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Silencing the Press

A Report on Israeli Attacks against Journalists

January 01 – March 31, 2002

 

 

 

 

 

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations

Affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists – Geneva

Member of the International Federation for Human Rights – Paris

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network

 

   

 

 

 

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

 

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1949

 

 

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this rights shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, in writing or print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

 

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1996

 

 

“Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians.  They shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians.”

 

Article 79 of Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (Protocol 1)


 

 

 

 

 

Foreign journalist killed by Israeli occupation forces

 

17 journalists wounded by Israeli gunfire

 

Numerous media institutions destroyed

 

Dozens of journalist detained and prevented from carrying out their work

 

Press equipment of a number of journalists destroyed


 

Introduction

 

Since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada on 29 September 2000, Israeli occupation forces have systematically sought to isolate the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) from the outside world, in an attempt to conceal war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated against Palestinian civilians.  Journalists, who have a special status under international humanitarian law, have been subjected to numerous attacks by Israeli occupation forces. 

 

This report, part of PCHR’s efforts to document Israeli practices against both local and international journalists, is the sixth in a continuing series regarding Israeli attacks on local and international press.  From 29 September 2000 up to the end of 2001, PCHR documented 191 attacks on local and international media.[1]

 

This report covers the period 1 January – 31 March 2002.  The publication of this report coincides with a massive, full-scale Israeli offensive throughout the OPT, especially the West Bank.  According to Israeli government sources, the offensive will last for several weeks and no area under the control of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) will excluded.  On 29 March, Israeli occupation forces invaded Ramallah, seizing control over the city and imposing a total curfew.  They have also invaded other West Bank cities, including Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Jenin, Qalqilya, Tulkarm, Nablus, and Salfit.  In their military campaign in the West Bank, Israeli occupation forces have perpetrated numerous and systematic human rights violations against Palestinian civilians and property, including the excessive and disproportionate use of force, indiscriminate shelling and bombardment of residential areas, willful killing, and extra-judicial execution.  Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed or wounded.  Israeli occupation forces have destroyed many houses and public and private institutions and have also cut electricity and water links, and denied the entry of food and medical supplies into Palestinian areas.  Israeli forces have maintained a strict siege on the compound of the PNA President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, after destroying most of it.

 

Humanitarian personnel have not been immune to Israeli attacks.  Israeli occupation forces have obstructed the access of Palestinian civilians to humanitarian services.  Israeli occupying forces have blocked or fired on Palestinian ambulances on numerous occasions, obstructed their access to the wounded, and even prevented the collection of bodies.

 

Israeli forces have isolated Palestinian cities in an attempt to conceal human rights violations perpetrated against Palestinian civilian and property.  On the first day of their offensive on Ramallah, 29 March, Israeli occupation forces wounded two journalists and detained dozens of others, preventing them from carrying out their work.  A number of local and international media institutions were also attacked by Israeli forces.  On 31 March, Israeli occupation forces escalated their measures against journalists by declaring Ramallah a “closed military area” off-limits to journalists.  

 

Israeli occupation forces invaded Ramallah earlier on 11 March and perpetrated grave human rights violations against Palestinian civilians and property.  Dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed and hundreds were wounded.  Israeli occupation forces also shelled many Palestinian civilian and public facilities.  Journalists and reporters of local and international press agencies were attacked by Israeli forces.  An Italian journalist, Rafaele Ciriello, 42, was killed by Israeli forces.  Cireillo was the first foreign journalist to be killed during the al-Aqsa Intifada.  In addition, 15 journalists were wounded by Israeli gunfire, 51 were fired at but were not hurt, and 15 were detained for several hours; three media institutions were destroyed and two others were damaged.  Press equipment of two journalists was also destroyed.

 

During the period under study, PCHR documented 96 attacks on local and international press.  From 29 September 2000 up to 31 March 2002, PCHR documented 290 attacks on local and international press, which included:

·two incidents in which three journalists were killed by Israeli occupation forces

·80 cases of Israeli shooting that wounded journalists

·85 cases in which journalists were fired at by Israeli forces without being hurt

·47 cases in which journalist were beaten and humiliated by Israeli forces

·43 cases in which journalists were detained and interrogated by Israeli forces

·21 cases in which Israeli forces shelled or destroyed media institutions

·12 cases in which Israeli forces confiscated press equipment of journalists

 

In most attacks by Israeli occupation forces on journalists, targeted journalists were wearing clearly marked uniform, which raise suspicion that Israeli forces intentionally attacked them.  Attacks on journalists have been redundant and various; in a number of cases journalists were killed.  The Israeli government has apparently gave its troops full reign to attack journalists, especially as it has failed to seriously investigate practices against journalists and hold accountable those found responsible for such practices.[2]

 

PCHR is deeply concerned in regard to escalated Israeli practices against journalists of local and international press agencies.  Such practices are a clear manifestation of the excessive and disproportionate use of force.  PCHR calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to immediately intervene to stop Israeli violations of human rights in the OPT, including attacks on local and international press. 

 

Following are details of attacks by Israeli occupation forces on journalists in the period under study:

  
 

4 January 2002

 

At approximately 13:30, Palestinian civilians organized a demonstration near Israeli positions on Al-Ersal Street in Ramallah. Soon, Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at the demonstrators. Three civilians were wounded, including two journalists:

1.Rebhi al-Kubari, 33, a reporter for al-Sharq television, wounded by a rubber-coated metal bullet in the right leg; and

2.Jamal al-‘Aarouri, a cameraman, wounded by a rubber-coated metal bullet in the left leg.

 

 

11 January 2002

 

At approximately 13:00, Palestinian civilians organized a demonstration near Israeli positions on al-Ersal Street in Ramallah. Soon, Israeli forces fired live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas at the demonstrators. Two civilians were wounded, including Rebhi al-Kubari, 33, from Ramallah, a cameraman of the local  al-Sharq television channel, who was wounded by a rubber-coated metal bullet in the shoulder.

 

 

18 January 2002

 

At approximately 13:00, Palestinian civilians organized a demonstration near the office of the Palestinian President in Ramallah. Israeli forces positioned in the area fired live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at the demonstrators, wounding 12, including three journalists:

1.Thuraya AminOleyan, 46, a field worker of LAW (the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment), wounded by a rubber-coated metal bullet in the lower jaw;

2.Gloris Markubi, a Spanish journalist, wounded by a rubber-coated metal bullet in the left leg;

3.Samer Sa’id al-Shalabi, 31, from Ramallah, a cameraman of the Canadian Press Agency, wounded by a rubber-coated metal bullet in the right shoulder;

 

 

19 January 2002

 

In the morning, Israeli forces encroached into Um al-Sharayet neighborhood in the south of Ramallah. They destroyed the five-story building of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC). According to investigations carried out by LAW (the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment), at approximately 01:50, 30 Israeli tanks and a number of military jeeps moved into Um al-Sharayet neighborhood. Ten tanks, two armored personnel carriers and some jeeps moved towards the building of the PBC. They surrounded the building and six tanks and two armored personnel carriers moved into its yard.  An Israeli officer called on the Palestinian personnel in the building through loudspeakers to leave the building. As soon as they left the building, around 20 Israeli soldiers moved into the building and planted bombs on the third and fifth floors. Then, they left the building and detonated the explosives by remote control, destroying the insides of the building. Seven houses, a five-story building and kindergarten were damaged.

 

 

20 January 2002

 

At approximately 13:00, a number of Palestinian civilians demonstrated in al-Tira area in the west of Ramallah, where Israeli forces were positioned. The Israeli forces fired at the demonstrators, wounding eight, including Haitham Ibrahim al-‘Omari, a journalist of Abu Dhabi news agency, who was wounded by shrapnel in the neck while covering the clashes.

 

 

25 January 2001

 

At approximately 13:00, Palestinian civilians organized a demonstration near the office of the Palestinian President in al-Ersal Street Ramallah. Israeli forces positioned in the area fired live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets at the demonstrators, wounding five, including ‘Atta Hussein ‘Oweisat, 32, a cameraman of Zoom 77 news agency, who was wounded by two rubber-coated metal bullets in the left thigh and the right foot.

 

 

11 February 2002

 

At approximately 11:50, two Israeli combat helicopters launched four missiles at the headquarters of the Palestinian General Security (Saraya) in Gaza. Ten minutes later, Israeli F-16 fighter jets launched three missiles at the same building. A number of offices were set on fire and some nearby houses were damaged. Dozens of Palestinians suffered from shock, while ten were wounded by shrapnel, including four journalists:

1.George Kotcheniak, 54, a photographer for the Denver Rocky Mountain News, wounded by shrapnel in the left hand;

2.Samer Khalil Abu Daqqa, 26, a cameraman for al-Jazeera Satellite Channel, wounded by shrapnel in the left hand;

3.Mohammed Mahmoud Shabat, 30, a sound technician for Ramatan media centre in Gaza, wounded by shrapnel in the left hand; and

4.Nabil Samih Abu Dayeh, a cameraman for Palestine Television, wounded by shrapnel in the left hand.

 

 

14 February 2002

 

Israeli occupation forces at al-Mentar crossing, east of Gaza, fired at Sagui Bashan, correspondent of the Israeli television Channel 2, but she was not hurt. Bashan was attempting to retrieve film footage from his cameraman, who was covering the aftermath of a bomb attack against an Israeli tank in which three soldiers were killed. 

 

 

21 February 2002

 

At approximately 01:00, Israeli occupation forces thrust approximately 1km into the east of Gaza City. They moved towards the three-story building of the Palestinian broadcasting station and totally destroyed it.

 

 

13 March 2002 (a black day for press)

 

This day had been the worst day for press since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada.  It witnessed unprecedented Israeli abuses against journalists of local and international press agencies in violation of international human rights standards.  An Italian journalist was killed and some other journalists were wounded.  Israeli occupation forces denied the access of the wounded to emergent medical treatment.  They also arrested and detained a number of journalists, shelled some institutions and destroyed press equipment.  Most of these abuses took place in Ramallah, where local and international journalists were covering the Israeli full-scale offensive on Ramallah, which started on 11 March. 

 

At approximately 09:30, Israeli tanks in Qaddura refugee camp in Ramallah opened fire at a number of Palestinian and foreign journalists who were covering the Israeli aggression on Ramallah.  An Italian freelance photographer, Raffaele Ciriello, who was on assignment for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, was killed by several medium caliber bullets in the chest and the abdomen.  He was left bleeding for 30 minutes before the eyes of Israeli soldiers who did not offer him help and denied the access of ambulances to the area. Residents of the refugee camp risked gunfire and evacuated him to hospital.  Soon, he died of his wounds.  Ciriello was wearing clothes marked with a press badge and was holding a camera.  Another French photographer, Hobiere Pikarde, was wounded by shrapnel.

 

Amedo Ricucci of the Italian television Rai Uno told the Committee to Protect  Journalists (CPJ) that he and his cameraman were accompanying Ciriello at the time of the incident.  They were trailing a group of Palestinian gunmen who were some 200m in front of the journalists.  Ricucci said that the area was quiet and was located approximately 500m from a nearby refugee camp (Qaddura) where fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen was taking place.  The three journalists were standing inside a building of alleyway, Ricucci said.  Shortly afterward, a tank emerged at one end of the street, approximately 150m away, he said.  Ciriello left the building and pointed his camera at the tank.  He then came under fire by the tank without warning.  He was shot six times and died of his wounds soon afterwards.[3]  Ricucci asserted that Palestinian gunmen did not initiate shooting.  They only responded to Israeli gunfire. 

 

Cirriello was the first foreign journalist killed by Israeli occupation forces while covering the current Palestinian al-Aqsa Intifada, which began on 29 September 2000.  His death raised many angry local and international reactions.  In a statement issued on 14 March 2002, the Palestinian Union of Journalists condemned the killing of the Italian journalist by Israeli occupation forces, considering it a message by Israeli forces to the world that anyone attempting to film Israeli crimes would be killed.  The statement added that Israeli practices against journalists constitute a blatant violation of the right to free opinion and expression, and an attempt to prevent cameras from filming crimes perpetrated by Israeli occupation forces.

 

In a press release it issued on 13 March 2002, the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem expressed its deep shock by the death of Ciriello, calling for an investigation into his death and holding accountable those found responsible for his death

 

In a media release it issued on 13 March, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) blamed a persistent failure of discipline and disregard of international law by Israeli authorities for the killing of the Italian journalist.  “For months we have seen a deterioration in the regard for the rights whether they are from the international or Palestinian community,” said Aidan White, Secretary General of the IFJ.  “Today’s tragic events were inevitable given the persistent failure of discipline and disregard of the rights of journalists under international law.”  The media release added that Ciriello was the third journalist to be killed by Israeli forces during al-Aqsa Intifada.  The other victims were Palestinian journalists Mohammed Bishawi and ‘Othman Qatanani, both killed during the shelling of a building on 31 July 2001.[4]

 

In a press release it issued on 18 March 2002, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Israel to provide a full accounting of a series of incidents in which a journalist was killed and several others were shot t during the Israeli large-scale military operation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[5] 

 

Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans Frontieres – RSF) said in a press release its issued on 13 March 2002 that it was “appalled” by the death of the Italian journalist Ciriello.  “For months, we have been denouncing the impunity enjoyed by Israeli troops firing on journalists,” said RSF Secretary General Robert Menard.  “We have frequently been concerned by the almost complete lack of investigation by the Israeli authorities into such shootings.  It was bound to lead to this kind of tragedy.  Today, what we always feared has happened: a journalist has been killed…We are appalled.”[6] 

      

In its issue on 14 March 2002, the Italian daily La Stampa said “it is impossible that Israeli troops fired at Ciriello thinking he was a terrorist.”  It added that “the Israeli soldier who fired at Ciriello fired at an innocent target.  He opened fire in a spontaneous, inhuman reaction driven by his violence.”

 

In its issue on 14 March 2002, the Italian daily La Messagiro accused Israeli of “wanting to obstruct the imparting of news.”  It added that “it is difficult not to think that shooting at Ciriello aimed at stooping cameras.”   

 

At approximately 12:00, Tariq Abdel Jaber, reporter of the Egyptian and his cameraman were driving on a main street in Ramallah when their car, which was clearly identified as a press vehicle, came under fire by Israeli forces. There was no fighting taking place in the area at the time, Abdel Jaber said.  Bullets penetrated the car and struck his flak jacket, but he was not seriously hurt.  Abdel Jaber was evacuated to the Arab Care Hospital where he received first medical aid.  The he moved to Ramallah Hospital.  On his way to the hospital, Israeli troops stopped him and detained him in an office of Associated Press, although he informed them that he was wounded. 

 

In the early morning hours of 13 March, Israeli forces directed heavy machine gun fire at the City Inn Hotel, from which some 50 reporters and cameramen, most of them representing Western media outlets, were filming an Israeli military operation against the nearby Al-Amari refugee camp.  Israeli forces fired at the hotel, which is located some 250m from the Al-Amari camp, for about 20 minutes, according to press reports and journalists. Israeli forces gave no prior warning of the attack. Journalists said the gunfire smashed windows and damaged the interior and exterior of the building.  There were no casualties.  However, gunfire destroyed an ABC camera after the fleeing crew left it on its tripod.  One round struck the camera directly in its lens.

 

On the same day, the central Ramallah offices of the Qatar-based satellite network, Al-Jazeera, came under Israeli fire.  That the station’s office was hit by Israeli machine gun fire shortly after they finished an interview with Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo. The gunfire came from an Israeli tank stationed about 100 meters beyond the office and struck a window damaging the offices’ funitre.

 

Israeli troops also broke into the offices of Associated Press and Reuters news agencies in Ramallah.  They searched the offices and forced their staff out, claiming that Palestinian gunmen were in the nearby.  Israeli troops also detained some 15 local and international reporters for several hours in one room of the offices of Associated Press.  

 

 

29-31 March 2002 (bloody days in the OPT(

 

On 29 March 2002, Israeli occupation forces launched a full-scale, longstanding military offensive throughout the OPT, especially the West Bank.  Israeli occupation forces invaded Rammallah, seized control over the city and imposed a total curfew.  They have also invaded other cities in the West Bank, such as Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Jenin, Qalqilya, Tulkarm, Nablus and Salfit.  In their military campaign against the West Bank, Israeli occupation forces have perpetrated grave human rights violations against Palestinian civilians and property.  Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and hundreds have been wounded.   Israeli occupation forces have destroyed many houses and public and private institutions.  They have also imposed a strict siege on the compound of the PNA President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, after they destroyed most of it.    

 

Israeli forces have isolated Palestinian cities in an attempt to hide human rights violations they perpetrate against Palestinian civilian and property.  On the first day of their offensive on Ramallah, 29 March 2002, Israeli occupation forces wounded two journalists and detained dozens preventing them from carrying out their job.  A number of local and international media institutions were also attacked by Israeli forces.  On 31 March 2002, Israeli occupation forces escalated their measures against journalists, when they declared Ramallah a closed military area denying access of journalists to the city.

 

 

29 March 2002

 

At approximately 08:00, Israeli occupation forces raided al-Rayan buidling in al-Ersal Street, destroying the front door and elevator with explosives.  They seized Amwaj broadcasting corporation and detained five of its staff, transforming it into a military positionAt the same time, Israeli forces seized the building of the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Relief Committees near Ramallah Hospital and detained the staff of local, Arab and international television channels before expelling them in the afternoon.  After they seized the television channels, Israeli forces replaced normal programming with pornographic films.

 

At approximately 10:45, Israeli occupation forces opened fire at a car clearly marked as belonging to the media, used by Egyptian Nile TelevisionA cameraman, Carlos Handal, was seriously wounded by a live bullet in the lower jaw.  The scene was broadcast on television channels worldwide; the footage showed the cameraman being fired upon the screams of his colleague who was calling for an ambulanceIsraeli forces also fired at an ambulance that attempted to evacuate him.

 

 

30 March 2002

 

Throughout the day, Israeli occupation forces raided offices of a number of local, Arab and international press and media institutionsOn Friday and Saturday, Israeli occupation forces raided 15 of these offices, closing some of them:

1.The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation;

2.Amwaj Radio and Television;

3.Al-Nasr Radio and Television;

4.Al-Manara Radio and Television;

5.Al-Sharq Radio and Television;

6.Watan Television;

7.Wafa (the Palestinian news agency);

8.Abu Dhabi Satellite Channel;

9.Dubai Satellite Channel;

10.Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel;

11.Yemen Satellite Channel;

12.Reuters;

13.ABC News;

14.The Turkish Anatolia News Agency; and

15.CPT

 

 

31 March 2002

 

 At approximately 12:00, Anthony Shadid, 33, reporter of the US Boston Globe, was wounded by a live bullet in the left shoulder.  The Israeli Governmental Press Bureau stated Shadid was wounded by Israeli forces.  Shadid was wearing a flak jacket marked “TV” in red tape.

 

On the same day, Israeli authorities announced that any Palestinians found working in Israel for foreign news organizations without proper documentation would risk arrest. Repeated violations could result in heavy fines and the closure of foreign media offices, authorities said. In Jerusalem, Israeli authorities threatened to fine any news organization US$15,000 if it was found harboring Palestinians “without the proper permits.”[7]

 

In the evening, Israeli occupation forces declared Ramallah a closed military area, preventing the access of journalists to the city.  They also ordered journalists in the city to leave.

 

In its first reaction to the Israeli decision, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) appealed to Israeli authorities to reverse the decision and to allow journalists to work freely.[8]

 

Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans Frontieres – RSF) appealed to Israeli authorities to reverse the Israeli military decision.  RSF said that the Israeli authoritieswanted to hide their military operations from the world.”[9]

 

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) criticized the decision and called upon the Israeli government to allow journalists to work freely and to provide adequate conditions for such work.[10]

 

At approximately 19:30, Israeli occupation forces raided Suleiman Rabah commercial building near Ramallah ParkThey raided offices of the Egyptian Middle East News Agency and detained the Egyptian journalist Ibrahim Jalal with other residents of the buildingWhen they identified his nationality, they released himThey also checked the offices

 

Israeli forces also seized a building that includes offices of local and international press agencies and ordered those who were inside to leave the building

 

At approximately 22:00, Israeli occupation forces raided office of Abu Dhabi Satellite Channel.  They checked the office.  Reporters were not able to leave the office due to intense Israeli gunfire.  Maher Shalabi, director of the offices, stated that Israeli soldiers told him that they shot dead five members of the Palestinian National Security Force.   

 

PCHR considers these practices against journalists as part of ongoing Israeli abuses against Palestinian civilians. PCHR also considers it evidence of Israeli disregard for international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. PCHR asserts the following:

1.Most attacks by the Israeli forces against the local and international press agencies were willful and intentional, especially since members of the press wear clearly marked attire. The attacks are designed to prevent the objective coverage of incidents in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These attacks are part of a systematic Israeli policy of isolating the Occupied Palestinian Territories so as to allow further abuses against Palestinian civilians.

2.Israeli gunfire has targeted all journalists with no exception.  Many local and international journalists have been attacked by Israeli occupation forces, which indicates that Israel wants to isolate the OPT and hide theireviolations of human rights against Palestinian civilians. 

3.PCHR asserts that Israel is not above international humanitarian law and is obliged to respect it in the OPT.

4.PCHR calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to meet their obligations under the Convention and immediately provide international protection for the Palestinian people.

5.PCHR calls on all international media, especially the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), to immediately intervene and to exert pressure on Israel to stop its occupying forces’ attacks on journalists and to provide the proper climate for practice of the profession without restriction.

 

 


 


[1] These reports can be obtained by contacting PCHR or by visiting its web page: www.pchrgaza.org.

[2] The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem asserted that the Israeli army has not concluded any serious results it cases of attacks on journalists that have been investigated.

[4] See www.ifj.org, and PCHR’s Silencing the Press, 30 June – 29 August 2001.  

[7] For more details, see www.cpj.org.