*Fadel Shana’a, killed in April 2008 by invading Israeli tanks’ shelling (photo source unknown)
“Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians … They shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians…”
-Article 79 – Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (Protocol 1)
Fadel Shana’a is among the most prominent of Palestinian journalists and media workers recently killed by Israeli soldiers. The 23 year old was targeted by an invading Israeli tank which, after observing Shana’a filming for a number of minutes, unleashed a flechette bomb, a shell filled with up to 8,000 miniature darts designed to shred and inflict the greatest harm possible.
On World Press Freedom Day around the world journalists are recognized and honoured for their work in danger zones or exposing covered-up malfeasances. When it comes to Palestine, the honouring extends to martyred and injured journalists, of which there are many.
Already back in 2003, If Americans Knew was reporting on Israel’s targeting of journalists: “Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) lambasted Israel for abusing and harassing Palestinian and foreign journalists covering the Intifada against Israeli occupation.”
“Israeli troops have also killed at least 10 journalists since the outbreak of the Intifada in late August, 2000, including two European journalists covering Israeli raids into Palestinian population centres.”
From Occupied Palestine has reported on the issue since 1998.
And the Bil’in village website, along with International Solidarity Movement and independent journalists, have been reporting on Israel’s attacks on journalists filming and photographing at demonstrations.
In the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) 2002 report, “Silencing the Press”, PCHR cites Israel’s policy of killing and beating press workers and denying them entry to Palestinian areas controlled by Israel.
“In a 2 year span ending in June 2002, PCHR documented at least 443 attacks on local and international journalists, including shootings, beating and humiliating journalists, cases of arrest and interrogation, cases of destruction of media equipment, and the shelling of media centers and institutions.
On 22nd September 2002, Israeli forces shot dead ‘Essam Mithqal Hamza al-Talawi, 30, from Bitounia, a journalist from Sawt Falastin (Voice of Palestine) radio station, with a bullet to the head. Al-Talawi was covering the peaceful marches organized by local civilians in Ramallah, in solidarity with the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who at the time was confined to his office under Israeli military siege.”
Already in 2002, PCHR reported the total number of Israeli attacks on local and international media since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada as 459, classified as follows:
• 4 cases in which 5 journalists were killed by Israeli occupying forces;
• 128 cases in which journalist were fired at and wounded by Israeli gunfire;
• 61 cases in which journalists were fired at, but not hurt;
• 60 cases in which journalists were beaten and humiliated;
• 138 cases in which journalists were arrested and interrogated;
• 21 cases in which media institutions were shelled and destroyed;
• 43 cases in which press cards and equipment were confiscated; and
• 3 cases in which houses of journalists were raided.
PCHR went on to say:
“It is becoming clear that Israeli aggression against journalists, is part of an Israeli policy aimed at isolating the OPT from the outside world and thus easing the perpetration of the numerous human rights crimes against Palestinian civilians and their property that have been committed on such a regular basis.”
Journalists and families of journalists crowded into a Gaza hotel conference room yesterday to honour fallen journalists like Shana’a, as well as abused and injured journalists, and journalists covering Israel’s wars on Gaza. The families of 5 media workers killed by the Israeli army in its most recent war on Gaza, received memorial plaques commending their bravery.
“During the war Israel intentionally attacked civilians and civilian property. No one was immune, neither journalists nor medical crews. ..They paid a very high price for speaking the truth and conveying the message about what is happening in Gaza,” said Esam Younes, al Mezan Centre for Human Rights
Azmi Quishawi, Palestinian Journalists Forum: “Palestinian journalists are the ones who are transmitting the real images and the real truth about what’s going on for the Palestinians.”
Mahmoud Ajrami, a cameraman who I frequently saw filming in the same ambulance and red crescent centres was an award-winner last night for his brave work during Israel’s attacks.
“Israel always targets journalists. And it wants to kill the witnesses. We will continue our work, no matter what happens,” he said.
The ceremony and plaques, given out in pink plastic gift bags, seemed to be attempts at bolstering the spirits of brave journalists and highlighting Israel’s criminal assassinations. But none of this can compensate for the loss of one killed for holding a camera and telling the truth.