Gaza journalists, Freedom Theatre nominated for UNESCO and Nobel prizes

Gaza journalists, Freedom Theatre nominated for UNESCO and Nobel prizes
Palestine’s Freedom Theatre has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, while four Gazan journalists are in the running for the World Press Freedom Prize.
3 min read
14 February, 2024
A man walks past graffiti titled 'Heroes of Palestine' featuring a picture of Palestinian journalist Wael Al-Dahdouh on January 30, 2024 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

The West Bank's iconic Freedom Theatre has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize weeks after it was vandalised by the Israeli army, while four Gazan journalists have been nominated by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

The four journalists are Al-Jazeera's Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh, freelance reporter Aseel Mousa, RSF Gaza correspondent Ola Al Zaanoun, and photojournalist Motaz Azaiza. 

The four journalists were nominated for their courage and determined reporting of Israel's war on Gaza.

Around 10 percent of Gaza's journalists have been killed by Israel since November, according to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, in what rights groups believe could be a systematic campaign to kill Palestinian media workers and their families. 

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists has recorded at least 85 media workers killed since 7 October, although the real figure is likely to be much higher.

Meanwhile, the Freedom Theatre was recognised for its peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation in the West Bank through the arts.

"We are honoured to announce The Freedom Theatre has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize," the theatre said in a statement on X on Tuesday.

"Our movement of children, youth, women and men continues to grow stronger, despite continued invasions in the Jenin Camp and attacks on our theatre."

The Freedom Theatre was founded in 2006 in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, which hosts Palestinians displaced from their homes during the 1948 Nakba and their descendants.

It has once again become the focus of Israeli violence in recent years, with dozens of Palestinians killed and arrested during Israeli military raids.

In 2022, veteran Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper as she covered an Israeli army raid on the camp.

Amid such acts of violence, the Freedom Theatre has worked to promote freedom of expression in Palestine and protest the cultural erasure of Palestinian identity. It aims to generate resistance to the Israeli occupation through art.

The centre and its founders have survived numerous attacks over the years, including many raids led by the Israeli army and the murder of various staff and students. One of its co-founders, Israeli-Palestinian actor and filmmaker Juliano Mer Khamis, was killed in 2011 by masked gunmen.

On 13 December, the theatre was vandalised during a massive Israeli raid in Jenin.

Israeli soldiers also detained the theatre's artistic director and a recent graduate. Mustafa Sheta, the theatre's producer, remains in custody and has been sentenced to six months of administrative detention without charge or trial.

"Today marks two months since our producer, Mustafa Sheta, was taken by the Israeli Army and imprisoned without trial or charge," the Freedom Theatre said on X.

"We continue to demand Mustafa’s release and that of all Palestinian artists and prisoners."