Danger reporting - GulfToday

Danger reporting

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Shireen Abu Akleh

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has reported that 67 journalists have been killed this year as compared to 47 last year and has called on the global community to secure the safety of journalists and protect their freedom to report events.

The largest number of killings, 29, took place in the Americas, 16 in Asia and the Pacific, 13 in Europe, five in the Middle East, and four in Africa. There were eight accidental deaths. The Ukraine war exacted the greatest toll, 12, while drug cartel warfare in Mexico slew 11. In this region, fatalities rose to five, including the shooting to death by an Israeli soldier or soldiers of Palestinian-US television reporter Shireen Abu Akleh. Her case was submitted in September to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by her family with the support of the IFJ and the Palestinian Press Syndicate.

 “The surge in the killings of journalists and other media workers is a grave cause of concern and yet another wake up call for governments across the globe to take action in the defence of journalism,” statred IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger. He called on governments to adopt in the UN General Assembly the IFJ-drafted Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists.

The IFJ also reported that 375 journalists have been imprisoned, with the largest numbers in China, Myranmar and Turkey. This is 10 more than last year.

The world’s largest journalists’s organisation, the Brussels-based IFJ was founded in Paris in 1926 and currently represents 600,000 media professionals from 187 trade unions and associations in more than 140 countries. The IFJ speaks for journalists at the UN and within the international trades union movement. Safety is the primary purpose of the IFJ mission.

The release of the IFJ report coincided with a second submission to the court on the Abu Akleh case by her employer Al-Jazeera. Its legal team has said it has “unearthed new evidence based on eyewitness accounts, the examination of multiple items of video footage, and forensic evidence pertaining to the case.” The network argued the claim by the Israeli authorities that Shireen was killed by mistake in an exchange of fire is completely unfounded. The evidence presented to the Office of the Prosecutor [of the ICC] confirms, without any doubt, that there was no firing in the area where Shireen was, other than the IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces] shooting directly at her.”

Al-Jazeera continues, “The [Israeli military’s] inquiry that found there was no suspicion of any crime being committed is entirely undermined by the available evidence which has now been provided to the [ICC]. The evidence shows that this deliberate killing was part of a wider campaign to target and silence Al-Jazeera.”

Key Western media outlets — CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times — conducted early detailed investigations into Abu Akleh’s death and have revealed that she was shot while wearing a protective vest proclaiming as PRESS and a helmet. She was advancing toward an Israeli armoured unit with a camera team in an area where there had been no fighting that morning. There were a dozen civilian witnesses at the location. They had gathered to watch filming and hear her commentary as she had become famous throughout the region.

Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid dismissed Al-Jazeera’s submission and repeated his country’s long-standing rejection of investigations into the conduct of its soldiers. Israel’s eternal backer, the US, also rejected this petition. State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “We maintain our longstanding objections to the ICC’s investigation into the Palestinian situation and the position the ICC should focus on its core mission, and that core mission of serving as a court of last resort and punishing and deterring atrocity crimes.”

On Dec.7, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, a British barrister, said, vaguely, that he intends to visit “Palestine” next year. He had no option but to refer to “Palestine,” as it is a party to the Rome Statute which established the ICC. Israel and its main backer the US, are not. Khan made this comment at the 21st session of The Hague-based court’s Assembly of State Parties, signatories of the Rome Statute. Unfortunately, at the ICC “the wheels of justice turn [exceedingly] slowly,” as the saying goes. Particularly when Palestine is appealing for justice.

On Jan.1, 2015, the government of Palestine submitted a declaration under the Rome Statute accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC over alleged crimes committed “in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014”. On Jan.2 2015, Palestine deposited its instrument of accession with the UN Secretary-General. On April 1, 2015, the Rome Statute entered into force for Palestine: East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.   

It was not until December 2019, however, that a preliminary investigation concluded. In 2021, Khan’s predecessor, Fatou Bensouda launched a fully-fledged investigation that would “cover crimes formal within the jurisdiction of the Court that are alleged to have been committed... since 13 June 2014,” the day after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by Hamas members and killed in the West Bank. This precipitated an Israeli crack-down on the West Bank that led to the seven-week Israeli assault on Gaza which killed more than 1,300 Gazans, 66-70 per cent civilians, and wounded nearly 11,000; 67 Israeli soldiers, five civilians, and one Thai worker were killed.

The importance of the Palestinian submission is that it is open ended. Therefore, it can cover not only the 2014 war but also illegal Israeli settlements, the 2018-2019 clashes, Israel’s May 2021 assault on Gaza, the case of imprisoned human rights lawyer Salah Hammouri put forward in May of this year by Palestinian civil rights organisations, and the two Abu Akleh submissions.

Slow motion ICc actions over Palestine contrast sharply with Khan’s rapid reaction to the Ukraine war which began on Feb.24 this year. In March he appealed for experts and in May he sent a 42-member forensic team to investigate crimes which he said fall under the jurisdiction of the court and “provide support to Ukrainian national authorities. This represents the largest single field deployment by my Office since its establishment.” In June, he visited Ukraine while conflict waged. No delay there.

Photo: TNS

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