Tomorrow is the UN International Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. Attacks on journalists represent an attack on press freedom and the public’s right to know.
Journalists are often deliberately targeted, despite clearly wearing jackets declaring that they are Press, and therefore working, often in difficult and dangerous environments.
The Investigative Committee of the UN Human Rights Council, in February of this year declared that Israel has violated International Law, in its attacks on journalists, with 18 being killed in the course of their work in the Occupied Territories, since 2000.
In 2018 alone, 254 journalists were injured, many of them while reporting on the protests at the Gaza fence, and this despite clearly wearing Press jackets.
These jackets should ensure the safety of journalists at work, but in Gaza, as the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists has pointed out, they may attract fire, undermining the right of the public to learn what really happened on a particular day.
On April 6, 2018, 30-year-old cameraman Yasser Murtaja had breakfast with his wife and 15-month-old child.
Despite being an award winning documentary maker, who sometimes worked with the BBC, Yasser, like most Gazans, had never been able to travel outside Gaza.
On that day, he put on his vest with the word PRESS written in capital letters against a white background, to make it clearly visible. He took his steadicam recorder, and began work 200 metres from the perimeter fence.
He was shot in the abdomen by an Israeli sharpshooter, and died in hospital 12 hours later.
Six of his journalistic colleagues were also shot and injured on that day. Despite the IDF (Israeli Army) promising an investigation, no report on the killing has since been made by them.
On September 7 last year, the Irish National Union of Journalists, joined voices with the International Federation of Journalists, to condemn an attack by the Israeli army on journalists who were protesting near Ramallah, concerning attacks on reporters and camera people.
Seven of the protestors were shot and injured, in the legs. This was a deliberately targeting of the Press, and an attempt to silence critical coverage of events in the Palestinian territory.
On this day, it seems right to protest the impunity with which Israel has attacked civilians, including children, along with the courageous journalists who continue to cover these events, despite the danger to their own lives and health.
- Betty Purcell
Author and broadcaster