Will Israel be held accountable for targeting journalists in Gaza?

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Palestinian residents stand next to their destroyed houses as a bulldozer cleans up the rubble in the Shujaya neighborhood of Gaza City on September 4, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Mohammed Abed)

By: Orouba Othman

Published Monday, September 15, 2014

The impact of the recent Israeli war on Gaza is still deeply affixed in the minds of the journalists who came under fire to cover the events. Their bitter experience pushed them further to expose the Zionists in front of international public opinion. However, as they roamed between the mine fields under constant shelling and missile fire, some of these news reporters became the news story themselves. Seventeen journalists died as they covered the war while 28 others were injured.

Gaza – Amid the harsh reality Palestinian journalists must face, the recent round of fighting in Gaza raised important and urgent questions about the position of international journalists’ protection organizations on the violations committed against the Palestinian media during the war, and the prospects of holding the enemy accountable.

An Arab investigative committee is scheduled to meet soon at the instructions of the Arab Journalists Union. It includes legal experts who will seek to prepare a comprehensive file that documents everything that took place during the war, to be later referred to the authorities concerned with studying the violations, strengthening deterrence, and imposing sanctions on Israel. A delegation of the Journalists Syndicate in Ramallah and the Arab Journalists Union visited the besieged Gaza Strip in the past few days to gain insight about the situation of journalists there.

Although it is still too soon to applaud such preliminary steps, which are still characterized as tentative, journalists in Gaza seem to have a high “market value,” since the Israeli occupation would not have been so enraged by them and so determined to kill them had not surpassed their Israeli counterparts when it comes to credibility and their ability to highlight the suffering of Gazans.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and the Palestinian Information Ministry will have to face the challenge of raising the journalists’ issue on the international level and get them their rights from the enemy.

Recently, the ministry produced a short documentary of 5:23 minutes, showing some scenes that summarize the situation of Palestinian journalists during the war.

Although the film shows reporters walking on the thin line between life and death, it in fact targets a small audience due to the uneasiness within the ministry and its hesitation to exploit all the violations committed by the occupation against Palestinian reporters.

The film titled, “Reporters Under the Line of Fire” (by journalists Nida’a Younes and Alaa Yaghi) is emotionally charged and presents proof of Zionist transgressions that are well=documented in images and video footage. However, the production remains modest compared to the nature and the size of the violations [committed by the occupation].

“Reporters Under the Line of Fire” also makes a nice gesture toward Arab and foreign reporters by not shunning their contributions in covering the war, especially Italian journalist Kamili Simone who died last month while covering an attempt to dismantle an unexploded missile in the north of Gaza.

The film has a touching soundtrack and the testimony of a German reporter saying “I panicked, I was afraid that I will not stay alive until the end of today or tomorrow.” He also presented a paper written in English that the enemy used to wash its hands from the violations it was committing. It turned out that the Israelis pressured foreign journalists to sign a paper once they reached the Erez crossing, between the West Bank and Gaza.

According to the paper, “The Israeli Defense Forces forces journalists to sign a disclaimer relieving Israel of responsibility for any harm that may be inflicted upon them as they cover the war on Gaza.”

These Israeli actions that restricted the movement of foreign journalists were translated further into reality, after a part of the western media machine took the side of Palestinians during the recent war, especially after the beach airstrike that killed four children (Al-Akhbar 18/7/2014).

The film also showed scenes of reporters racing against death as the enemy launched guided missiles towards media headquarters, such as al-Wataniya agency in Burj al-Jawhara and Basha and Dawoud Towers that hosted a number of media offices.

It also shed light on reporters helping aid workers in retrieving the injured, while the journalists’ own body armor and protection kits failed to protect them.

In these five minutes, all the photos of the martyrs who died raising the torch of the truth were shown along with a short summary about their lives that included the date of their martyrdom and the place where they worked. It also showed a few scenes of the journalists’ bloodied faces and bodies.

The film ends with a painful scene of two children role playing as news anchor and reporter, with one of them becoming a martyr only a few days later.

This film will, however, remain without a soul if it is not followed by serious steps aimed at holding the enemy legally responsible. Will the Information Ministry pass this test or will it wait for more dead journalists?

The violations in numbers

The recent war on Gaza forced the families of 140 journalists to leave their homes, destroying 42 houses completely and partially destroying 61 others. It also caused great damage to 19 media organizations and stopped the broadcast of 15 radio and TV stations.

Six cars marked as press were targeted directly and 17 journalists paid with their lives for reporting the truth. Most of these journalists worked for channels al-Aqsa, al-Kitab, and Palestine, along with al-Rissala newspaper and the Palestinian Media Network.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Journalists’ Freedoms observed a steady increase in violations committed against reporters, registering a 64 percent increase compared to last year.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

They won't be held accountable until the rest of the world stops being afraid of them, and stops supporting them. It is long past time to hold these people to account; they are getting more dangerous as time goes on and they get more of the things they want.

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