Several journalists killed and more than 1,600 protesters injured in Gaza
As reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, excessive use of force by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during the 'Land Day' or 'Great March of Return' protests left at least 28 people dead and 1,600 protesters injured. On 17th April 2018, six UN experts condemned the IOF's disproportionate use of force against Palestinian protesters. In a statement, the experts declared that:
“Despite Israel’s commitment to investigate the events of the past few weeks, security forces continue to use live ammunition and rubber bullets against the protesters, killing and wounding dozens of mostly unarmed protesters, women, men and children alike...We express our outrage over these shootings that may have resulted in unlawful killings and the incomprehensibly high number of injuries sustained".
The number of casualties are estimated to be considerably higher than the figures cited above.
#UN human rights experts condemn killings of Palestinians near #Gaza fence by Israeli security forces; call for #accountability and investigation by international community, and an end to #Israel’s 11-years imposed closure on #Gaza https://t.co/havIqBZire pic.twitter.com/8iu6pxiSou— Al-Haq الحق (@alhaq_org) April 17, 2018
Journalists were also targeted while covering the above-mentioned protests in Gaza. On 24th April 2018, a 25 year-old journalist was shot dead after being targeted by Israeli snipers in Jabalia in the Gaza Strip. Ahmad Abu Hussein working for Sawt Al Sha’b (Voice of the People) radio station in Gaza was shot at despite being in a clearly visible press vest. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but later died from injuries sustained in the shooting. The targeting of Hussein follows the killing of Yaser Murtaja a few weeks earlier. Murtaja, a journalist working for Ain Media, was also killed by an Israeli sniper while covering a protest near Gaza's eastern border on 6th April 2018. He was also visibly wearing a press vest when he was targeted. The video below captures the chaotic scenes shortly after Murtaja was shot.
The alarming number of journalists killed by Israeli fire has been documented by MADA: Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms. According to MADA, at least twelve journalists have been targeted with live ammunition by Israeli snipers since 30th March 2018.
A recent survey by MADA also shed light on the insufficient legal framework to protect and strengthen freedom of the press in Palestine, finding that:
- 76 percent of surveyed journalists believe that media laws in Palestine do not promote freedom of the press, and 73% say that these laws do not guarantee protection for journalists
- 85 percent believe that the Cyber Crimes Law does not promote freedom of the press
- 89 percent believe that the legal framework in Palestine actually prevents journalists from accessing information in the public interest
- 91 percen said that Palestinian journalists are face human rights violations for doing their work
- 83 percent say there is a lack of transparency in cases prosecuting public authorities who violate media freedoms
- 90 percent of journalists said that they practice self-censorship out of fear of being interrogated by security agencies in Palestine
- 89 percent of journalists said that they practiced self-censorship out of fear of social reprisals or public scrutiny
- 83 percent believe that the media in Palestine is not independent; 97% believe that it is influenced by political and partisan biases; and 87 percent believe that it is influenced by the private sector interests
- 92 percent say there is mismanagement on the part of media organisations that negatively affects the level of professionalism in the sector