TV Bombing: IFJ Warns Israel Over "Making the world a dangerous place for journalists"

THE International Federation of Journalists today warned Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Israel's latest bombing of Palestinian radio and television facilities, this time in Gaza City, was a dangerous strategy that could lead to targeting of media around the world.

In a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister, the IFJ says that attacks on public broadcasting facilities in Ramallah and Gaza city were not justified and "reinforce our strong belief that Israel is making the world a more dangerous place for journalists."

"The broadcasts of the Palestine official media have infuriated many Israelis because they tell the story of the conflict from a clear Palestinian perspective," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "However, such anger does not justify military targeting of public broadcasting offices and installations."

The IFJ protest comes only days after an emergency series of risk-awareness training courses organised by the IFJ for around 100 Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and Gaza.

"We are anxious to improve levels of safety for both Palestinian and Israeli staff," says White in his appeal to the Prime Minister. "However, the policy of your government and military strategists compromises the validity of these humanitarian objective." White last week visited the destroyed premises of the Voice of Palestine in Ramallah and met with Israel's press information director.

The IFJ, which is the world's largest journalist group, says Israel's destruction of Palestine Broadcasting offices and equipment continues an unacceptable trend of targeting of media which began after NATO's 1999 bombing of the RTS broadcasting station in Belgrade, in which 16 media staff died. This clear precedent is now being followed in the Middle East, in the conflict between India and Pakistan, and the unexplained destruction of the Kabul office of Arabic broadcaster Al-Jazeera in the Afghanistan bombing campaign.

The IFJ has called on Prime Minister Sharon to immediately end targeting of media, if not, "We fear this cycle of violence will intensify with the journalists and media workers becoming victims everywhere in spite of their protection under international law."

The IFJ also deplored the Israeli attack at the weekend on the headquarters of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, an organisation affiliated to the International Confederation of Trade Unions. The building, which was erected with the support of the international labour movement, was severely damaged.

The IFJ says that military assaults on legitimate civil institutions like trade unions have nothing to do with the fight against terrorism. "Such attacks," said White "damage the functioning of legitimate, democratic civil institutions; movements that are essential in any future lasting peace for the region."