Media watchdog: July worst month in history for journalists in Gaza

Published August 23rd, 2014 - 07:31 GMT

A Palestinian media watchdog on Thursday said that July was the bloodiest month on record in the history of the Palestinian press, as nine journalists were killed and eight media outlets shelled during the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms said in a statement that the targeting of Palestinian media had continued into August, with at least six more journalists killed in the last three weeks as well.

General director of MADA Mousa Rimawi said in the statement that the attacks on journalists were widespread and focused in Gaza, where the homes of 16 journalists were also destroyed and transmission to a number of different TV, radio, and media websites was cut by the Israeli military.

"MADA believes that they would not have died if (Israeli forces) had been hold accountable for its previous crimes against journalists, which are considered war crimes according to the Geneva Conventions which protect all civilians in case of war." The report said that seven journalists were killed in Israeli assaults on Gaza in 2009 and 2012, and "so far nobody has been held accountable."

The statement said that in July, Israeli occupation forces had committed 73 violations of media freedom throughout the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, while three were committed by Palestinian parties in the West Bank.

The report stressed that the the 15 journalists killed in the last six weeks "were killed in civilian sites which are supposed to be safe for civilians, including news workers."

The report also said that while some were killed in their homes or while covering the aftermath of Israeli operations in residential neighborhoods, others were "deliberately targeted."

"PalMedia Company driver Hamid Adballah Shihab was killed while he was driving a PalMedia's car carrying a 'Press' sign, journalist Hamadah Khaled Maqat was killed by a rocket while he was walking, and Palestine Public TV sport commentator Ahed Zaqout was killed during the shelling of his house," the report said.

The report also counted at least 12 journalists that had been injured during the Israeli assault on Gaza.

"The circumstances of the Israeli crimes and attacks against journalists and media outlets during the Gaza assault indicate that some were deliberately committed to silent them," the report said, noting that "Israel did not hide the fact that it deliberately shelled the media outlets it accuses of being Hamas propaganda mouthpiece, such as Al-Aqsa TV and satellite channel."

Of the eight media outlets that MADA said were destroyed, it said five were targeted deliberately, including three headquarters of Al-Aqsa, the office of Alwataniya Agency for Media, and the Al-Jazeera TV premises, which the report noted was hit a day after Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to close it.

The report also noted that the Israeli military disrupted the broadcasting of seven radio and TV stations and websites, and used the stations to "broadcast inciting messages against the Palestinian resistance." 

The report said that the crackdown was not limited to Gaza but extended into the West Bank, where they recorded a 71 percent increase in violations of media freedom, including "arrests, physical abuses, shooting of live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas grenades, prevention from coverage, expulsion and detention, and confiscation and damage of equipment."

MADA counted five journalists arrested across the West Bank as well as one whose home was raided and searched before being handed a summons for interrogation regarding his work.

The report also said 17 journalists were injured in the West Bank, the vast majority by rubber-coated steel bullets fired by Israeli soldiers during clashes. 

It noted that two Palestinian journalists were also injured inside Israel when they were attacked by groups of Jewish Israelis near Sderot in southern Israel as they were covering the assault on Gaza from a hill there.

The report also said that Palestinian authorities had carried out three violations of media freedom, including preventing journalists from covering a story in Jenin as well as summons for interrogations for two other journalists based on Facebook posts.

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