What It’s Like Being a Journalist in Gaza Right Now

Reporter Hamza Chalan sleeps on the streets with a blanket while trying his best to do his job.
A collage of two photos. Left: A man wearing a blue war journalist uniform. Right: the same man stands in a b
All photos: @chalanhamza

This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands. This interview took place on the 23rd of October, before heavy Israeli bombardment disrupted phone and internet connections.

Collapsed buildings, rubble, desperate faces and body bags. “Daily life here is frightening and difficult,” says Gaza-based photographer, filmmaker and journalist Hamza Chalan, 27. “I can't really describe what's going on, but ‘disaster’ is the word that best sums it up.” “


Chalan reports on what he sees on the ground on a daily basis. The outside world largely depends on local reporters and citizen journalists for its coverage of Gaza, as news organisations are not allowed to send correspondents into the strip. Yet local journalists like Chalan are also struggling to do their job – nowhere is really safe. 

Last week, Reuters and AFP received a letter from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) after asking them not to target their journalists in Gaza during their airstrikes and military operations. The letter stated it could not guarantee the safety of journalists working in the Gaza Strip, as Hamas deliberately conducts its activities “in the vicinity of journalists and civilians”.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), as of the 30th October at least 31 journalists (26 Palestinian, four Israeli, and one Lebanese) have been killed since the crisis escalated on the 7th of October. 

A man wearing a blue war journalist uniform takes a selfie in front of rubble

Hamza Chalan in Gaza. Photo: Hamza Chalan

On the 23rd of October, I got in touch with Chalan to ask him about how he continues to work under these conditions. To be honest, I didn't really expect a response – I probably wasn’t the only one who tried to reach out. I only saw one tick next to my message, meaning he hadn’t received it. Two hours later, though, I got a response: “Hi, no problem,” he wrote. “It would be nice if you could call me, because I don't have internet.”

I immediately tried to call Chalan, but his phone didn't ring. I had a bad feeling and kept staring at my phone, hoping for his name to appear on my screen. I scrolled through his Instagram while I waited. Just a month ago, he was posting videos of traditional Palestinian food, beautiful sunsets by the sea, about the history of Gaza and the beauty of Palestine. Now his feed consists of rubble, human suffering and body bags. The contrast is painful.

A little later, I get a hold of Chalan on the phone. “I feel exhausted and sick,” he says. That's how he sounds, too. “It's getting worse every day in Gaza, it's becoming more and more inhumane. I see suffering in every neighbourhood, every street and every corner.”

In the background, I hear the sound of the call to prayer, sirens and panic. Our phone conversation is cut off a few times, and each time, I’m scared. Even though I’d only met Chalan a few minutes ago, I’m worried that something has happened to him. As we talk, I become even more aware that all this is real. That the terrible images of the suffering we’ve seen in the past few weeks aren’t just images, but a daily reality. I feel guilty that I’m safe in my warm home, while this man – and many others – don’t even have one anymore.  


Chalan tells me about the terrible living conditions in Gaza. “I sleep on the street with a blanket,” he explains. “Many journalists sleep in public spaces.” He tells me people can't shower because there is too little water, that it’s difficult to find a toilet, and the same goes for food and water. “There are long queues for food,” he says. “You can have small meals for a lot of money and you don't even know if the ingredients are spoiled. You get a small bottle of water for twice the price it used to cost.”

“Palestinian culture is very generous, but most people have nothing, no food or drinks,” he adds. “Even if they want to help each other, they cannot.” Chalan also admits that his situation isn't even the worst, because his work allows him to move around Gaza and find food more easily than families who can’t really go anywhere. 

While journalists want to report on the crisis as much as possible, they also have to take care of themselves and their families. “On one hand, I feel okay because I get by this way, but on the other hand, I feel terrible because I’m not with my family and I see what is being done to my people, the Palestinians,” he says.

“Some days I feel alone. Everyone needs their family, especially in times like these. I constantly worry about whether my family is still alive and vice versa, but we can't always reach each other because of poor phone coverage. It's terrible to think that if something happens to your family, you’d only hear about it much later.”


Still, when he wakes up, Chalan immediately starts his day by capturing images in different areas of Gaza. “I do this for several news organisations,” he says.

Sometimes, an outlet will ask him to go to a specific area. If he knows he’ll be in danger, he’ll wait until he thinks the area is safe enough, but there’s always a risk. “Other journalists have also followed their intuition and now they are dead,” he says. “We risk our lives to report on this humanitarian disaster. If we don't, who will?”

Through his work, he hopes to ensure that the international community sees and feels what Palestinians are going through, and to encourage the world to take action against Israel's military operation and save Palestinian civilians. “Even if you see these terrible images, you won't feel what people here are feeling,” he says. “It is especially heartbreaking to see children dying.”

Chalan also emphasised that none of this is new, that Palestinians in Gaza have lived through other wars and have been suffering for years. “Many people here are religious and try to hold on that way – so do I,” he explains. “I am a Muslim and I believe that everyone's time to die comes at the right time. Allah determines when that time is.” This belief helps him take the risks he faces on the job. “In the end, it doesn't matter whether I stay inside or go outside to capture images,” he says. “Everywhere I go, I run the risk of being killed.”

Our conversation lasts about 20 minutes. Before hanging up, Chalan asks me for a favour: “I'm sorry to say this, but if I die, please keep talking about me,” he says. “Keep talking about Palestine. Keep talking about the occupation and about Palestinians. Keep talking about journalists being killed. Do what you can. We ask the international community to hear us and take action.”

A photo of a destroyed building and a burnt out yellow car on a war torn street in Gaza.

A destroyed building in Gaza. Photo: Chalan Hamza