His Excellency Ariel Sharon
Prime Minister of the State of Israel
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street
Via facsimile: 972-2-651-2631
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly protests last week's shooting of journalist Sagui Bashan, a reporter with Israel's Channel 2 television station, by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier(s) near the Gaza Strip.
On February 14, one or more IDF soldiers opened fire on Bashan while the journalist was driving his car near the Karni border crossing point into the Gaza Strip. According to information obtained by CPJ, Bashan was attempting to retrieve film footage from his cameraman, who was covering the aftermath of a bomb attack against an Israeli tank in which three soldiers had been killed.
Moments before the incident, a soldier at an IDF roadblock located in Israel proper, about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) from the Karni crossing, tried to prevent Bashan from entering the area, even though Bashan identified himself as a journalist and displayed the press markings on his car.
Bashan asked the soldier to produce an official military order to justify barring him access, which the soldier was unable to do. Bashan then told the soldier that he intended to approach the Karni crossing. He reentered his car, put the vehicle in reverse and headed for the crossing via a side road. Moments later, his car was struck by several rounds of live gunfire. Bashan was grazed in the arm and leg by ricochet bullets and later treated at a hospital.
An IDF spokesman contacted by CPJ said the incident was "under investigation." He did not explain why the soldier tried to impede Bashan in the legitimate performance of his professional duties. Nor did he explain why deadly force was used against a journalist who clearly posed no threat to the IDF.
CPJ respectfully urges you to ensure that an independent and impartial investigation is launched into this grave incident and that its findings are made public. We further urge you to see to it anyone found responsible for this attack on a journalist is punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We await your reply.