Mel Frykberg
The Middle East Times
May 1, 2008 - 5:23pm

While Palestinian journalists staged a sit-in in Gaza city to protest the killing of 23-year-old Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana and Lebanese journalists protested the killing in Beirut, Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger called for an investigation.

Shana was the latest victim of nine journalists killed by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza in the last decade. The cameraman was killed several weeks ago in central Gaza as he filmed Israeli forces exchanging fire with Palestinian gunmen.

The Middle East Times recently visited the site where Shana had been filming which was at least several hundred meters away from where the fighting was taking place. A number of children walking past were also killed when a Merkava tank shell, filled with flechettes or darts, hit them.

Shana's vehicle was clearly marked with TV and media inscriptions, visible from a distance and from the air. This was not the first time he had been the target of Israeli soldiers. In 2006 he was wounded when a car in which he was traveling, marked as belonging to a media organization, was attacked by an Israeli plane.

An Israeli spokesman expressed "profound regret" at the shooting of Shana and said an investigation was underway. The spokesman added, however, that journalists "endanger themselves when they enter a war zone."

Indeed in order to qualify for Israeli government press accreditation all foreign journalists are obliged to sign an indemnity form freeing Israel from all responsibility for any death or injury, regardless of the circumstances.

Recently the family of British photojournalist James Miller received financial compensation from the Israeli government after he was shot in the back of the head by Israeli soldiers while filming the rubble of Palestinian homes destroyed by Israeli bulldozers in Rafah in the south of Gaza.

The Israeli soldier, who was eventually convicted of his manslaughter after immense pressure from Miller's family and the British government, originally claimed that Miller was in military uniform, armed and there had been fighting very near where he was shot, but subsequently had to withdraw his testimony when eye-witnesses and British experts disputed this version of events.

Raffaele Ciriello, an Italian photographer was shot six times in the abdomen and chest by an Israeli tank in Ramallah in 2002 while filming Israeli tanks.

While the deaths of several foreign journalists have received international media coverage, Palestinians journalists and photographers have borne the brunt of attacks on the media.

Imad Ghanem, of the Hamas-affiliated satellite channel Al-Aqsa, was filming paramedics aiding wounded people in a central Gaza refugee camp last year when Israeli tanks began firing at him, according to Sameer al-Bouji of the Pal-Media news agency, who filmed the incident.

Ghanem, 21, was shot in the leg and fell to the ground, reported the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Footage broadcast on Al-Jazeera shows the cameraman being shot twice more in the legs by soldiers as he lay injured, his camera beside him.

Al-Bouji told CPJ that Israeli soldiers fired on him, an AFP photographer, and a Turkish Ihlas News Agency cameraman when they attempted to move Ghanem to safety. Reuters reported that Israeli forces also fired at its camera crew and other journalists covering clashes from a nearby rooftop.

But gunmen and security forces from Palestinian factions have also deliberately targeted journalists from the opposing side.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), based in Gaza, released a press statement last year condemning the attacks on the media during the peak of the Hamas-Fatah infighting last year and demanded that both movements take action to prevent these violations.

According to PCHR's documentation, a number of media institutions known to have connections to either of the two parties were attacked, ransacked or closed down.

Assailants broke into the offices of two Gaza newspapers with ties to opposition groups in the Strip, and the Palestinian journalists' union held Hamas responsible for the burglaries.

Equipment worth thousands of dollars was taken from the offices of Al-Istiqlal, a weekly paper affiliated with the militant Islamic Jihad group, and from Al-Watan Voice, an online publication tied to the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Militants also stormed and burnt a transmission station of Palestine Television in Gaza city. They also robbed the Watanona Media Center belonging to the Fatah movement, while equipment from Horriya radio station also linked to Fatah was set on fire.

Fatah's Al-Sabab radio station was forced to stop broadcasting and the headquarters of Al-Shaab radio station of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was visited by masked men who caused extensive damage and stole equipment.

Meanwhile in the West Bank, gunmen affiliated with the Fatah movement returned the favor, as a number of media outlets associated with Hamas were targeted.

Mass Press, belonging to Muhammad Eshtaiwi a Hamas affiliate was severely damaged. A group of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (an armed wing of the Fatah movement) stormed An-Najjah press office belonging to Fareed Abu Zhuhair, a Hamas sympathizer and lecturer at an-Najjah National University. Computers, windows and doors were destroyed.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades also stormed Al-Rowad press office belonging to Suhail Khalaf as well as damaging the headquarters of Hamas-linked Sana Television in Nablus.

However, the worst violence carried out by Abbas' sympathizers was when masked men burnt the office of Abdel Fattah Azzam Shraim, 27, a correspondent of the local Al-Ayyam newspaper in the center of Qalqilya and a critic of Abbas.

An hour later, Shraim traveled to his office to check the damage. On his way, his car was subject to intense gunfire. He was wounded by shrapnel to the head and arrested by Palestinian police shortly thereafter as he lay in Nablus' Rafidiya Hospital receiving treatment.


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