is translated as "Criminal News Network". Image: Anatolu video screenshot APR

Pacific Media Watch

US President Joe Biden has spoken at the annual White House Correspondents’ dinner in Washington in spite of protests over alleged “complicity” of media about Israel’s war on Gaza, offering a toast to “press freedom and democracy” but ignoring the death toll of Palestinian journalists.

Demonstrators targeted the Washington Hilton hotel which hosted the dinner, denouncing the Biden administration’s handling of the war and urging guests — especially media — to boycott the event.

Media freedom watchdogs have cited varying death toll figures for Palestinian journalists killed since October 7 although Al Jazeera network news today reported 142 dead — more than double the number of journalists killed in each of the Second World War and the Vietnam War.

“It’s astonishing. We’ve never seen a White House correspondents’ dinner like this,” reported Al Jazeera’s Washington correspondent Shihab Rattansi.

“The President is here to speak while being warmly applauded by the national US press core.

“But these VIPs are all dressed up in the evening finery, and they have to run the gauntlet of hundreds of protesters out here who are shouting, ‘Shame on you’.

“‘Shame on you’ for breaking bread when there are [142] journalists dead as a result of, as far as they say, Biden’s complicity in their murder.”

Code Pink flag protest
Members of the feminist organisation Code Pink dropped a huge Palestinian flag from a top floor window of the Washington Hilton hotel.

The group said members involved in the action managed “to get out quickly and without arrest”.

The protesters were gathered outside the hotel to express solidarity with the dozens of Palestinian journalists killed in Gaza.

Protest outside Washington Hilton Hotel
The protest outside the White House correspondents’ dinner hotel. Image: Anatolu video screenshot APR

More than two dozen Palestinian journalists had called for a boycott of the dinner, writing an open letter urging their American colleagues not to attend.

“You have a unique responsibility to speak truth to power and uphold journalistic integrity,” said the letter from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

“It is unacceptable to stay silent out of fear or professional concern while journalists in Gaza continue to be detained, tortured, and killed for doing our jobs.”

‘It hurts our souls’
Al Jazeera’s Hind Khoudary was one of the signatories of the letter calling for the boycott.

She spoke to the network from Deir el-Balah in central Gaza, saying she did not “have the words” to describe what she had been going through.

“This isn’t something that has been ending. It has been continuous every single day for more than 200 days.

“We have been killed, displaced and homeless, and we’re not only reporting on this, but we’re also living it with every single detail.

Gaza journalist Hind Khoudary . . . Palestinian
Gaza journalist Hind Khoudary . . . Palestinian press plea to boycott the White House dinner. Image: @Hind_Gaza

“We’re living this war in all aspects of life. We have not seen our families as journalists. We have not been able to eat well. We have been dehydrated.

“We have been reporting in one of the harshest conditions any reporter can go through despite losing a lot of colleagues, and it hurts our souls and our hearts every single day.

“We have been constantly targeted by the Israeli air strikes and shelling.

“All of these daily things we have been living as journalists are overwhelming [and] exhausting, but we still continue because there have been at least 100 Palestinian journalists whom I personally know that have been killed since October 7.

“If they were here today with us, they would be reporting, and they would be raising the voice of the voiceless Palestinians.”

Protesters pose as Palestinian media casualties in Gaza
Protesters pose as Palestinian media casualties in Gaza surrounded by blue press protective jackets. The death toll of Gaza journalists since October 7 is 142. Image: Anatolu video screenshot APR
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