[NEWS AND VIEWS]
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December 08, 2003US and Israel murdering journalists, claims BBC reporter. The US and Israeli governments are actively targeting journalists, according to a senior BBC reporter. Nik Gowing claims that the media is now seen as "a real time military threat that on some occasions justifies our removal by the application of deadly force."
Journalists are killed as part of a deliberate policy that is carried out without remorse, he believes. Dead reporters are of "barely marginal concern" to the governments, while US and Israeli action "is already encouraging others to believe they can get away with targeting and eliminating journalists."
Writing in the Royal Institute of International Affairs' World Today, Gowing suggests that US targeting of the media is rooted in a "massive overall change in culture and attitude to international law, especially by the US administration" that follows the terrorist attacks of September 11.
There is a sharp clash between "assertive, robust policies and doctrine to guarantee national survival for a country at war by all necessary means" and "the new technological capacity of news organisations to report, question and challenge from any location."
"The presence of a camera or reporter bearing witness, often with politically inconvenient information about dreadful events at a critical moment, can frequently be seen as a direct threat to be swiftly removed... The argument for neutralising any media presence is compelling and uncontestable."
Gowing also discusses a "huge growth" in attacks on the media by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), quoting the International Press Institute which believes there is a "concerted strategy by the Israeli army to control reports on the recent surge of hostilities in the region." International outrage at Israeli behaviour has not led to restraint. Instead it has "hardened" Israeli policy towards the media.
Gowing highlights the case of Mazen Dana, a Reuters TV cameraman, killed in Baghdad on August 17. He quotes unnamed "journalist colleagues" as confirming that US troops deliberately fired on Dana, knowing he was an unarmed journalist ("they saw us, and they knew about our identities and missions"). Dana had previously been targeted by Israeli forces, he claims. He "had already been hit sixty times by what he and witnesses said was Israeli Defence Force (IDF) targeting in the West Bank."
Gowing discusses two further cases (the death of ITN reporter Terry Lloyd and the bombing of Al-Jazeera's office in Baghdad) where, despite initial reports, "tragic bad luck" appears to be "the ultimate explanation, however sinister the immediate assumptions."
However, he concludes that "the growing overall picture is that some governments believe they can target anyone in the media who bears witness to their operations and reports them. Worse still, they believe they have the right to do so without investigation, apology or charging those military personnel involved with a possible war crime."