“Why to Target Journalists?”

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Nazih Darwazeh, 41, a Palestinian cameraman working for the Associated Press was killed on April 19th 2003 while covering “a skirmish between troops and rock-throwing Palestinians in [the West Bank city of] Nablus” according to AP.

The incident took place when Israeli troops penetrated into the Casbah (old city) of Nablus to arrest a woman who allegedly was planning a suicide bombing. According to the Israeli Defense Forces, and as reported by Haaretz daily “Upon exiting the city’s Casbah, or old city, one of the tanks got stuck in a central square due to a technical problem. Dozens of Palestinians arrived at the scene, and began shooting at the tank and hurling molotov cocktails at it”.

“A few armed Palestinians shot at our forces and threw explosive devices,” IDF spokeswoman Major Sharon Feingold said “our forces used non-lethal weapons to disperse them and when that didn’t help they used light weapons”.

According to Haaretz “Witnesses said there had been no Palestinian gunfire in the area at the time”.

Commenting on Darwazeh’s death Feingold said “The entry of press during an exchange of fire endangers the forces and the photographers who took the risk of possibly being hurt. The army will continue to investigate the event and expresses regret over the harm to innocent people”.

When sot dead, Darwazeh was clearly identified as a journalist “he was wearing a [flack] jacket marked “press” witnesses said.

Darwazeh is the 9th journalist to be killed while covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since October 2000 (8 Palestinians and 1 Italian). According to the documentations of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI) seven of them killed by Israeli soldiers, one by Palestinians and one disputed.

I first knew Darwazeh in 1991, when he, with two other Palestinian journalists, produced “Palestinian Diaries” documenting the day-to-day curfews, arrests and executions in the streets of Palestinian communities under Israeli occupation. Later he became one of the first Palestinian camerapersons to work for the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) where I met him in person. He was a very committed journalist who drove his little yellow car from Nablus to Ramallah every day.

With the beginning of the Palestinian Intifada in September 2000, Darwazeh started working with AP since he could no more commute to work at the Palestine TV due to the Israeli roadblocks.

Approximately two weeks before his killing, Darwazeh was among hundreds of Palestinian journalists who went into the streets to protest the killing of journalists in Baghdad. In a photo released by AP, he appears holding a poster that read “why to target journalists?” with the photo of Tareq Ayyoub, a reporter for Al-Jazeera who was killed in Baghdad.

Targeting journalists is a severe violation of international law. Article 79 of the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, 8 June 1977 states, “Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians éThey shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this Protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians, and without prejudice to the right of war correspondents é”.

Walid Batrawi is a Palestinian journalist and producer from Ramallah. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Columbia, Missouri, USA.

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