The National Press Club expressed grave concern today about reports of recent attacks on reporters by Israeli military forces and urged militaries everywhere to safeguard the press during armed conflicts.
During their eight-day clash with Hamas earlier this month, Israel Defense Forces reportedly injured numerous reporters and killed in a drone strike three people who some say were reporters but who the Israeli government says were terrorists.
Israeli officials have acknowledged that its drones killed three people as they drove a vehicle marked "TV" through Gaza. A nearby car containing a New York Times translator and driver was nearly struck, the paper reported, while civilians in the area were also put at risk.
Israeli Defense Forces officials have contended that those killed were combatants masquerading as journalists, presumably so that they wouldn't be attacked. Other reports have indicated they were journalists working for Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds Educational Radio, organizations affiliated with Hamas.
National Press Club President Theresa Werner urged that an investigation be conducted by an independent authority, perhaps at the United Nations, to determine what happened.
"Given that the facts are in dispute about such a serious issue, it begs for an investigation," she said.
In addition to the drone strikes, Israel's military confirmed it launched a series of missile attacks earlier this month on two buildings in Gaza known to be housing journalists from several international news organizations. The attacks injured at least seven reporters, according to dispatches. Those working in the building included not only Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds employees but also CNN, AP and others, the reports said.
Israeli government officials and others who support Israel's actions have conceded that they struck the Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds staffers in the buildings but said their connections to Hamas make them terrorists, and thus legitimate military targets. The Israeli government, in a tweet, warned reporters not to work near such people. They said Hamas was using other reporters as human shields and suggested the attacks are justified. They have put the onus on reporters not to work near Hamas-affiliated journalists.
But Werner rejected that logic.
"We condemn in the strongest terms any combatants fobbing themselves off as reporters, because it puts the entire press corps at risk," she said, "and we also recognize Israel's right to defend itself. However, neither Israel nor any other nation has a right to kill and injure reporters, even if they are partisan. The fact that some of the reporters attacked in Gaza were broadcasting information that Israel considers propaganda favorable to Hamas does not make those people--or those unlucky enough to be living in the area—acceptable targets for lethal strikes."
"Moreover," she added, "in cases where allegedly legitimate military targets are working near other journalists, Israeli and other militaries need to take greater care in the future in protecting innocent reporters who are merely covering the story." "Even if some of the facts about one attack earlier this month are in dispute," Werner added, "it appears that Israel at least was reckless in targeting a building housing working journalists covering the Gaza conflict. One principle applies to every country, including the United States: it's not acceptable to target or even risk endangering non-combatant journalists."
The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch and other groups have also criticized Israel's targeting of reporters in this month's war.
This is not the first time Israel has attacked Hamas-affiliated journalists. For example, the Committee to Protect Journalists documented a wave of such strikes in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.
PR Newswire (http://s.tt/1vcfL)