Human Rights Opinion

“If you are attacked while wearing a press vest, it is clearly unlawful and potentially a war crime”

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) shone the spotlight on media under fire at a webinar on May 16 which heard from journalists from Ukraine and Yemen and the legal team supporting the IFJ’s complaint to the International Criminal Court over Israel’s systematic targeting of Palestinian media workers.

The event, chaired by IFJ Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Dear, featured Lina Kushch, a Ukrainian journalist and First Secretary of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, Yemeni journalist Sami Al-Ansi and Jennifer Robinson, from Doughty Street Chambers, an Australian human rights lawyer working with the IFJ to expose Israeli crimes against journalists at the ICC. 

Lina Kushch spoke passionately about the situation facing Ukrainian journalists since the Russian invasion, stressing that fair and ethical reporting is more important than ever and that “telling the truth” about the war is the best way to help.

Institutional solidarity is extremely important for our members because it helps to save lives of Ukrainian journalists, it helps to evacuate journalists, it helps them to settle, and get the equipment or the emergency support“, she added.

Sami Al-Ansi spoke about the war in Yemen and the harsh working conditions for journalists reporting on the ground: “There are between 700 to 1000 journalists who have been displaced inside or outside Yemen. Most of them are currently living in Egypt and the reason behind that is the threats, the killings, and the lack of a safe working environment. (…) Freedom of speech in Yemen no longer exists“, he said.

Al-Ansi also called for support for four Yemeni journalists on death row for their reporting, and for whom the IFJ launched a campaign to save their lives.

Israel and the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

Jennifer Robinson spoke about the systematic attacks on journalists in Palestine and the filing of a complaint with the ICC on behalf of the IFJ, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) and the International Centre for Justice for Palestinians. 

Robinson pointed to the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh this week as the latest shocking example of the repression suffered by Palestinian media workers on the ground and why it is key to hold Israel internationally accountable for their war crimes.

Journalists play a key role, not just showing us the brutality and horror of the conflict and its very serious human consequences, but also that material is essential for us as lawyers in holding governments to account for those crimes,” she said.

If you are attacked while wearing a press vest, like Shireen Abu Akle, it is quite clearly unlawful and potentially a war crime. We certainly hope that this will be properly investigated and taken up. The IFJ has been active in condemning this type of deliberate targeting. (…) If Israeli officials are prosecuted for targeting journalists it will be taken seriously, there will be repercussions“, she added.

Summing up, speakers thanked NUJ members for their solidarity and urged them to continue to stand up for journalists and journalism and to support IFJ campaigns to highlight the threats to media freedom in Ukraine, Yemen and Palestine. 

Source: IFJ

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