Free press advocates have called for the perpetrators of crimes against Palestinian journalists to be held accountable.
Israel’s ongoing shelling of the Gaza strip has killed at least six Palestinian journalists over the past few days, press freedom watchdogs say.
On Tuesday, journalist Saeed al-Taweel, editor-in-chief of Al-Khamsa News, was killed while reporting, along with two other members of the press. “Unfortunately, they have sent a warning notice to the Hiji building just now that it will be bombed,” al-Taweel said shortly before being killed, according to Al Jazeera. “The area has been evacuated entirely. Women, men, the elderly, kids have all completely fled the area.”
Al-Taweel and the other members of the press had been standing hundreds of meters from the stated target, but the air attack instead hit a building closer to them. All members of the crew had been wearing clothes and helmets that clearly identified themselves as members of the media.
On Saturday, two other journalists, Ibrahim Mohammad Lafi and Mohammad Jarghoun, were shot dead while reporting, according to the Palestinian press freedom group Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) and the Journalist Support Committee (JSC). The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also reported on Saturday that freelance journalist Mohammad el-Salhi had been shot dead in the central Gaza Strip. Two Palestinian photographers, Nidal al-Wahidi from the Al-Najah channel and Haitham Abdelwahid, have been reported missing since Saturday.
“We are extremely concerned that three Palestinian journalists have been killed, with two more declared missing, and another injured while reporting on the conflict between Israel and Gaza since it began on Saturday,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on all sides to remember that journalists are civilians and should not be targeted. Accurate reporting is critical during times of crisis and the media has a vital role to play in bringing news from Gaza and Israel to the world.”
Israeli authorities have reportedly targeted members of the press within Israel as well. On Saturday, a Sky News Arabia television crew said they were assaulted by Israeli police who also damaged their equipment. Sky News Arabia respondent Firas Lutfi said the Israeli police aimed rifles at his head and forced him to remove his clothes. Israeli police confiscated the crew’s phones and forced them to leave the area under police escort.
In May, CPJ released a report on Israel’s practice of targeting Palestinian journalists. Over 22 years, CPJ has documented at least 20 journalist killings by members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Despite multiple investigations by the IDF, no individual has ever faced charges or been held accountable for these deaths. “The impunity in these cases has severely undermined the freedom of the press, leaving the rights of journalists in precarity,” the report states.
MADA has condemned the pattern of Israeli occupation forces attacking Palestinian journalists and media outlets.
“MADA Center confirms that the impunity of the perpetrators of all these crimes and hundreds of other Israeli crimes and violations against journalists and media outlets in Palestine is what encouraged the Israeli Occupation to continue and escalate in committing more of them, as has been happening in the West Bank and Gaza for days,” the organization said in a statement.
The group has demanded that international human rights and media freedom organizations investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.
“Whenever tension or violence erupts in Jerusalem or the West Bank, Israeli forces systematically target Palestinian journalists, obstructing them or attacking them in order to prevent them from filming or taking photos,” Jonathan Dagher, head of the Middle East Desk of Reporters Without Borders, said in a statement last June. “The international community cannot keep turning a blind eye to these flagrant press freedom violations.”
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