PCHR strongly condemns the kidnapping of two international journalists, an American and a New Zealander, in Gaza City yesterday evening. The Centre views this act as a flagrant attack on freedom of expression, and a continuation of the security chaos plaguing the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The Centre reiterates its call to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), represented by the Attorney-General, to seriously investigate this crime and other kidnapping crimes, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
PCHR’s preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 19:40 on Monday, 14 August 2006, four unidentified gunmen in a pickup truck intercepted Steve Centanni, a 60-year old correspondent for FOX News; Olaf Wiig, a 35-year-old freelance cameraman working for FOX News; and Khalil El-Fishawi, a 25-year-old Palestinian fixer. They were in their jeep near the Gaza Municipality Park in Omar Mukhtar Street.
At gunpoint, the gunmen forced the journalists and their fixer to get out of their jeep. They searched El-Fishawi and confiscated his mobile phone. They ordered him to lie facedown on the ground. Then they took the journalists to an unknown location. The fate of the journalists is not known till the publication of this report.
This crime comes after months during which the kidnapping of internationals declined after a two-year period in which several kidnappings were perpetrated. PCHR’s documentation indicates that Palestinian gunmen conducted 20 kidnappings against 45 internationals. The last kidnapping before yesterday’s case was on 14 March 2006, when ten internationals, including three journalists, were kidnapped, and a number of international organizations were attacked.
PCHR strongly condemns the kidnapping of the two journalists, and:
1. Stresses that this crime is a violation of the most basic human rights, and a serious breach of the rule of law. This incident is a continuation of the security chaos that has been plaguing the OPT over the past two years in the absence of serious legal action by the PNA to pursue the perpetrators and bring them to justice;
2. Calls upon the PNA to take serious legal action within the framework of international human rights to confront the security chaos in general, and the attacks on internationals and international organizations in particular;
3. Views with gravity this attack that is a link in a chain of attacks perpetrated by irresponsible parties. These attacks violate freedom of expressions. The Centre calls for protecting journalists, and ensuring that local and international journalists are ensured of conducting their work freely;
4. Expresses concern over the way the PNA is handling these kidnappings. These crimes are resolved after mediators intervene, and without any legal action taken against the kidnappers despite the discovery of their identity; and
5. Points to the fact that the Attorney-General has not replied to any of the requests and complaints submitted by PCHR to investigate these crimes. The Centre views the PNA’s handling of these kidnappings to be encouraging towards undermining the rule of law and towards the recurrence of these crimes.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is an independent legal body based in Gaza City dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and is an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, the Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. PCHR is a recipient of the 1996 French Republic Award for Human Rights.