Journalists Launch Global Campaign for Ceasefire in Media War as More Reporters Are Injured

The International Federation of Journalists today launched a global solidarity appeal for Palestinian media staff under siege in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and an "end to targeting of journalists" by Israel in its military intervention in the West Bank.

"The casualties among journalists are growing," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, "we demand an immediate ceasefire in this war against media and human rights." The IFJ says that seven journalists have been hurt in separate incidents over the last three days.

Yesterday the IFJ condemned the Israeli decision to expel media from Ramallah. The IFJ warns that censorship in the conflict will not bring peace "but only lead to more ignorance, rumour and fear."

The IFJ has called on all of its member organisations to protest over the latest actions against media and to donate to an emergency humanitarian fund to help care for the injured and their families.

"Journalists everywhere are shocked by the levels of violence and the violations of human rights now being endured by journalists and others in the region," said Aidan White, "we will do what we can to help our colleagues caught up in this catastrophic situation."

The IFJ is arranging for medical kits to be distributed to Palestinian media and freelance journalists and is trying to get flak jackets and protective helmets to Palestinian journalists in the region.

"The Palestinian journalists are most exposed in the current crisis," said the IFJ, "they do not have the support of large media organisations and they are being systematically victimised by the Israeli authorities. They need support now."

Reiterating its criticism of the Israeli closure of Ramallah the IFJ said: "People who speak of democracy and then impose censorship to avoid public scrutiny make a mockery of the language of peace and human rights. The whole world is watching and if media are not allowed to work while rumours circulate of violations of human rights then the suspicion will be that Israel is engaged in a media cover-up."

The IFJ says that a Palestinian cameraman working for Egyptian Nile TV was shot in the mouth on March 29th while travelling through an area where Israelis and Palestinians were fighting. The cameraman was taken to a hospital in serious condition. A second cameraman, who was also riding in the van and suffered a less serious wound.

On March 31st, Anthony Shadid, a Washington-based Boston Globe reporter, was shot in the shoulder while standing in the doorway of a Ramallah shop. Shadid was said to be conscious and in stable condition in a private Arab hospital in Ramallah.

On April 1st more reports came in of journalists suffering light injuries and a news team, CBS, was expelled from Ramallah. On April 2nd in Bethlehem, an armored personnel carrier fired several rounds at the Star Hotel where about two dozen journalists covering the incursions are based, said Iyad Moghrabi, a cameraman on assignment for Associated Press Television News. Moghrabi said a cameraman for the Arab satellite TV station Al Jazeera was lightly injured in the head by shrapnel.

Violence erupted in September 2000, destroying peace negotiations and helping bring the hardline Sharon to power. In the past 18 months, 1,269 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and on 416 on the Israeli side. Three journalists have been killed.

"This is a dirty and brutal war in which journalism is a victim," said Aidan White, "Palestinian media are being prevented from functioning while, at the same time, the less-than-subtle and partisan language of some Palestinian journalism tests the limits of professionalism."

The IFJ says that the Israeli actions are promoting widespread intolerance beyond the region following the incidents of attacks on synagogues in France and Belgium over the weekend.

"Media intolerance only makes matters worse," says the IFJ, which carried out a mission to the region six weeks ago. "Israel must lift the obstacles to free reporting and end all intimidation of Palestinian journalists and media. The cycle of censorship and violence must end and professionalism restored on all sides."

The IFJ calls on all media working in the region to respect the IFJ International Code of Practice for the Safe Conduct of Journalism.