The Global Killing Fields of Journalists: “The Silence of the World” (Part 2)
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 23 May 2022
Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service
In the assassination of journalists, the universal silence highlights the demise of humanity.[i]
21 May 2022 – In Part 1 of this series of publications, the author discussed the targeted assassination of Al Jazeera journalist, Ms Shireen Abu Akleh on 11th May 2022 while reporting on an Israeli raid in the Occupied Territories, refugee camp in Jenin, West Bank. This paper, Part 2, while initially was planned to highlight the global statistics of journalists killed, presently examines the killings of other Palestinian journalists, for political silencing, as a major peace disruption, in Palestine, noting that the global community is largely silent in their condemnation of Israel for the assassination, including the Christian churches in South Africa, to whom the author specifically wrote about, requesting an official public statement condemning the assassination of the global “Voice of Palestine”.
However, before the murders of other Palestinian journalists are discussed it is necessary to highlight new developments which have emerged, following the targeted killing of Al Jazeera journalist, Ms Shireen Abu Akleh, may her soul rests in peace. The following points are confirmed as factual and not misrepresentation, to generate anti-Zionist sentiments. It is to be noted that most major western media, with the exception of Al Jazeera Network, English Service, television channel, have been circumspect in their comments and responses, as well as coverage of the murder, by Israeli Defence Force, “Wolf Pack” operations in the Jenin refugee camp.
- It is reported on 20th May 2022, in the international media, that that the Israeli army will NOT investigate the death of Ms Shireen Abu Akleh. The Israeli military is not planning to investigate the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, according to an Israeli media report, raising the ire of her family, who have demanded a transparent probe into her death.
- The recently broadcast footage by Al Jazeera network ,clearly shows that Ms Abu Akleh was killed by IDF fire and not Palestinian resistance, as initially released information by Israeli State Media, they unsuccessfully tried to portray.
- The attack on the pallbearers and subsequent arrest of a pallbearer, carrying the coffin of the assassinated journalist has raised concerns by the United States Administration ns was the subject of the Austin-Gantz meeting, this week.
- The home of Ms Abu Akleh was also raided by the IDF to look for incriminating documents, immediately after her death
- The CCTV footage released by the Administrator of St Joseph’s Hospital in Jerusalem clearly shows the IDF “Wolf Pack invasion of the hospital itself where 13 people were injured. Footage released Monday from last week’s funeral for slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh showed dozens of Israel Police officers rushing into a hospital before the procession began, hitting and shoving people inside, including patients, and firing from the grounds of the medical center.
- It is also well-known fact that Ms Abu Akleh was killed instantly after the sniper bullet hit her head behind the jaw bone and she was already dead when her body was transported to St Joseph’s Hospital for certification of absence of life.
- The IDF Wolf Pack’s attack of St Joseph’s Hospital was clearly an act of aggression and showed no respect for Ms Akleh, even in death. The citizenry of Israel must rise up in expressing strongest objection to these acts of disrespect towards the dead, by the IDF, or accept a collective responsibility for the aggressive behaviour in in death of a reporter, they killed in a targeted manner.
- Ms Akleh was awarded a Palestinian Medal of Honour, posthumously by President Mahmoud Abbas, which was collected by her brother.
- It is interesting to note that how the International Criminal Court will respond when the assassination is reported to the court by the Palestinian government, as stated.
- The Catholic Church in South Africa has remained silent on the issue of the murder of a Christian Journalist, not even a Muslim and the Chair of the KwaZulu-Natal Inter Religious Council, which purports to uphold principles of peace and justice informed the author, in a rare telephone call, that the matter of the death of Abu Akleh will not be tabled in the IRC meeting, which was held on 17th May 2022 in Durban, in which the author requested the matter to be discussed as an emergency matter, at the meeting.
- It is also interesting to note that, the now retired Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, made a special attendance at the meeting to support, the Chair of KZN Inter Religious Council, on his unilateral decision not to table the author’s request to the Council to issue a statement condemning the murder of Ms Abu Akleh by IDF.
It is evident to the author that this assassination will be forgotten by the international community, as well as the global religious institutes as they did about the murder of the Washington Post Columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 and life will proceed as if nothing of import has happened.
There is a need to highlight the point that journalists are reporting and executing their duties, as any other worker would do for the organisation or company she or he is working, for. As can be classified, there are three reasons and mechanisms, why and how the journalists are killed, globally.
- The journalist is eliminated by the governments, as extra judicial killing, either in a situation of turmoil or civil unrest, planning the event as an unfortunate accident. This is a targeted killing, it is a criminal activity and most times nothing further happens. This was the case of the killing of Abu Akleh.
- The second mechanism is a contract killing of journalist, which is given out to the “Hit Man” Or Hit Woman” by individuals, governments or companies. The journalist is terminated by a drastic means such as a car bomb to serve as a warning to others not to cross the line. This is an extremely effective mechanism and serves as a clear deterrent to any journalist who is on an assignment to expose some misdemeanors in the community or government circles.
- The third mechanism is subtle as in the killing, dismembering and subsequent coverup of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul, Turkey on October 8th 2018 by the Saudi Regime. Khashoggi was cleverly called into the Saudi Embassy on the pretext of collecting personal documents by the Saudi Ambassador and literally eliminated. Sadly, both the Trump as well as the Biden administration elected to cover up the sad saga, despite solid evidence by CIA operatives, for political gains and in return secure the Saudi Regime, as an ally, in the troubled Middle East, against Iran.
In Israel alone , between the period 1992 to date, 19 journalists were killed, including the latest victim of Israeli Defence Force, Ms Shireen Abu Akleh on 11th May 2022. In an interview with Israel’s army radio, a military spokesman said that Abu Akleh and her colleagues were “filming and working for a media outlet amidst armed Palestinians.” “They’re armed with cameras, if you’ll permit me to say so,” said Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav. At least 19 journalists have been killed in Israel and the Palestinian territories since 1992, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Sixteen of those killed were Palestinians, who disproportionately bear the brunt of the violence by Israel’s military in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many other reporters, photographers and video journalists have been injured by missile strikes, live fire, rubber bullets, tear gas and physical altercations while on assignment.
While, rightly so, the assassination of Ms Abu Akleh received international exposure, being an American-Palestinian Journalist, there are many other who were specifically killed by IDF. Yasser Murtaja was a cameraman and photojournalist who co-founded a media production company in his native Gaza. At 30 years old, he had never traveled outside the tiny coastal enclave, which is ruled by Hamas and under an Israeli-led blockade.
An Israeli sniper shot and killed Murtaja in April 2018 as he covered large protests along Gaza’s border with Israel. Like Abu Akleh, Murtaja was wearing a press vest when he was shot. During the weekly protests, more than 200 Palestinians were killed and over 36,000 injured, according to the United Nations. In an initial statement following Murtaja’s death, Israel’s military said that it did not target journalists. Israel’s defense minister at the time, Avigdor Liberman, then alleged that Murtaja was a member of Hamas’s military wing, an accusation his colleagues denied. Just a month before he was killed, the U.S. Agency for International Development afforded Murtaja’s company a grant and said its standard applicant vetting process found no ties to militant activities. In 2015, Hamas authorities, who also clamp down on the press, arrested and beat Murtaja for filming in an area without permission.
Another journalist, Mr Simone Camilli, 35, was an Italian photojournalist for the Associated Press. He died in August 2014 while on assignment in the Gaza Strip. He was photographing local police as they defused unexploded ordnance from the war between Israel and Hamas when one unexpectedly detonated. Camilli’s Palestinian interpreter also died in the explosion, which seriously injured another AP photographer. He was the only foreign journalist to die as a result of that conflict, which lasted from early July to the end of August. More than 2,200 Palestinians, 73 Israelis and one Thai citizen were killed, according to the United Nations. Camilli spent nearly a decade covering major stories across Europe and the Middle East for the AP. He was particularly passionate about covering Gaza, according to his colleagues. The AP described him as “a consummate storyteller — a passionate, talented newsman with an eye for detail and the ability to convey events with powerful video images that touched people around the world.”
Fadel Shaana, 23, was a Palestinian cameraman for Reuters. He was killed in Gaza in 2008 when an Israeli tank opened fire on him and his film crew.The tank and its bursting shell were the last images he captured from his camera, which was mounted on a tripod. The attack killed eight other civilians. Shaana was wearing blue body armor that identified him as press and had traveled in a car marked “TV.” The Israeli military expressed “sorrow” for his killing but told Reuters that its forces faced “ongoing fighting against armed, extreme and dangerous terrorist organization” in the area. Sixteen other Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza the same day. Four months later, an Israeli investigation exonerated its troops, concluding they were “unable to determine the nature of the object mounted on the tripod and positively identify it as an antitank missile, a mortar, or a television camera.” Reuters rejected the findings and demanded an independent investigation. Israel “was in clear breach of its duty under international law to avoid harm to civilians,” the agency said in a rebuttal. “Reuters and media rights groups believe the army action and its apparent policy curbs media freedom by rendering it too dangerous to use a camera in the presence of Israeli troops.”
British freelance journalist James Miller, 35, was shot and killed while filming a documentary in Gaza in May 2003. Miller and his crew were attempting to leave the home of a subject when, colleagues and eyewitnesses said, an Israeli tank opened fire. Earlier in the day, Israel had carried out house demolitions and operations in the area against alleged Hamas tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt. Miller and his crew were dressed in protective gear and marked as journalists. Colleagues said they had been signaling to Israeli forces plans to leave when he was shot. The Israeli military denied responsibility and said Miller was killed in crossfire by a Palestinian bullet. A subsequent Israeli investigation exonerated the troops involved. Miller’s family rejected Israel’s findings and pushed for an independent inquiry. In 2006, London’s St Pancras Coroner’s Court ruled that Miller had been deliberately killed based in part on the findings of a private investigator hired by Miller’s family immediately after his death. No one in Israel has been charged. Amnesty
There are two aspects to the concerted attack on journalists. The first is selective, targeted killing of the reporters, who are seen as enemy of the state by Israel. International accused Israel of “committing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians” in a report released Tuesday, echoing a growing consensus among leading human rights groups and drawing a fierce rebuke from Israel’s government, which lambasted the finding and called for its withdrawal after lobbying to block its release.
The second aspect of the attack on journalists, is the smart bombing of a residential and office space in Gaza City tower block on 15th May 2021 by Israel, suspected of housing Hamas terrorists therein. In this process, Al Jazeera local office also housed in the building attached as also totally destroyed in the aftermath of the targeted bombing of the office block by IDF. The Israeli air force has destroyed a tower block in Gaza City housing the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera in what has widely been decried as an attack on press freedom. The airstrikes on of 15th May, the sixth consecutive day of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate al-Jalaa Tower, in Gaza City.
It is also a confirmed fact that the Israeli IT company, the NSO, designed the Pegasus spyware to eavesdrops into the mobile phone devices of up to 36 Al Jazeera journalists. This was uncovered by the Special Investigative Team of Al Jazeera. On 21 December 2020, an Al Jazeera report revealed that dozens of journalists at Al Jazeera Media Network were targeted that year by advanced spyware sold by an Israeli firm in an attack likely linked to the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a cybersecurity watchdog said. Citizen Lab’s researchers at the University of Toronto published a report on Sunday detailing how NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware infected the mobile phones of 36 journalists, producers, anchors and executives at the media network which has its headquarters in Qatar. Pegasus is spyware developed by the Israeli cyber-arms company NSO Group that can be covertly installed on mobile phones running most versions of iOS and Android. Pegasus is able to exploit iOS version up to 14.6, through a zero-click exploit. As of 2022, Pegasus was capable of reading text messages, tracking calls, collecting passwords, location tracking, accessing the target device’s microphone and camera, and harvesting information from apps. The spyware is named after Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology. It is a Trojan horse computer virus that can be sent “flying through the air” to infect cell phones.
Pegasus was discovered in August 2016 after a failed installation attempt on the iPhone of a human rights activist led to an investigation revealing details about the spyware, its abilities, and the security vulnerabilities it exploited. News of the spyware caused significant media coverage. It was called the “most sophisticated” smartphone attack ever, and was the first time that a malicious remote exploit used jailbreaking to gain unrestricted access to an iPhone. The spyware has been used for surveillance of anti-regime activists, journalists, worldwide including Palestinians and political leaders from several nations around the world. In July 2021, the investigation initiative Pegasus Project, along with an in-depth analysis by human rights group Amnesty International, reported that Pegasus was still being widely used against high-profile targets such as Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, by Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the Crown Prince of the Saudi Regime.
Increasing evidence internationally, has concluded that the Pegasus is used by oppressive governments in Latin America, Africa, Middle East, India and Asia to specifically target the mobile devices of journalists and eventually terminate them once a body of evidence is collected as a dossier. The IDF uses this as a weapon of oppression and annihilation of the journalists, with great profitably and yield, as well as a tool of political leverage and high-level blackmail, in international affairs such as renewal of Pegasus licence to Mohammed bin Salman, in return for airspace use by El Al, Israeli Airlines, to fly over Saudi Arabian airspace.
The Bottom Line is that the global community is deeply engrossed in pursuit of materialism, including the religious institutes, specially here in South Africa. They are reluctant to condemn the confirmed perpetrators of the heinous acts of murder of journalists, repeatedly in Palestine, for fear of not receiving financial support for their religious institutes, from the “Masters and Guardians of Democracy”. In their tardiness and indifference, the ongoing killings of journalists by Israel continues with impunity, fully knowing that they will never be held accountable by the Western World especially following the Austin-Gantz meeting in Pentagon this week, which further strengthened the position of Israel in terms of high tech military hardware, to maintain their aggressive superiority in the Middle East.
What the world has overlooked is that the Lord of the Universe is the best of Judges and His retribution is swift, precise and final to effect justice in the murders of journalists in the prime of their lives, such as Ms Shireen Abu Akleh and other killed by oppressive tyrannical regimes supported by super powers, who must bear collective responsibility as well for these anti-humanity acts of violence, against the harmless journalists, in the prime of their lives, “armed with cameras” to record the most elusive truth. May the souls of all the murdered journalists rest in peace.
[i] Personal quotation by the author 2022.
 Personal e-mail correspondence with Bishop Nathi Zondi, Chair of KZNIRC, copied to Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, regarding tabling of items for meeting of KZNIRC on Wed 5/11/2022 10:09 PM, Sun 5/15/2022 9:49 AM and second request on Tue 5/17/2022 8:24 AM
Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.
Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All
Tags: Journalism, Media
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 23 May 2022.
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