International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists,
PEC calls for a commission of enquiry
Rongili Barta- The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) deplores the high number of journalists killed in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which is held every year on 2 November. The organisation is calling for independent investigations to shed light on all these war crimes and for the United Nations to set up a commission of enquiry. Since the beginning of 2023, a total of 74 journalists worldwide have been killed in attacks, bombings or targeted assassinations. In October this year, 36 journalists were killed, 33 of them in connection with the conflict between Israel and Hamas (28 Palestinians in Gaza, 4 Israelis and 1 in Lebanon). “These are clearly war crimes and an unprecedented slaughter of the media due to the fact that hostilities are taking place in a densely populated area,” said PEC President Blaise Lempen. “We deeply deplore all the civilian victims, those deliberately and systematically murdered by Hamas, as well as the Palestinian victims subjected to Israeli bombardment”, he added. According to the PEC’s findings, although Israel warned the civilian population, including the media, before its bombardments, warning them to leave the intended targets of its fire, the fire was often not precise enough to avoid collateral casualties. Buildings housing media outlets were deliberately targeted, with the aim of silencing the voice of the Palestinian media. “Hamas’s crimes are unjustifiable, but Israel’s response is disproportionate”, said Blaise Lempen. Under international humanitarian law, all parties must distinguish between combatants and civilians at all times. Civilians and civilian objects must never be the target of an attack. Protection measures for journalists were clearly insufficient to guarantee impartial information on the ground. Foreign media access has been blocked by Israel to the detriment of the right to information. The PEC calls on the belligerents to show the utmost restraint in the continuation of operations. Duly accredited and identified journalists must be able to do their work without hindrance or danger. There must be no impunity. It is essential that independent investigations take place in order to shed light on these crimes. Their exact circumstances must be clarified by the relevant UN bodies and those responsible must be held to account. The PEC calls on the Human Rights Council to create a commission of enquiry to elucidate the crimes of all the belligerents in the war that began on 7 October. PEC’s south Asia representative Nava Thakuria revealed that Bangladesh has lately witnessed a massive surge of physical attacks on media persons as the populous country is approaching its next national election due in January 2024. In a single day protest demonstration (by its opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party in Dhaka), over 25 journalists faced unprecedented attack & harassments from both the government (led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party) and non-State actors, while covering the rally on 28 October last.