Journalists Accuse Israel of "Failure of Discipline" After Italian Journalist is Killed in Hail of Bullets

The International Federation of Journalists today blamed a persistent "failure of discipline and disregard of international law" by the Israeli authorities for the killing of an Italian journalist and the wounding of a French colleague in the Palestinian territories today.

"For months we have seen a deterioration in the regard for the rights of journalists whether they are from the international or the Palestinian community," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ. "Today's tragic events were inevitable given the persistent failure of discipline and disregard of the rights of journalists under international law."

Yesterday Israeli soldiers fired upon a group of 40 foreign journalists covering the events in the Palestinian territories. The IFJ has protested several times in recent months over Israeli targeting of Palestinian broadcasting buildings and actions to derecognise the status of Palestinian journalists.

The killed journalist, Raffaele Ciriello, was a freelance photographer on assignment for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. He was killed in a hail of bullets coming from an Israeli tank in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Another freelance journalist working for French media was severely injured in the incident.

Ciriello is the third journalist to die since the new Intifada was launched in September 2000. The other victims were Palestinian journalists Mohammad Bishawi and Othman Qatani, both killed during the shelling of a building on 31 July 2001. "We send a message of the deepest sympathy to our Italian colleagues," said Aidan White, "this tragic event reinforces our demands that safety of journalists and respect for their rights is made a global priority in conflict zones."

The IFJ, which is the world's largest journalists' group, carried out, with the support of the European Union, risk-awareness training for around 100 journalists in the West Bank and Gaza last month. In view of the continuing crisis, the IFJ intends to establish a Safety Centre for journalists in the Territories. But the IFJ warns that while journalists can do much to minimise risks, it is impossible to protect them from ill-disciplined military actions.

"We insist that this incident and earlier reports of firing on journalists are properly investigated and a full report is made public," said Aidan White. The IFJ affiliated Palestinian Syndicate of Journalists also condemned the killing and sent a message of solidarity to international journalists.