Within Gaza: Journalists on the Frontline

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Human spirit perseveres even in the face of tremendous adversary. Inside the besieged coastal enclave of Gaza people have to struggle for the very basic daily activities that are generally taken for granted in most other parts of the world. “Within Gaza” series- in 5 episodes- peaks through the walls of occupation and siege to try to reveal how the Gazans go about their lives. Each episodes deals with one harshness that afflicts the residents and portrays their ingenuity in coping with Israeli occupation and intermittent onslaught. Episodes’ titles: Ambulances and Hospitals; Journalists and the Frontlines; Life in Gaza; Mass Execution; Workshops and Factories.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration: Freedom of media in the Palestinian territories is still closely related and influenced by the Israeli occupation and settlers, and their continuous violations against Palestinian journalists and media institutions.

Being a journalist, regardless of nationality, is a job that is full of dangers and obstacles. It is also the job of truth seekers. The Palestinian journalist is destined to live within the walls of these violations, but despite these hard conditions, he/she still has the determination, boldness, persistence, and strength.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Salah Abdel Atti, Independent Commission for Human Right: “The reality is that Palestinian journalists have a doubled suffering. On one hand, they are part of the Palestinian people who are subject to crimes and violations that qualify to genocide and war crimes. On the other hand, they have a dangerous job, especially in this hard environment under which Palestinians live because of the occupation. The Gaza Strip is besieged, while in the West Bank there is the apartheid wall, settlements, Judaization of Jerusalem, frequent violations and arrests. This affects the entire Palestinian society and especially the journalists, as the occupation wants to blackout the truth and their violations of human rights, as well as the state terrorism it practices.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mohammad Al-Susi,Palestinian Cameraman: “The Israeli occupation practiced all sorts of humiliation and subjugation methods on journalists, but along the years the Palestinian journalist refused becoming a tool in the hands of the occupation and Israeli intelligence, and this made journalists sacrifice a lot.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_09:48

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Atif Eisa, Founder & CEO at Media Group: “The Palestinian journalist plays a role as significant as that of the Palestinian politician or the fighter. To each his role, we have always seen the Palestinian journalist in the field. He would use his cameras and other tools to perform heroic and honorable achievements. He would always document and publicize the suffering of the Palestinian people, especially in the besieged Gaza Strip. He would always show the world the suffering, the incursions, the killing, and torture Palestinians suffer on the hands of the Israeli occupation.”

Narration: This boldness made the Israeli occupation army not differentiate between a journalist and another… so everyone is targeted and everyone is wanted.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Fathi Sabbah, Palestinian Journalist: “Regardless of their nationality, journalists pursue finding the truth, removing injustice, and unveiling crimes of the occupation, no matter who that occupation may be. We have seen examples for that when reporters for networks in the United States and Europe exposed crimes committed by the US and other countries. An exception to this is the few journalists who are affiliated with their government, no matter who that government may be. Such journalists have a questionable credibility and are renounced in their communities. Journalists who come to Palestine are our colleagues and friends. We have to help them and the Israeli occupation has to respect their freedom, their freedom of movement and work, like it respects our freedom. But unfortunately the Israeli occupation as you know does not respect any kind of freedom and it continues its violations against these journalists.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Said Radwan, Al-Aqsa TV Channel: The Israeli occupation does not differentiate between a Palestinian and a non-Palestinian journalist. The non-Palestinian journalist tries to document the events as they are, so the Israeli occupation relentlessly targets them and any other journalist who tries to document events on the ground without discrimination.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mahmoud El-Ajrami, Palestinian Cameraman: “The Palestinian journalist works in an area rich with events. There are incursions and airstrikes all the time, and as the journalist tries to cover these crimes he will be a target to the Israeli occupation. The Israeli occupation does not want the journalist to succeed in covering these violations because any footage that comes out of the Gaza Strip exposes the Israeli occupation’s army. That is why in the beginning of any incursion they fire and attack journalists to get them away from the action zone, so they cannot document these incursions or any targeting of civilians. Therefore, if they injure the journalist, he would be taken to the hospital and there will be no one to document the events so the occupation army can do whatever they want. If journalists were there, this means there were witnesses on the crime. There are no witnesses on the crime as long as there are no journalists.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Salah Abdel Atti, Independent Commission for Human Right: “Palestinian journalists have been subject to a variety of violations that reached the killing in cold blood. Other violations include arrest and detention for extended periods, especially the administrative detention with no accusation, as well as confiscation of their media coverage badges, especially in the West Bank. Journalists face continuous violations similar to the case during their coverage of the war on Gaza, or the usual occupation’s incursions to the Palestinians areas. Many of them were injured while covering the events and some of these injured journalists lost their ability to perform their jobs.”

Narration: Assassination of journalists in general is part of the repulsive occupation. Because Palestinian journalists actually like their job which unveils the ugly face of the occupation, and have determination and persistence, the Israeli occupation just assassinates them. They kill them to kill the truth; this is how the occupation envisions killing and assassinating them.

TIME CODE: 09:48_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mahmoud El-Ajrami, Palestinian Cameraman: “During the attack on Jabalia, there was an incursion in Ezbit Abed Rabbu, right behind us. We were covering the incursion on the first and second day. It seems that the Israeli occupation army did not like our movement in the area so they fired at us multiple times, but we continued documenting this crime. I was standing right here when the tanks advanced a little further. They saw me and right away one of the tanks fired a shell directly towards me… after I was taken to the hospital, I was surprised that the shell also hit other people and they were killed. When I woke up and became conscious I realized that my best friend and the rest of the team were also injured. After that, we went back to the field and continued working. These violations and targeting of journalists are not going to stop us from doing our work.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Fathi Sabbah, Palestinian Journalist: “By the way, this building we are in right now was hit and targeted by the Israeli occupation during the war on the Gaza Strip. Other colleagues were on the roof of this building and were targeted as well while covering the events. However, none of us the journalists, our colleagues who were targeted, their families, or even the Palestinian Authority took judiciary action. So there is weakness or failure in this side. We have to encourage families of victims, civil society organizations, the journalists syndicate, and the Palestinian Authority to take judiciary action against the Israeli occupation’s war criminals. These Israeli war criminals should not remain unpunished.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Salah Abdel Atti, Independent Commission for Human Right: “We can generally say that these violations frequently committed by the Israeli occupation against Palestinian journalists are evidence that it tries to cover the truth and isolate Palestine from its surrounding. The occupation isolated the Gaza Strip through the siege and isolates the West Bank from time to time. Despite all these hardships, Palestinian journalists played their role in delivering the message and suffering of the Palestinian people, as well as documenting the violations that expose the Israeli occupation. Therefore, the camera was able to expose the organized terrorism, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by the Israeli occupation.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Said Radwan, Al-Aqsa TV Channel: Claims were filed on the issue of targeting journalists, especially those from Al-Aqsa Association, but procrastination has always prevailed in these cases. There were also claims by local and international organizations, but these also were put aside, especially the ones regarding Al-Aqsa Association. The justification given most of the time, among others, was that a counter-claim of the one presented is filed. This is evidence that there are restrictions on journalists and their claims, especially those from Al-Aqsa Association.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Salah Abdel Atti, Independent Commission for Human Right: “The Israeli occupation is a renegade state practicing state terrorism according to the international humanitarian law. However, the balance of powers with the United States hegemony blocks any attempts to sue the Israeli occupation in the United Nations, especially in the Security Council. Using article 7 of the international law would force the Israeli occupation to subdue and abide to the international conventions and the international humanitarian law. When the issue on the table concerns an Arab country or so, the United Nations’ decisions are enforced immediately and forces like UNIFEL would deploy to implement decisions of the Security Council. In the Palestinian case, everything is pending and no serious sanctions were enforced to prevent the Israeli occupation from committing more crimes against Palestinians, and this provided a shield for the occupation to carry on.”

Narration: Israeli occupation’s violations presented a dangerous threat to the lives of many journalists while performing their job, as they were targeted with bullets, teargas, and stun grenades, and many of them were critically injured. During the war in 2009, the Israeli occupation targeted journalists and media facilities … One of the most important media companies targeted is the Media Group company which was directly targeted with a rocket.

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Atif Eisa, Founder & CEO at Media Group: Many of the journalists in Media Group Company were targeted on various occasions. One of our cameramen was targeted with a tank shell, and he almost got killed. During our coverage of the war on Gaza end of 2008 and early 2009, the Media Group office was shelled. We were supplying coverage for 20 satellite channels and international news agencies. The place was shelled despite the lighting and the clear signs in Arabic, English and Hebrew that there are journalists in this place. The Israeli occupation’s shell or rocket fell only 8 meters away from us, thank God; otherwise we would have been all dead.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Moahmmed Al-Susi: At some point after the rocket hit the office, I did not feel any kind of pain. I started to wake up and look around the place. Everything was black and I didn’t know what happened to us and whether both the 13th and 14th floors were hit. Then little by little we started to check on each other, and I turned out to be injured in my arm only which is a relief. Then we found out that Ayman was hit in the head, so we tried to stop his bleeding and could barely carry him down the stairs from the 13th floor, and then put him in a car and took him to the hospital.”

Narration: The Israeli occupation had not had enough terrifying and scaring civilians, but it continued the unjustified targeting of the media offices and facilities. Al-Aqsa TV channel, affiliated with Hamas, was directly targeted with rockets which made it stop its transmission, and this makes the violations reach the level of killing through both bullets and rockets.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Said Radwan, Al-Aqsa TV Channel: Both Al-Aqsa TV channel and Al-Aqsa satellite channel were targeted. Al-Aqsa satellite channel was hit with an F16 airstrike in the first hours of the war, and half an hour later the TV channel was targeted. Three floors of the four-story building were totally destroyed. There was nobody in the building at that moment, but all the equipment and devices were destroyed in this sudden strike. There was new fully equipped studio we were about to commence, but it was also destroyed. As soon as the war started we evacuated the building and moved to another place, where the satellite transmission vehicle parked there was also targeted. We used other alternatives to continue working, but this was very exhausting to our crews.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Fathi Sabbah, Palestinian Journalist: “Our colleague Fadel Shana’a was killed by the Israeli occupation’s tank shells while he was holding his camera and trying to document war crimes committed against Palestinian victims. This direct targeting of journalists continues, and it is the most dangerous type of violations that the occupation practices. Other violations include prevention from travelling and restricting freedom of movements. There are plenty of examples on that like Abdel Latif Ghaith, one of the founders of the Journalists Syndicate, who has been prevented from leaving Jerusalem for years. Journalists suffer from other violations on a daily basis while covering events in the field. Why does not the Israeli occupation target Israeli journalists who cover internal events and issues? Why are other journalists covering events in Europe or the United States not targeted? Palestinian journalists are the only ones to be targeted, and the United States is silent about it and provides cover for the occupation from being legally punished.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_26:00

Narration: The Israeli occupation committed various violations against Palestinian journalists and reporters, as some of them were prevented from coverage, traveling and participation. The Israeli occupation is continuing these outrageous and inhumane practices.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Said Radwan, Al-Aqsa TV Channel: “The Israeli occupation uses various methods to target and humiliate Palestinian journalists, like banning coverage, breaking into their offices, harassing them on checkpoints, not permitting part of the crew to pass, and preventing coverage inside Al-Aqsa mosque. In 2010 and 2011, all the equipment and part of the footage were confiscated at the gates of Al-Aqsa mosque multiple times. Footage and filmed materials were also confiscated from the journalists covering the protests in Bele’en and other demonstrations against the apartheid wall and others. All the equipment and materials like footage and films were confiscated in all these events.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mahmoud El-Ajrami, Palestinian Cameraman: “The Israeli occupation tried everything with Palestinian journalists, from killing, targeting, and humiliation, but they could never break their determination and persistence. Otherwise, you would have seen Palestinian journalists run away and sit at home during the Israeli occupation’s war on the Gaza Strip, but on the contrary they have always been in the field and their numbers are increasing. This shows that Palestinian journalists are ready to sacrifice for the sake of this just cause and to make the world see the truth.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Salah Abdel Atti, Independent Commission for Human Right: “Everyone is a target despite the immunity and protection provided for journalists by both the international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention. There are two forms of protection. The first is that journalists are civilians and are entitled to all rights of civilians. The other form of protection is that provided by the Fourth Geneva Convention for journalists, women, and children under occupation or in armed conflict zones. Despite all that, we find that the Israeli occupation does not respect the international humanitarian law, with the hideous help and bias of the United States and the silence that qualifies to a crime. All this encourages the Israeli occupation to carry on with its violations, and not respect the minimum level of humanitarian principles and the International Humanitarian Law.”

Narration: In the past ten years, the Israeli occupation killed about 20 journalists, in addition to committing hundreds of physical and vocal violations and continuing hindering journalists and reporters from performing their jobs. In the last three years, between 2009 and 2011, the Israeli occupation committed 336 violations against journalists and media institutions, and killed four journalists in early 2009 during the war.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Atif Eisa, Founder & CEO at Media Group: “I believe that what stopped the war on Gaza was the Palestinian journalist, not politicians or political negotiations. Journalists played a significant role in documenting and reporting the events. They were subject to a lot of pressure; many of them were killed, their equipment was destroyed, and their offices were targeted, but they stood tall above all that and performed a significant job reporting the reality of the events and the suffering of their people to the whole world.”

Narration: Despite this horrific amount of violations of the different international conventions, the international community did not react to these violations and did not hold the Israeli occupation accountable for these crimes and killings of journalists. This silence encouraged the occupation to continue their violations to prevent journalists and reporters from covering and documenting the various crimes committed against Palestinians.

   

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