The Israeli army report on the circumstances of the killing of an Italian photographer earlier this year in the West Bank town of Ramallah was rejected as “lacking all balance and credibility” by the International Federation of Journalists today.
Raffaele Ciriello, 42, who worked for the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, was shot and killed on March 13 while following Palestinian gunmen.
A colleague, Amadeo Ricucci, a journalist and eye-witness said a tank appeared from around a corner and opened fire from a mounted machine gun when it was about 150 yards away, hitting Ciriello in the stomach. Ciriello was not wearing a bulletproof vest or signs clearly identifying himself as a journalist. However, an Israeli army report has cleared soldiers of all responsibility.
“The Israeli army’s white washing of responsibility for this terrible tragedy is completely unacceptable,” said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ. “A report commissioned, prepared and finalised by an army which is desperate to protect its own image lacks all balance and credibility.”
On Friday the Israeli army said its investigation found "no evidence and no knowledge of an (army) force that fired in the direction of the photographer." Israel had declared Ramallah a "closed military zone" at the time. “Journalists entering zones where fire is exchanged are jeopardizing themselves knowingly and at their own responsibility."
The IFJ rejected this as a “self-serving” statement saying it “attempts to diminish the tragic loss of a professional’s life” and is calling for an independent inquiry into the shooting, a move supported by Ciriello’s own union the Italian Association of Journalists (FNSI).
Ciriello’s case was taken up by an IFJ mission to the region in June this year which drew attention to the risks facing photographers and camera people filming from distances. The mission visited the spot where Ciriello was killed and found that a monument, which had been erected by local journalists, had been destroyed. Palestinians say Israeli troops destroyed it, but the Israelis deny they were responsible.
“It is unacceptable that Ciriello’s death should be the subject of such misrepresentation,” said Aidan White. “It is clear from the available evidence that the bullets that killed him came from Israeli guns. Israel should have the courage to admit where responsibility lies.”