The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor.
George Orwell
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

January 16, 2009

Israeli Attacks on Gaza Escape Global Media Scrutiny

by Thalif Deen

Israel's relentless air attacks on a besieged Gaza, which have killed over 1,000 Palestinians and destroyed hundreds of homes, continue to take place away from the gaze of the international news media.

A country that claims to be the only multiparty democracy in the Middle East, Israel has barred all foreign journalists from entering Gaza, triggering strong protests not only from the United Nations but also from human rights groups and media organizations.

Speaking from Beirut, Mohamad Bazzi, a journalism professor at New York University, told IPS there are hundreds of journalists from around the world who have gathered in Israel trying to get access into Gaza.

Without access to the battlefield, they are having a difficult time verifying the claims by either side, he said.

"As the fighting continues and the civilian death toll rises in Gaza, the United Nations has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe and the world still does not have a full picture of the extent of that crisis," said Bazzi, who is also a board member of the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA).

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) fired off a strong letter of protest last week to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak criticizing the restrictions on the international media.

"By preventing journalists from covering its military offensive in Gaza, Israel is betraying its own democratic principles. It is also denying the world access to fact-based reporting," says CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

He said Israel has a long history of allowing international journalists to cover conflicts.

"Why is it now restricting all access to a conflict zone? What is the legal basis for this restriction on the free movement of journalists?" he asked.

According to the CPJ, the Foreign Press Association in Israel appealed the ban to the Supreme Court, which suggested a compromise that would allow a small group of international journalists to file pool reports from Gaza.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) apparently agreed to allow eight journalists in through the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, but later scrapped the plan, "supposedly for security reasons, even as relief workers and others were admitted into Gaza".

"Although crossings have been opened more than once since the Israeli offensive on Gaza started, no journalists have been allowed to enter," Simon complained in his letter to Barak.

The letter also said there were more than 900 media personnel, mostly working for international news outlets, already in Israel who have been barred from crossing into Gaza for safety reasons.

"Israel has barred its own citizens from entering Gaza for the past two years, citing security fears. But the ban on international journalists is less than two months old and had been enforced sporadically until the latest military offensive," said Simon.

Meanwhile, the only 24-hour reporting has come from the Al-Jazeera satellite channel, whose reporters were present in Gaza long before the fighting began.

Bazzi told IPS that Israel has a history of a free and vibrant press, with news outlets that often challenge their government.

"Israel also has a history of allowing journalists to cover conflicts," he added.

During the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon from 1982 to 2000, the IDF took international journalists into the occupied zone.

And during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, journalists had access to the battlefield.

"This is the first time that Israel has banned all access to a conflict zone. Israel has not provided a legal basis or an adequate explanation for this ban on journalists," Bazzi added.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka has urged the Israeli government to provide "immediate access for international media into Gaza" and reminded the Israelis of the right to information enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

An equally strong protest has come from the director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Koichiro Matsuura, who also condemned the killing of a journalist on the first day of the Israeli offensive against Gaza.

Basel Faraj, a cameraman for the Algerian TV network ENTV and the Palestine Broadcasting Production Company, died from wounds following an Israeli air strike.

Matsuura called on Israel "to allow local and international media professionals to report on events" in Gaza.

But these protests have had no positive response from Israel, which has continued with its devastation of Gaza minus international media scrutiny.

On Thursday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "outraged" that another artillery shell had landed in a UN compound in Gaza even as he was on a visit to Israel.

Following his protest, Barak admitted it was "a grave mistake" and assured the secretary-general that "extra attention" would be paid to UN facilities, a frequent target of Israeli attacks, in the future.

Besides the rising death toll, mostly women and children, the casualties also include some 4,000 injured in the 19-day fighting between Israel and Hamas.

"I am sorry to report that the tragic horror continues, and will continue until the guns fall silent," John Ging, director of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, told reporters early this week.

Ging said his UN agency would continue to call for a media presence in Gaza "not only because the truth must be told, but also because those making important decisions must be able to base their information on the facts."

Both the United Nations and the humanitarian community in Gaza regretted the absence of a "vibrant and impartial press corps on the ground", Ging added.

(Inter Press Service)

comments on this article?

  • Afghanistan, the Next US Quagmire?

  • Hamas Fights on Uneven Battlefield

  • UNRWA Chief Appalled at Israeli Destruction in Gaza

  • Israeli Attacks on Gaza Escape Global Media Scrutiny

  • Gaza Killings Trigger Call for War Crimes Probe

  • Aid Groups Dispute Israeli Claims in Gaza Attacks

  • US Weaponry Facilitates Killings in Gaza

  • US Asked to Curb Military Excesses in Iraq

  • US Arms Sales Preserve Israel's Edge

  • US-India Nuke Deal May Spark Asian Arms Race

  • Lebanon Crisis Persists Despite Beefed-Up Peacekeeping

  • Is US Eyeing UN as Dumping Ground for Iraq?

  • UN Peacekeeping Budget Soars Sky High

  • US Faces Dilemma
    Over Thai Coup

  • UN Seeks Mostly Western Troops for Lebanon Force

  • Israel's Military Invincibility Dented by Hezbollah

  • US to Supply Food With One Hand, Arms With Other

  • Israel Violates US Law With Attack on Lebanon

  • US Gets a 'Dose of Its Own Medicine' From China

  • Iraq's Chairing of UN Rights Committee Faulted

  • US Promises Sri Lanka Aid Against Tamil Tigers

  • UN Probes Peacekeeping Contracts Fraud

  • Iran's Nuclear Dispute Sparks East-West Rivalry

  • Despite Growing Scandal, UN Chief Refuses to Yield

  • Asia, Eastern Europe Head for Showdown Over New UN Chief

  • US Ramps Up Arms Supplies to Repressive Regimes

  • UN Security Council Expansion Thrown into Disarray – Again

  • Saudis Break New Ground Eyeing Russian Weapons

  • UN Reversal: More Staff Bound for Iraq

  • Iraq Disputes UN Over Legitimacy of Election

  • UN Body Rejects Censure, Threatens Revolt

  • Human Rights Personnel Under Attack

  • UN Report Slams Use of Torture to Beat Terror

  • French Role in Côte d'Ivoire Questioned

  • UN Terrorism Treaty Deadlocked

  • US Wants UN Fig Leaf for Elections

  • Relief Agencies Jolted by Deaths in Sudan

  • Is Al-Jazeera the New Symbol of Arab Nationalism?

  • UN Unions Want Workers Out of Iraq

  • Mideast Arms Buyers Shun UN Register

  • Japan to Re-Launch Security Council Bid

  • UN Reluctant to Push Sanctions for Sudan

  • Rising Violence Deters UN Presence in Iraq

  • Under Attack in Afghanistan, UN Weighs Options

  • UN Chief Seeks 30,000 More Troops for Peacekeeping

  • UN Tries to Drag World Into Darfur

  • US-Backed Armies Firing Blanks

  • Credibility of Afghan Vote Threatened by Violence, Fraud

  • US Accounts for Global Surge in Military Spending

  • UN Says Its Absence in Iraq Could Jeopardize Fair Elections

  • UN Bureaucrats Angry Over Iraq's Refusal to Pay Dues

  • Humanitarian Groups: US, UK Subverting Afghan Relief Aid

  • No Troops Yet Offered for UN Force in Iraq

  • Regime Change in Iraq a Sham, Say Mideast Experts

  • US Abandons War Crimes Exemption

  • Aid Agencies Forced to Leave War Zones

  • One Down, US Seeks Second UN Resolution

  • UN's Integrity Questioned – Again

  • US Seeks Iraqi Nod for Continued Occupation

  • Security, Low Voter Registration Threaten Afghan Polls

  • UN: Bullies and Beggars

  • US Offers Iraq 'Sovereignty Lite'

  • US Wants One-Year Extension of UN Exemption from War Crimes Law

  • UN Warned of Death Trap in Iraq

  • Iraq Scandal Opens US to Charges of Double Standards

    Thalif Deen has been Inter Press Service's U.N. Bureau Chief since 1992. A
    former Information Officer at the U.N. Secretariat and a one-time member of
    the Sri Lanka delegation to the General Assembly sessions, he is currently
    editor of the Journal of the Group of 77, published in collaboration with
    IPS. A Fulbright-Hayes scholar, he holds a Master's degree in Journalism
    from Columbia University in New York.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2003 Antiwar.com