Condemning Israeli attacks on journalists and media workers in Gaza

Thursday, July 31, 2014

His Excellency Rafael Barak, Ambassador of Israel to Canada
Embassy of Israel in Canada
50 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, Ontario, KLP 6L2

July 31, 2014

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE condemns the killing of journalists and media workers by Israeli security forces in Gaza. In recent weeks there have been a disturbing slew of attacks on those reporting in the region. On July 21, a Palestinian cameraman, Khaled Hamad, was killed during Israeli fire on the Shujaiyeh neighbourhood while wearing a clearly marked “Press” vest. A day later, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fired at Al Jazeera offices in Gaza, forcing media workers within to flee the complex. This attack came soon after the pejorative remarks made by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman demonizing the media network.

Just yesterday, two more Palestinian journalists were killed. Photojournalist Rami Rayan was reporting on Palestinian civilians shopping for basic necessities in Shujaiyeh during a four hour truce when he was killed in an Israeli air strike. Rayan was wearing a “Press” vest and helmet at the time of the strike. Fellow journalist Sameh al-Aryan was killed in the same attack. In addition to these three deaths, there have been countless reports of attacks and threats meted out to both foreign and local journalists reporting in Gaza.

As civilians in a war zone, journalists are afforded certain protections under international law which make it illegal for security forces to directly attack media outlets and media workers “unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.” The act of reporting on violent conflict and issues of public interest do not constitute such hostilities. Furthermore, journalists play a vital role in providing access to accurate information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

CJFE echoes the demand from other likeminded international organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists, that Israel avoid targeting known media outlet locations. CJFE also calls on the Israeli government to respect its responsibilities and obligations under international law with regards to the protection of journalists.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Ms. Vivian Bercovici, Ambassador of Canada to Israel
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs