Journalists Say Israel Should be Punished for "Reckless War on Media"

The events of the past ten days in which dozens of journalists have been targeted and attacked in the Israeli sweep across the West Bank and Gaza Strip should lead to international condemnation and action against the government of Ariel Sharon says the International Federation of Journalists.

"The Israeli army is waging an appalling campaign that has targeted media and journalists," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Reporters continue to be detained, shot at and victimised. It is an unprecedented campaign against press freedom and a reckless war on media that should not go unpunished."

The IFJ says that Israeli forces have launched an indiscriminate series of attacks on Palestinian media houses, wrecking offices and destroying equipment. "The aim seems to be to wipe out the infrastructure of all Palestinian media," said White, "Even the media that have established a voice independent of the Palestinian Authority are being wrecked. It is a senseless assault on media freedom."

The IFJ has protested over the following actions in the past week:

· Numerous reports of journalists and media staff wounded, arrested, expelled or threatened.

· The arrest and detention of 10 Palestinian journalists in Bethlehem.

· An Israeli grenade and rubber-bullet assault on two dozen journalists outside the compound of Yasser Arafat.

· The shooting of United States correspondent Anthony Shadid and Nile TV Reporter, Carlos Handal.

The latest reports from the West Bank include the arrest of reporters and the destruction of the independent broadcasting station at Al-Quds University. In Ramallah, yesterday, Israeli forces raided the offices of several news organizations, using gunfire and explosives to enter the buildings, according to eyewitnesses. No one was injured, and Israeli military officials said the searches were part of their broader effort to find terrorists. Media affected by the raid were CNN, Abu Dhabi, Nile TV, Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC), and Arab News Network (ANN).

"This campaign is a vicious attempt to prevent journalists from reporting on a story that affects millions of people around the world and which hundreds of millions are following daily," said White, "It is a censorship by violence that should not be tolerated by the international community."

The IFJ says that the Israeli authorities should be held responsible for their actions. "The widespread abuse of journalists rights is a violation of international law and shows contempt for human rights," says the IFJ. "The government of Israel should be held accountable for the distress and damage they are causing."

The IFJ, together with other leading press freedom groups, has signed a statement by the Foreign Press Association in Israel calling again on Israel to accredit Palestinian journalists working for the foreign press out of the Palestinian territories, not in the least under the current circumstances, to be able to identify themselves, for their safety, to Israeli soldiers as journalists.

In addition, the statement calls on the Palestinian Authority to reject unconditionally the efforts to confiscate materials or intimidate journalists by the different Palestinian factions. "Attempts to suppress unflattering visuals are utterly unacceptable."