The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today demanded that the Israeli Defense Forces lift their newly announced limits on journalist travel in southern Lebanon and allow all media staff to travel freely in the conflict zone.
“We cannot allow any side to create a secret war in which their military operations are not open to proper scrutiny,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) put out a press statement today that says it is limiting “travel in any kind of vehicle in all areas south of the Litani River in Lebanon,” adding that it “would like to stress that these limitations apply to journalists as well.”
The IDF says southern Lebanon “is a combat zone from which terrorists operate, and as such, we cannot guarantee the safety of journalists in the area.”
“This is a clear attempt to limit news coverage of the Middle East conflict but Israel is cloaking it in the guise of safety precautions,” White said. “The IDF has to recognize that journalists have the right to cover events in southern Lebanon and that it must treat them as non-combatants and forbid the targeting of clearly marked media vehicles.”
The IDF says the travel limitation, which took effect at 10 pm on August 7 and will remain in place until further notice, applies to all civilians, who have been asked to leave the area.
The IDF says journalists working in the area will be doing so “at their own risk.”
In the past month, there have been at least six attacks on media staff or structures in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories that have killed two media staffers and wounded at least a dozen other people. The IFJ has urged the IDF to investigate all of these cases of media targeting and to ensure the safety of journalists in the region.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries
Below is the statement from the Israeli Defense Forces:
IDF SPOKESPERSON ANNOUNCEMENT
Limitations on travel in southern Lebanon
To the members of the foreign press,
The IDF has announced a limitation on travel in any kind of vehicle in all areas south of the Litani River in Lebanon. The limitation took effect at 22:00 on August 7th 2006 and will remain in place until further notice.
Information regarding the limitations was communicated to the population in southern Lebanon via media outlets and leaflets as well as through local channels.
Passage of humanitarian convoys continues throughout all of Lebanon in coordination with the IDF.
We would like to stress that these limitations apply to journalists as well.
Please understand that this is a combat zone from which terrorists operate, and as such, we cannot guarantee the safety of journalists in the area.
In fact, we have asked civilians in the area to leave for their own safety.
The IDF will do its utmost to keep civilians, and journalists among them, out of harm's way.
However, we are obligated to remind you that journalists are acting at their own risk and are requested to comply with the recommendations provided to the civilian population.
We urge you also to heed the advice of your own country's consular advisors as to safety during the conflict.