A non-partisan journal of the left.

Israel's war on journalists

Mon 3rd Dec 2012

R ecent Israeli strikes killed three journalists travelling in their cars in two separate incidents in Gaza city. Mahmoud Al-Komi, cameraman for Al-Aqsa TV and his colleague Hossam Salameh were killed when their car was hit by an Israeli missile near Alshifa hospital while they were on their way to the hospital to report on victims of Israeli attacks. The third journalist, Muhammad Abu Aisha, Director of Al-Quds Educational radio, was killed in his car in a separate incident.

There have also been many other attacks on media offices and hotels where journalists are staying, including the AFP offices in Gaza which have been hit, along with Deira and Beach hotels, bringing back painful memories of the slaying many of my colleagues.

Surely, the fourth strongest military power in the world - and the only army in the Middle East to have nuclear weapons - which brags about being equipped with the latest technologies of destruction and claims its strikes are surgically precise, must have known there were journalists in these cars?

Targeting journalists is not a new Israeli strategy as some might believe. There is irrefutable evidence that the Israeli military is targeting journalists covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Still, many Western media outlets prefer the cut and paste method of news coverage by recycling the lame excuses provided to them by the PR department of the IDF which has flattened Gaza while keeping claiming it was targeting enemy communications.

On 16 November, the IDF targeted the house of European Agency photographer, Ali Ibrahim, injuring his 71-years-old father, his sister and her daughter, as well as causing extensive damage to their home.

On the same day, the IDF targeted the headquarters of "Free Media" in the Sheikh Radwan area of the Gaza Strip, almost completely destroying it. In another strike it has killed Omar Mashharawi, the 11-month-old baby son of BBC Arabic employee, Jihad Mashharawi, when his home was targeted on Wednesday.

Israel did not even care to send warnings ahead of its strikes to offer the civilians, including journalists, the chance to run for their lives. Funny enough in the few times it has, it has chosen to ‘Tweet’ its warnings, fully aware that Gaza is suffering electricity cuts and the majority of Gaza inhabitants are living below the poverty line and can’t afford to buy a loaf of bread, let alone have the luxury to buy a PC, have Internet access and set down browsing.

The IDF has been targeting journalists and media outlet headquarters directly to bury all evidence collected by journalists about its crimes. On 18 of November 2012, the IDF targeted the offices of Al-Quds TV and Al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip, causing injury to six journalists and a driver working for Al-Quds TV in addition to causing severe damage to their offices.

Imad Ifranji, director of Al-Quds TV in Gaza, told MADA that the Israeli occupation forces fired three missiles at the TV editing and filming department and at the eleventh floor of al-Shawa – Husari Tower at 1.30am. IFranji said: "shelling caused injury to all those who were in the office; photographers, production assistants and a driver, in addition to significant damage in the department, the ambulance that rushed to the location to transfer the injured, and the TV vehicle." The injured journalists were: Khader al-Zahar who lost his right leg from below the knee, Hazem Da’our, Mohammed al-Akhras, Ibrahim Lapad, Hussein al-Madhoun, Omar Ifranji and Darwish Bulbul who suffered other shrapnel injuries and bruises.

Saed Radwan, programme director at Al-Aqsa TV, as well reported that Israeli Occupation warplanes targeted the broadcasting section on the fifteenth floor of Alshorouq tower, in Alrimal area of Gaza at 6.30am, causing severe damage to the building, the equipment and studios were destroyed. Radwan added: "and one rocket penetrated the office of ‘Palestine Media Production’ on the 14th floor".

The fact that Israel has not been punished for killing four journalists during the aggression on Gaza in 2009, has enabled its occupation forces to commit further crimes against journalists and the media institutions, which reflects the urgent need to prosecute the perpetrators of attacks on freedom of the press.

This month Bristol is hosting the ‘Bristol Palestine Film Festival’ for the second season, where one of its 90 minute films will be shown on Friday 7 December, 2012 at the Watershed. It is a film with a very important and interesting message, at least from my point of view as the only Palestinian journalist residing in the city. I am talking here about the ‘5 Broken Cameras’, a film by the Palestinian Emad Burnat.

Cameras became an extremely important tool for survival; that almost every Palestinian was forced to carry one, exactly as soldiers carry guns. Palestinians, carrying their cameras around to defend themselves by collecting visual concrete evidence of the IDF and its brutal aggression against unarmed civilians, and though it might be a wearied idea, some use their cameras while filming confrontations or demonstrations as a shield from the buzzing bullets, as Burnat puts it ‘The bigger the camera was, the better it is as a shield’.

Their cameras filmed massacres, uprooting trees, killing animals, destroying Palestinian heritage and demolishing homes and historical buildings. Cameras became the refuting device of the recycled lies on mainstream media which kept feeding the audience with half told stories. Since the Israelis are fully armed and equipped with tanks, automatic weapons, grenades and drones, the Palestinians should be armed with cameras that tell their side of the story. Emad is only one of those people struggling on daily bases to stay alive. When the visitors of the Festival will watch Emad’s film telling the story of his 5 broken cameras, they will realise how a journalist tool is perceived by the Israeli occupation as very dangerous weapon and will understand why journalists are being targeted and killed, including foreign journalists, such as Welsh cameraman, James Miller, who was shot by the Israeli army even though they knew perfectly well that he was a journalist.

While watching a documentary produced by Aljazeera about targeting journalists carrying cameras, entitled ‘Shooting the Messenger’ I realised how serious is Israel about targeting journalists. Especially when I found out that Fadel Shanaa, the Reuters camera man who appeared in the documentary to talk about Israel’s targeting of journalists and how many times he escaped death, he himself was targeted and killed too by the Israeli forces following his interview.

The media is not doing a great job when covering the attacks on Gaza. It is shocking to watch television channels invite criminals of war and political losers to advise people and comment on possible remedies to stop this tragedy, and when offering Israeli propagandists the biggest share of appearances on the screens to bleach Israel’s crimes, and manipulate the audiences by using terms such as “Rockets have continued to be fired from both sides...” to give a false impression of equal involvement in the aggression or report on targeted journalists in a stupid way, as if they have missed on following basic health and safety procedures. Such reporting is plain betrayal of our colleagues and our profession.

Iqbal Tamimi/ Director of Arab Women Media Watch Centre in UK and the Editor-in-Chief of Journomania.net

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