Release time: 21 January 2009
Israel is accused of war crimes in bombing and shelling offensives in the Gaza strip that resulted in the deaths of five journalists, and is condemned for its ‘cover-up’ news restrictions on international reporters, by the Chartered Institute of Journalists.
General Secretary Dominic Cooper said today: “The death count of journalists we utterly condemn. Now we have to concentrate on why foreign journalists were deliberately kept out of the way while the Israeli Defence forces systematically attacked known media centres.”
Israeli aircraft bombed Al-Johara Tower in Gaza City, on 9 January, even though the building was clearly marked as housing media staff where more than 20 news organisations worked. These included Iran’s English-language Press TV and the Arabic language network Al-Alam. Satellite transmission equipment on the rooftop was destroyed and at least one journalist was reported injured.
The Israelis also bombed the offices of the Hamas-affiliated “Al-Risala” newsweekly on 5 January and the headquarters of Al-Aqsa TV on 29 December. Al-Aqsa has now removed its operations to a secret location in a bid to continue to broadcast.
The United Nations has made allegations of war crimes being committed by the Israelis and the Institute believes the attacks on undefended press facilities of journalists should rank as a similar crime against humanity.
The ban on Gaza entry by the international press corps was effectively an attempt to cover up the crimes and prevent the world from learning of the true situation in the zone, said the Institute.
Mr Cooper added. “It is a despicable violation of international law and we will join the cry to make sure that in future conflicts journalists are not treated in this way. The international community should pursue an investigation in to how journalists have been treated in this way in a bid to stop others thinking they can get away with these actions in a modern world.”
Notes to editors:
1. Alwan Radio broadcaster Alaa Murtaja died after being seriously injured in a bomb attack on his house in Gaza City on January 9th and Israeli warplanes also bombed the home of Palestinian public TV cameraman Ihab al-Wahidi on 8th January. There are reports that journalist Omar Silawi was also killed by an IDF attack on 3 January. Basel Faraj, who worked as an assistant cameraman for the Algerian TV network ENTV and the Palestine Media and Communications Company, was wounded as a result of an Israeli air strike on his crew on the first day of the military offensive, 27 December. He died on 6 January. Two other journalists were injured in the strike. Hamza Shahin, a photographer with the Shehab News Agency, died on 26 December from wounds sustained in an earlier Israeli air attack on 7 December.
A petition launched by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for international journalists to be allowed into the Gaza Strip was signed by more than 100 media organisations from around the world. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=29928
Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth. www.cioj.co.uk .