Reporters Without Borders today voiced its shock at the death of British freelance cameraman James Miller, killed by Israeli army gunfire yesterday evening in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, and it called on the Israeli authorities to ensure that his death does not go unpunished.
“We are dismayed by James Miller’s death, which took place on the eve of World Press Freedom Day today,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. “We demand that the Israeli authorities hold an enquiry and that its results are made public. It is essential that those responsible for his death do not go unpunished and that is made clear they committed an offence.”
Miller was the second journalist to be killed by Israeli gunfire in 2003 and the fifth since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000. Reporters Without Borders had announced just four days ago that it would carry out its own, independent enquiry into the circumstances of the death of the last journalist killed, cameraman Nazeh Darouazi on 19 April.
Miller, who was working for a privately-owned British production company, was killed while covering the destruction of a house by the Israeli army. An army spokesman said soldiers opened fire in response to anti-tank rockets fired in their direction. When combing the area afterwards, they found Miller with a bullet wound in his neck. He died while waiting to be taken by army helicopter to an Israeli hospital. The Israeli army voiced its “regrets” but said Miller had taken a big risk by being in what was a war zone.
The Associated Press quoted a British journalist identified as “Dan” as saying Miller and two other journalists had been waving a white flag while they were filming. “We were very visible to the troops, with a white flag and ‘TV’ markings on our vests, but still the troops opened fire, hitting James Miller,” Palestinian freelance journalist Abdel-Rahman Abdullah, who was with Miller, told to Reuters agency.
Nazeh Darouazi, the journalist killed on 19 April, was a Palestinian cameraman who was hit by Israeli gunfire in the old town of Nablus in the West Bank. He was struck in the eye by a shot fired by an Israeli soldier, witnesses said. He was wearing a yellow vest marked “press” and was with at least five other journalists covering clashes between a group of Palestinian youths and the Israeli army. Aged 42, he worked for APTN (Associated Press Television Network) and for Palestinian public television.
Three journalists were killed in the Occupied Territories last year. Photographer Raffaele Ciriello (42), working for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, was killed on 13 March while covered armed clashes in the centre of Ramallah. He was standing behind a group of armed Palestinians when an Israeli tank about 150 metres away began automatic fire. Ambulances could not reach the scene because of the intense shooting. Ciriello was taken by Palestinians to the Arab Care hospital, where he died soon afterwards from six bullet wounds in the chest and stomach.
Freelance photographer Imad Abu Zahra (35) died on 12 July after being seriously wounded in the leg in the centre of Jenin when Israeli armoured cars opened fire without warning and, according to witnesses, without any clash or dangerous situation to justify the shooting. An Israeli army spokesman said “a crowd was throwing stones and firebombs at our vehicles so we had to respond.”
Issam Hamza Tillawi (32), a journalist and presenter with The Voice of Palestine, was shot by the Israeli army on 22 September. He was covering street protests in the centre of Ramallah by thousands of Palestinians against the Israeli army’s siege of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in the city. Carrying a tape-recorder and a bag, he was interviewing the protesters when Israeli troops began firing teargas. As he ran from the scene he was hit by a shot that witnesses said came from an Israeli sniper on top of a building. The director of Ramallah Hospital confirmed he had been hit by a bullet in the back of his head. He died at the hospital half an hour later. The chief editor of The Voice of Palestine, who was with him, said he was wearing a jacket marked “press.”
Since the beginning of this year, at least four journalists have been wounded while working in the Occupied Territories. Last year, eight were wounded, most of them clearly identifiable as journalists and therefore no danger to the army. They were hit by warning or intimidatory shots which sometimes caused serious wounds. None of the incidents were investigated by the Israeli army and those responsible were not punished.