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Hamas and IDF criticise RSF report on conditions for media covering recent fighting in Gaza

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is a 19 March 2009 RSF press release:

Hamas and Israeli military respond to Reporters Without Borders report on Operation "Cast Lead"

Both the Hamas information ministry and the spokesperson of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have criticised the report which Reporters Without Borders issued on 15 February about the situation of the media while covering the fighting in Gaza during Operation "Cast Lead."

Hamas denied putting any pressure on the media and denied carrying out politically-motivated arrests of journalists in the course of their work. The arrests of journalists reported by Reporters Without Borders were the result of "violations of the broadcasting and printing code," Hamas said.

Hamas also denied banning journalists from entering certain areas in the Gaza Strip during the fighting, although it accepted that restrictions may have been placed on their movements "in order to ensure their safety." Without taking a position on particular cases cited in the report, the information ministry concluded that it "totally lacks objectivity."

Responding to charges that the IDF fired on journalists and buildings occupied by news organisations, its spokesperson said Israeli military personnel were given clear orders not to fire on people who were not positively identified as combatants and were given clear orders to aid those injured in the fighting.

IDF forces are trained to recognize journalists in the field but "cannot guarantee the safety of all civilians," the spokesperson said, adding that, "journalists who choose to work in a combat environment do so at their own risk and with full understanding of the dangers involved." Regarding the decision not to allow journalists to enter the Gaza Strip from Israel, this "was made at the political level and not by the IDF," the spokesperson said.

Download the report "Operation Cast Lead: news control as a military objective": http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/Rapport_Gaza_janvier_2009_GB-2-2.pdf

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