A senior official from the Committee to Protect Journalists has warned that more journalists may be killed or injured by Israeli forces during ongoing protests in the occupied Gaza Strip.
Writing in an op-ed for CNN, Robert Mahoney, CPJ deputy executive director, claimed that “Israel still refuses to learn the lesson that live fire is not a means of crowd control”, citing the recent killing of Yaser Murtaja, a Palestinian journalist shot and killed by an Israeli sniper.
“Journalists, both local and foreign…need to know now that they can venture out to cover demonstrations without being hit by snipers, whom the IDF placed along the border fence in the lead-up to the protests,” Mahoney wrote.
“That said,” he added, “the possibility of more deaths among journalists, not to mention the protesters, in the coming weeks remains real.”The CPJ official noted how, “in the aftermath of Murtaja’s death”, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman “blamed the victim”, accusing the journalist of being a member of Al-Qassam Brigades.
“It’s regrettable that Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu hasn’t reined in his defence minister”, Mahoney wrote, “who smeared a journalist as a terrorist after he was shot and killed.”
“Is this going to be tactic in the future to justify the breaching of international law, which protects civilians and journalists in armed conflict?”
According to the CPJ official, “this is not the first time Israel has been in the spotlight for killing journalists”, noting the targeting of media outlets in 2012’s “Operation Pillar of Defence”.
“Seventeen journalists have been killed in Israel and the Occupied Territories since CPJ began keeping records in 1992,” Mahoney wrote, “15 of them by Israeli fire, and no one has been held accountable for their deaths.”
Mahoney concluded with a stark warning: “If we are to avoid more tragedies like that of Yaser Murtaja, the world’s press needs to put the Netanyahu administration on notice – stop smearing journalists as terrorists and stop firing live ammunition as a first response to disperse crowds of civilians, who will inevitably be accompanied by reporters.”