The Israeli effort to control access to news from Gaza is escalating along with its military actions. While the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the government to allow eight reporters to cross into Gaza, that order has not been enforced. Now media workers who were already in Gaza have become targets of military attacks.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) which represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide is calling on the world’s media to protest the Israeli blockade on the media.
The IFJ call comes as another Palestinian journalist was reported killed – the fourth victim of recent Israeli military action in Gaza. Eyhab Al Wahidi, who worked as a cameraman for the Palestinian Broadcast Corporation in Gaza, was killed with his wife and mother-in-law yesterday when Israeli troops shelled their home in Gaza city. The family’s children were injured.
Describing the situation where the Israelis are holding outside reporters on the border – where they are fed Israeli official PR and photo ops (including all those shots of White Phosphorous raining down on the people of Gaza which form the backdrop of so many reports yet go unnoticed), Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary says:
"There is a cynical attempt to ensure that media tell the story from the Israeli side only," said White. "The truth cannot be told unless journalists are free to move, to talk with everyone involved and to see with their own eyes what is happening on the ground…"
The Committee to Protect Journalists recounts the attack on the building housing most of the broadcast media that remains in Gaza:
at least one journalist was injured in an Israeli air strike while filing a report from the roof of the al-Johara Tower, an eight-story building in Gaza City which houses more than 20 international news organizations, according to multiple news outlets…
"The Israeli military knows the location of TV facilities houses and news bureaus in Gaza. It is simply unacceptable that working journalists and their offices should come under fire in this way," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "Journalists enjoy protections under international law in military campaigns such as the one in Gaza. Israel must cease its attacks on the media immediately."
The Al Johara Tower housed such media as “Palestine Media Company, Dubai TV, Al-Alam TV (Iran), Turkish satellite television, the Chinese satellite network, the Lebanon Broadcasting Company (LBC) and Kuwait TV." The video report above is PressTV’s coverage from the Tower building immediately after the attack.
The protest against the media treatment is global – a statement demanding access to Gaza from Reporters without Borders has been signed by "Germany’s Der Spiegel, El Mundo and El Pais in Spain, U.S. networks ABC, CBS and CNN, France’s Le Figaro newspaper and RTL radio, the U.K.’s Sky News and Guardian newspaper, and pan-Arab channel Al Jazeera.
Sameh Habeeb, a photojournalist blogging at Gaza Today has written of the extreme danger of reporting from Gaza – he has received threats telling him to stop sending out his news briefings and today writes:
Most of the Gaza Strip plunges into deep darkness since the start of this war. I find several hardships to send out this report due to power problem. Today, a rocket targeted my uncle’s house. My house got several splinters and rocket shrapnel. Thanks to God, we all safe but I don’t know what will happen next. I live east of Gaza, Toffah area, were artillery shells rained down every single moment.
Sameh also reports of another journalist killed:
A Palestinian journalist, Ala’ Mortaja, killed in Israeli airstrike targeted his house in Al Zaytoun quarter. His mother was wounded and she is in critical conditions at the moment.
Ala’ Mortaja “worked as a radio broadcast personality in Gaza on a local radio show. Medical sources confirmed Ala’s death, and said his mother had her arms amputated after the attack”
For a quite personal account of the experiences of Gazan reporters, AP correspondent for Gaza, Ibrahim Barzak’s essay is heartbreaking and deserves to be widely read.
As the Israeli plans to escalate their attacks are announced it is even more critical that the world’s reporters are there to let us know what is really going on. Of course, given the actions of the IDF so far – from bombing UN schools to killing medics and aid workers, it’s not surprising they really don’t want us to know.
Frontline Club members Marie Colvin and Jeremy Bowen discuss their frustation sitting at the border in Gaza on the BBC Radio Media Show podcast. Further coverage of the media’s role, or lack thereof, in Gaza take a look at Frontline blogger Daniel Bennett’s most recent posts. And listen to journalist Chris Hedges discuss the media ban on IndyMedia radio in the U.S.