Friday, February 20, 2009

Journalists Call Israel to Account over "Premeditated and Precise" attacks on Media in Gaza

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), February 20, 2009 - The targeting of media by the Israeli military during last month's offensive in the Gaza Strip was "premeditated and precise" and in violation of international law, says the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in a report published today which calls on the United Nations to investigate the attacks and to take action against the Government of Israel.

"There should be no double-talk about this," says Aidan White IFJ General Secretary who led a mission of journalists' leaders into Gaza on January 22. "Here was reckless intimidation of media on a shocking scale that should not go unpunished. If it does, it leaves journalists and media exposed to the threat of attack in any conflict at any time in the future."

The mission of journalists' leaders from eight countries, was sponsored by the IFJ and the Federation of Arab Journalists (FAJ) and was joined by the FAJ General Secretary Makram Mohamed Ahmed. It was carried out immediately after the unilateral ceasefire declared first by Israel and subsequently by the Islamic resistance movement Hamas.

The Mission report, ‘Justice in the News: A response to Targeting of Media in Gaza', assesses the violations and threats to media workers covering the Gaza conflict and finds that media were subject to intimidation, direct military assault and were deliberately prevented from working freely during the 22-day military offensive.

The Mission report also condemns the blockade of foreign media which had been imposed by the Israeli military on November 5. The ban on foreign journalists was maintained despite an Israeli Supreme Court order of January 2 allowing access to Gaza to a limited number of journalists.

The report cites evidence of media targeting by Israeli forces on:

28 December 2008 and the bombing of the offices of Hamas' TV station al-Aqsa in the al-Nasr district of Gaza City;

9 January 2009 and the attack on al-Johara Tower, in Al-Rimal neighbourhood in Gaza City, which was hit twice by Israeli aircraft, even though the building was clearly marked as housing media staff;

15 January 2009 and the attack on the al-Shuroug Tower housing several media groups in Omar al-Mukhtar street, Gaza City;

"These actions and the ban on access to Gaza by foreign journalists is evidence of concerted efforts by Israel to intimidate, control and manage media," says the Report which calls for an investigation into violations of Geneva conventions protecting journalists in armed conflicts and disregard for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 which in 2006 called on member states to protect journalists in conflict zones.

But the report also condemns Hamas for its acts of intimidation of media during and after the conflict. "Threats and intimidation of media continue. There are political attempts to control media by Hamas amidst a continuing atmosphere of lawlessness and threats," says the Report.

It further says that Hamas interfered in the work of the Mission. There have also been reports of humanitarian help to media being seized and confiscated by Hamas.

The Mission report also makes a series of urgent recommendations for practical humanitarian and professional actions to assist Palestinian journalists including safety training; humanitarian aid to the media families affected by the violence; new efforts to build solidarity between Palestinian journalists in Gaza and the West Bank; and a training programme to combat manipulation of media by Palestinian political factions.

Download and read the full report

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide. For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207

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