Palestinian journalists urge colleagues to boycott White House Correspondents’ Dinner

President Biden is expected to speak at the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner on 27 April  (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
President Biden is expected to speak at the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner on 27 April (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A group of Palestinian journalists is urging a boycott of the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner next week as an “act of solidarity” in response to the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.

The call for a boycott was made on Wednesday in an open letter signed by more than two dozen Palestinian reporters, writers and multimedia journalists who are located both in Gaza and elsewhere, including Bisan Owda, Ali Jadallah, Hosam Salem, Mohammed Zaanoun, Ahmed El-Madhoun, Mohamed Almasri, Mariam Barghouti, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, Mohammed El Kurd, Said Arikat, Eman Mohammed, and Jenan Matari.

“As Palestinian journalists, we urgently appeal to you, our colleagues globally, with a demand for immediate and unwavering action against the Biden administration’s ongoing complicity in the systematic slaughter and persecution of journalists in Gaza,” they wrote. “We insist you publicly boycott the upcoming White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 27 as an act of solidarity with us – your fellow journalists – as well as with the millions of Palestinians currently being starved in Gaza due to the Biden administration’s continued political, financial, and military backing of Israel and cut-off of funding for live-saving humanitarian aid”.

At least 92 Palestinian journalists and media workers have been killed by Israel’s war in Gaza, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. They are among more than 33,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza and the West Bank since 7 October, when Hamas launched a surprise attack in Israel that killed some 1,200 people. Two Israeli and three Lebanese journalists have also been killed.

The annual dinner, which has been put on by the White House Correspondents’ Association each year since 1920, is not organised or sponsored by the Biden Administration or any government entity. However, President Joe Biden is expected to be a featured speaker at the event, continuing a practice which began in 1924 when then-president Calvin Coolidge became the first US chief executive to attend.

Most major news organisations with a presence in the US capital — including The Independent — participate in the yearly event. The dinner is a charity function used to raise funds to fund scholarships for journalism students across the United States.

But the authors of the open letter called it “an embodiment of media manipulation, trading journalistic ethics for access,” citing Mr Biden’s expected presence there.

“For journalists to fraternize at an event with President Biden and Vice President Harris would be to normalize, sanitize, and whitewash the administration’s role in genocide,” they said.

They added that the White House press corps, who they describe as “journalists reporting from the belly of the beast,” has “a unique responsibility to speak truth to power and uphold journalistic integrity”.

“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,” they said.

A representative of the White House Correspondents’ Association did not respond when contacted by The Independent.