James Miller

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

James Miller, a British freelance cameraman and film director with U.K.-based Frostbite Films, was fatally shot in the Gaza Strip on May 2, 2003. 

An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Miller, 34, was with a crew in the town of Rafah in southern Gaza near the Egyptian border filming an HBO documentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the evening of May 2, he and his four-person crew were in a Palestinian home filming the army’s demolition of houses in an area that the Israeli army alleged contained tunnels used to smuggle arms.

According to published testimonies of eyewitnesses and an Associated Press Television News cameraman who was filming in the same house, the incident occurred between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., when the group decided to leave. Miller, his producer Saira Shah, and translator Abdul Rahman Abdullah attempted to identify themselves to the Israeli troops in the area while they were leaving. The Israel Defense Forces troops were in armored personnel carriers (APCs) about 330 feet (100 meters) away from the house where the journalists had been filming.

The journalists were wearing jackets and helmets marked “TV.” Abdullah waved a white flag while Miller used a flashlight to illuminate the flag. As they approached the APCs, the journalists shouted “Hello,” and then a shot was fired. The journalists yelled that they were British journalists, and a second shot was fired immediately after. In video footage of the incident, it appears the second shot hit Miller, who was struck in the neck. Several more shots followed.

An Israeli army spokesman was quoted as saying that troops in the area returned fire after being fired on by rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Later, the army said that Miller was struck by a bullet from behind, claiming that he may have been hit by Palestinian fire.

An investigation sponsored by Miller’s colleagues, family, and friends—conducted by British security consultant Chris Cobb-Smith of the security company Chiron Resources Limited—concluded that IDF soldiers “consciously and deliberately targeted” Miller and his crew. The report noted that the area where Miller’s crew was operating had been quiet for about an hour before he was killed. Prior to that time, sporadic gunfire was heard but not in the journalists’ vicinity.

In April 2006, London’s St Pancras Coroner’s Court concluded that Miller was shot deliberately. “This was an unlawful shooting with the intention of killing James Miller,” the jury spokeswoman told the court, according to The Guardian. “Therefore we can come to no other conclusion than that Miller was indeed murdered.”

Israel’s army opened a military police investigation into the incident but in March 2005 decided not to bring criminal charges. The IDF said at the time that a military police investigation showed that an officer “allegedly fired his weapon in breach of IDF rules of engagement” but that it was not “legally possible to link this shooting to the gunshot sustained by Mr. Miller.”

In a disciplinary hearing in April 2005, the IDF also acquitted the officer of improper use of weapons. 

Later that month, The Guardian reported on an internal Israeli report into the case, which showed severe evidence tampering, including of weapons. 

Miller’s family has criticized the IDF for taking excessive time to complete their inquiry; for failing to make public the army’s initial investigative findings; and for providing only portions of the military police report into Miller’s death. The family also criticized the IDF for allegedly bulldozing the scene of the shooting hours after it occurred, and for failing to immediately collect critical evidence such as the rifles of the army unit that was involved.

In 2009, Israel paid approximately one and a half million pounds (US$2.2 million) in compensation to the Miller family. After the Israeli payment, the British Ministry of Justice said it would not pursue legal claims or request extradition of the officers involved, according to Haaretz.

CPJ asked the IDF about Miller and other cases of IDF killings of journalists in an April 2023 email. The IDF said: “Following the incident, an IDF Military Police criminal investigation was opened, which found that there was military activity taking place in the area where Mr. Miller was, during which there was an exchange of fire between Palestinian gunmen and IDF soldiers. The investigation concluded that it could not be determined the source of the gunfire that killed Mr. Miller.”

The IDF also said “it sees great importance in preserving the freedom of the press and the professional work of journalists.” 

This report was updated on April 25, 2023.