August 9, 2006
His Excellency Ehud Olmert
State of Israel
Via Facsimile: +972-2-5669245
The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by Israeli military actions that sharply restrict the ability of the press to cover the current conflict in Lebanon and that endanger the lives of civilians, including members of the press. We are particularly concerned about the safety of an estimated 250 journalists in Tyre, who are hunkered down in hotels and unable to move because of Israel’s threats to target all vehicles on the roads.
In recent days, the Israel Defense Forces dropped leaflets on areas south of the Litani River, warning residents to stay off the roads. One Arabic-language leaflet reviewed by CPJ warns that “every car of every kind that is moving south of the Litani River will be bombed” and “you have been informed that all who move in any car place their life in danger.”
Today, an IDF spokesman issued a formal statement saying that vehicle travel south of the Litani was banned indefinitely, effective August 7. “We would like to stress that these limitations apply to journalists as well,” the statement said. It added: “Please understand that this is a combat zone from which terrorists operate, and as such, we cannot guarantee the safety of journalists in the area.”
Journalists in and around Tyre have reported IDF targeting of vehicles on the roads. On July 23, Layal Najib, a freelance photographer for the Lebanese magazine Al-Jaras and Agence France-Presse, was killed by an Israeli missile while traveling in a taxi to cover Lebanese fleeing north. She was the first journalist fatality of the fighting.
At least three journalists were wounded on Monday when they attempted to cover the aftermath of an apparent drone attack on an individual on a main road in Tyre. The journalists had been at the Jebel Amal Hospital in Tyre when they went to the scene of one or possibly two explosions that occurred about 220 yards (200 meters) up the road. When the lead car arrived at the scene, another apparent missile was fired, injuring reporter Scott Anderson of The New York Times Magazine, Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin, and their driver. The three men, who, like the other journalists, were traveling in cars clearly marked as press, suffered concussions or shrapnel wounds.
CPJ reminds you that international humanitarian law bars deliberate attacks on civilians and requires that Israel distinguish between military and civilian objects to avoid harming non-combatants. The Israeli military’s blanket ban against vehicles traveling in southern Lebanon imposes an onerous and unreasonable burden on all civilians, including journalists whose right to work in conflict zones is established by international law. Moreover, the ban does not absolve Israel from its obligation to avoid targeting or harming civilians.
CPJ calls on you to ensure that this travel ban is lifted and that the IDF allow journalists to carry out their work without interference or the threat of physical harm.