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CPJ urges prime minister to examine restrictions, military strikes on media in Gaza

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 2 April 2009 CPJ letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

April 2, 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of the State of Israel
3 Kaplan St. Hakirya
Jerusalem 91950
Via facsimile: +970-2-5669245

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
The Committee to Protect Journalists urges your government to examine the deeply disturbing press restrictions and military strikes on media facilities that occurred during the prior government's Gaza offensive in late 2008 and early 2009, and to take corrective action that brings official policies and practices in line with international standards.

We ask you to pledge not to impose blanket news media restrictions in the future. Such restrictions severely limited coverage of the Gaza offensive, an event of great worldwide importance, and ran counter to the rulings of the Israeli Supreme Court and to accepted international principles. We also urge you to conduct immediate and thorough investigations into the targeting of news media facilities during the conflict, and to make the findings public. Such an inquiry is especially important in light of recent news reports quoting Israeli soldiers as saying they had fired on civilians in Gaza.

Attached to this letter is CPJ's research on the events, policies, and circumstances in Gaza ( ). In light of these findings, CPJ urges the following:

- In keeping with the January 25 Supreme Court decision overturning a blanket ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza, make a public announcement affirming your government's commitment to the free flow of information and the freedom of movement of journalists throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

- Commission an independent investigation into the January military strikes on Al-Johara and Al-Shuruq towers, both of which were well known to the Israeli military as housing offices of international media. The findings should be made public, and anyone found responsible for wrongdoing should be held accountable.

- Investigate the bombings of Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa Television and Hamas-affiliated Al-Risala as well as the commercial printing press the newspaper used. The inquiry should establish whether these installments were legitimate military targets, which would be the sole justification for taking action against them. The investigation should determine if and how these facilities were actively contributing to the military effort, whether it would have been possible to end such a contribution to military objectives through other means, and whether all appropriate measures were taken to minimize damage to civilian lives and property. All findings should be made public.

- Modify military operational procedures as appropriate in order to prevent the targeting of media installations in any future military operations in the Occupied Territories.

Thank you in advance for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to your response.

Joel Simon
Executive Director

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