Letter to Israel's Ambassador to the Court of Saint James
His Excellency Ambassador Zvi Shtauber
2 Palace Green
LONDON W8 4QB
Dear Ambassador Shtauber,
The London Freelance Branch of The National Union of
Journalists writes to express its deep concern and shock over the death
of fellow freelance photographer Raffeale Ciriello. He died as a result of
Israeli gunfire in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on 13 March 2002.
Mr Ciriello, on assignment for the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della
Sera, was hit by several bullets from a heavy calibre machine gun mounted on
an Israeli tank, as he was covering an invasion into Ramallah by Israeli
forces, near to the Al-Manara Square.
Together with TV journalist Amealo Ricucci, Mr Ciriello was in an alleyway,
off the main street, 70 metres behind a group of armed Palestinians, when an
Israeli tank suddenly opened fire in his direction. Ambulances were unable
to reach the scene because of fierce gunfire; so young Palestinians took Mr
Ciriello to the Arab Care Hospital where he subsequently died. The hospital revealed
that he had been wounded in the chest, stomach and kidneys.
The London Freelance Branch of the NUJ urges the Israeli Government to carry
out a full investigation into the circumstances of Mr Ciriello's death and
bring to justice those responsible for the crime.
We are also, however, concerned that in the past 18 months, and more
recently, that Israeli forces have been attacking reporters, cameramen and
photographers. Press offices have been raided and journalists detained.
For example, on April 2, 2002, Andre Durand, a journalist who works for
Agence France Press, together with Ata Awisat, who is a reporter for
Gamma News, were stopped by Israeli soldiers in Beit Unia. After two hours,
Durand was released, but Awisat was still being held. On April 1, 2002,
Abas al-Moumani, a photojournalist, who also works for Agence France
Presse, was driving his car, which had been clearly marked with "TV", in
the main square in the centre of Ramallah. Israeli soldiers
opened fire at his car and a live bullet hit the mirror inside the car.
The driver was not hurt. The car was stopped and Israeli soldiers
confiscated Moumani's camera. They forced him to put his hands behind his
head and left him standing for three hours, after which they returned his
camera and ordered him to leave the area.
That same day, April 1, 2002, Israeli forces, in Ramallah, fired on an
armoured vehicle used by NBC. The car was clearly marked as a vehicle used
by the foreign press. That same day, a BBC correspondent and her crew
were shot at while covering a peaceful protest in Beit Jala.
In Bethlehem on April 2, an Israeli soldier fired one round toward the
car of Reuter's photographer Magnus Johansson, which was clearly
identified as a press vehicle. Johansson heard soldiers shouting at him.
When he got out of the car, he was ordered back in. The shot was fired as
he attempted to drive away.
We also note that Israeli soldiers fired stun grenades into a crowd of
foreign television journalists, who were trying to report on the meeting
between the American envoy Anthony Zinni, and the Palestinian leader, Yasser
Arafat, in Ramallah on the 5th April 2002.
We deplore the victimisation of Palestinian reporters and demand an end
to the targeting of foreign journalists.
We also protest at the decision by the Israeli authorities to declare the
major towns and cities of the West Bank a closed military zone and to expel
the media. We believe this amounts to censorship and will only lead to more
ignorance, rumour and fear, and contravenes Article 19 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
We would wish to remind you that:
Articles 50 and 51 of the Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva
Convention emphasise the protection of civilians in time of war
including journalists, since they are part of the civilian population:
The civilian population comprises all persons who are civilians.
The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general
protection against dangers arising from military operations.
Article 79 of the Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva
Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed
conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article
50, paragraph 1. They shall be protected as such under the Conventions
and this Protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting
their status as civilians.
We believe that journalism is becoming a victim in the escalating violence
and therefore call on Israel to lift the obstacles to free reporting and to
end all intimidation of Palestinian journalists and international media.
Furthermore we wish to remind the Israeli Army and Israeli authorities that
they should respects the Articles of the Geneva Convention at all times.