Israel's bombing in Gaza silences the media

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Israeli Air Force bombs press offices in Gaza, May 2021. Image credit: Osps7/Wikimedia Commons

As Israel's bombing of Gaza continues to escalate, journalists are expressing outrage at the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) targeted bombing of two buildings in Gaza that housed media.

The offices of 23 media outlets -- including Associated Press, Al-Jazeera, and Middle East Eye -- were completely destroyed when Israel bombed the buildings, claiming that they housed Hamas military intelligence. MSNBC reported that in a tweet, IDF stated "[…] the building contained civilian media offices which Hamas hides behind and deliberately uses as human shields."

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a similar claim on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday. When asked if he had supplied evidence of that in a call with U.S. President Joe Biden, Netanyahu said that "we pass it through our intelligence people."

At the same time that Netanyahu was making that claim, Israeli army spokesperson Jonathan Conricus told CNN that evidence justifying the bombing is in the "process" of being delivered, describing it as "information [that] will be presented" in due time.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had not yet seen evidence that Hamas was operating out of the media building. As reported by Vanity Fair:

"Blinken made the comments at a press conference in Denmark, where he noted that his office had requested 'additional details regarding [Israel's] justification' for the strike shortly after it took place. '[I] will leave it to others to characterize if any information has been shared and our assessment of that information,' Blinken added."

Silencing the media

The Associated Press is calling for an independent investigation of the bombing.

AP editor Sally Buzbee "said the AP has had offices in al-Jalaa tower for 15 years and never was informed or had any indication that Hamas might be in the building. She said the facts must be laid out" by Israel to provide clear evidence supporting its attack.

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt released the following statement on May 15:

"We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP's bureau and other news organizations in Gaza. They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there. We received a [less than one hour] warning that the building would be hit.

 "We are seeking information from the Israeli government and are engaged with the U.S. State Department to try to learn more."

The acting director of Al Jazeera Media Network, Mostefa Souag, called the bombing a "war crime" meant to "silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza."

Covering up war crimes

Canadian independent journalist Eva Bartlett has written that Israel's destruction of the media outlets "was both shocking and predictable. History shows that if the media aren't around to document Israel's war crimes, it's a lot easier for it to commit them."

Bartlett has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East and Palestine. Israel no longer allows her to enter the occupied territories.

Bartlett reports that:

"Israel's bombing spree of media targets has been rightly condemned. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate stated that 'the targeting of media headquarters in the brutal bombardment of Gaza is part of the full-fledged war crimes committed by the Israeli occupation authorities against the Palestinian people,' and called for the United Nations and the Red Cross 'to provide urgent protection to journalists and the media, and to activate Security Council resolution 2222 (which includes the protection of journalists).'"

Bartlett also quotes the Committee to Protect Journalists, which states:

"It is utterly unacceptable for Israel to bomb and destroy the offices of media outlets and endanger the lives of journalists, especially since Israeli authorities know where those media outlets are housed."

And the International Federation of Journalists has said:

"The international community cannot turn a blind eye to the systematic violations of human rights and the deliberate targeting of media and journalists. Urgent actions must be taken to hold those responsible for these crimes internationally accountable."

Other media voices

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel's bombing of media organizations as a possible war crime, violating one of the court's statutes. In March, the ICC opened a war crimes probe into Israel's conduct in Palestinian territories.

Reporters Without Borders has said the attacks on media help "to reduce, if not neutralize, the media's capacity to inform the public."

Barbara Trionfi, the executive director of the International Press Institute, has stated, "The targeting of news organizations is completely unacceptable, even during an armed conflict. It represents a gross violation of human rights and internationally agreed norms."

The New York Times also expressed alarm. "The ability of the press to report on the ground is a profoundly important issue that has an impact on everyone," the vice president of communications, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said. "A free and independent press is essential to helping to inform people, bridge differences, and end the conflict."

On May 17, the European Union stated its "extreme concern" over Israel's attacks on media outlets in Gaza. European External Action Service Foreign Affairs spokesperson Peter Stano told the press: "The media have to be able to work in an environment of freedom so that they can report independently on what is happening and this is most important in a conflict situation."

By Monday, Israel had increased its bombing of Gaza, with the death toll over the past week passing 200 Palestinians and the injured numbering 1,305. Israel reports 10 dead and 27 injured during the same period. The latest bombing raids have done major damage to electricity lines, food sources, water infrastructure, and roads to hospitals so that ambulances cannot get through.

Netanyahu has vowed that the bombing will continue until there is "quiet." Apparently, that specifically includes the media.

Canadian freelance writer Joyce Nelson is the author of seven books. She can be reached via www.joycenelson.ca

Image credit: Osps7/Wikimedia Commons

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