Israel violated international laws by targeting media in Gaza during the November 2012 conflict, US-based non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch has said.
During the eight day conflict, the Israeli army targeted media personnel and offices of al Aqsa TV, al Quds Educational Radio, Quds TV, and Alwan Radio.
The four attacks on journalists and media facilities by Israel in Gaza “was unlawful as it violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects that were making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations,” the rights organization said in a statement on Thursday.
The attacks left two Palestinian cameramen killed, ten other media workers wounded and four media offices destroyed, including one in a building housing international media.
The Israeli government has consistently defended the attacks by stating that the attacks were on legitimate military targets.
At the time, Mark Regev, the spokesperson for the Israeli government, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli army had targeted Hamas “communication facilities”.
Regev stated that those targeted were not “legitimate journalists” and that they exploited the use of media credentials as a shield.
However, Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement on Thursday that “journalists who praise Hamas and TV stations that applaud attacks on Israel may be propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate targets under the laws of war.”
International humanitarian laws classify journalists and media workers as civilians who should be immune from attack unless directly participating in hostilities.
If found guilty of breaking international law, Israel could be prosecuted for war crimes. The statement mentioned that both sides were involved in unlawful attacks on civilians.
‘Deadliest Year for Journalists’
This statement follows a statement on Wednesday by a France-based advocacy group that marked year 2012 as the deadliest on record for journalism.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) stated that 88 journalists were killed this year.
“The high number of journalists killed in 2012 is mainly due to the conflict in Syria, the chaos in Somalia and [the] violence by the Taliban in Pakistan,” said Christophe Deloire, director-general of RSF.
This year’s death toll is a third more than last year, as attacks on citizen journalists in various conflict zones were prevalent.
Another report published by the US-based group, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), also stated a rise in attacks on journalists in 2012, citing 67 journalist deaths in violence in Syria, Somalia, Pakistan and Brazil.
(Al Jazeera and Agencies – www.aljazeera.com)