Targeting Palestinian media in Gaza

As part of their military campaign in Gaza, Israeli forces seem to be targeting Hamas-affiliated media outlets, a practice that is of concern to CPJ. The Hamas-run broadcaster Al-Aqsa television was bombed on December 28, and then on January 5, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) appear to have hit the newsweekly Al-Risala as well its commercial printer. Fortunately, no one was killed in any of these attacks.

We reached out to the IDF after the attack on Al-Risala, but we did not hear in back in time to include their response in the alert we issued Tuesday. Early this morning, however, we received the following message:

The IDF does not target civilian locations, unless they are used for terrorist activity.

The military operation is still in progress and an immediate thorough investigation into the incident is not possible at this point.

This response does not confirm that the building was indeed hit by IDF fire.

First, both buildings were hit in air attacks that obviously could only have been carried out by the IDF. Our concern is that the IDF views the dissemination of propaganda as a military (or terrorist) activity. This is a position that does not have a basis in international law and sets a dangerous standard that could undermine the ability of journalists to work in conflict zones. Indeed, broadcast facilities have been targeted in many recent military conflicts, including the bombing of Serbian television by NATO forces in the 1999 Kosovo war, the bombing of Iraqi broadcast facilities by the U.S. military during the 2003 invasion, and the Israeli bombing of Hezbollah-run Al-Manar television during the invasion of Lebanon in August 2006.

Media facilities are civilian structures and cannot be targeted merely for broadcasting propaganda which, after all, is a highly subjective term. The onus remains on the IDF to explain the basis for what seems to be its attacks on media facilities in Gaza. We will continue to insist on a more detailed response.