ifj_logo22 July 2014, via Equal Times

End the violation of journalists’ rights in Gaza
by Jim Boumelha, President, International Federation of Journalists

Every conflict has its press victims. Journalists that cover wars know the risks they face: they could be mistaken for combatants; they could get caught in fatal crossfire; or they could walk on a landmine.

But the risks to journalists – local and international – in the current bombings and ground invasion of Gaza has never been greater.

As the relentless bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli army reaches its fifteenth day, the IFJ-affiliate Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) has listed numerous violations, including the deaths of two media workers – Hamed Shibab and Khaled Hamad.

In addition, five journalists have been injured since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on 8 July 2014, and one car of a media worker has been bombed, as have five media offices.

The air strikes on al-Jawhara Media Tower located in the centre of Gaza City, injured Mohammed Shibat, a photographer with al-Watanya News Agency.

Over 50 journalists were present in the tower at the time of the strikes and the attack was said to have caused severe damage to the offices of several media outlets, including the PJS Gaza offices located in the same tower.

Such attacks seem to be replicating a similar offensive in December 2008 where five media workers were killed and up to 15 seriously injured.

An international fact-finding mission by the IFJ to Gaza in the aftermath of the attack found that Israeli troops had no rules of engagement and often engaged in indiscriminate firing.

The IFJ mission was in no doubt that the military action against journalists and media installations by Israel violated international law, especially the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians and journalists in armed conflict zones.
The IFJ called then on the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to investigate and take actions over the media crisis and the targeting of journalists.

These findings were borne out by substantiated evidence gathered by the mission which suggested that Israel knew or ought to have known that the victims of its attacks were journalists and media installations, which are protected by international law.

Israel had been provided with the coordinates of the media installations which clearly identified their location. Moreover, journalists’ vehicles and offices bore clear “Press” and “TV” markings to identify them to military forces on ground, sea and air.

The protection of civilians, which includes journalists and media workers, is regulated by a large number of international law treaties.

According to the Geneva Convention’s Article 79 Protocol Additional I, if journalists or media personnel become victims of an attack intentionally targeted at them, this constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law.

According to Article 85 Paragraph 5 Protocol Additional I, such a violation of international humanitarian law is regarded as a war crime.

The Rome Statute in Article 8 Paragraph 2 (b) (i) also stipulates responsibility under international criminal law for attacks targeting civilians. Materials and facilities used for practising the journalistic profession are civilian objects according to Article 52 Protocol Additional I, the bombardment of a TV or radio station, even if it is partly used for propaganda, is not reconcilable with international humanitarian law.

According to Article 85 Protocol Additional I, this constitutes a war crime.

The time back in the 1980s when raising a white flag and writing “TV” in masking tape on a vehicle might help keep one safe is long gone.

As the ground

invasion by the Israeli army is now under way, the IFJ is concerned that the security situation of journalists in Gaza will worsen without a concerted and unified voice to denounce the violations of journalists’ rights in Gaza and mobilise world opinion for change on the ground.

Article source: Equal Times

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