By: E&P Staff and AP
Israeli bombing raids on television transmission stations this weekend “represent an appalling threat to press freedom,” the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said Sunday.
Aidan White said Israel had “once again put media in the front line of the conflict” with the Saturday air raids that hit relay stations used not only by a television channel run by Hezbollah, Al-Manar, but also by the nation’s biggest private network, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.
A media worker was killed as a result of that raid and two others were wounded, according to IFJ.
The strikes are a threat to the safety of media staff “and cannot be justified,” White said.
Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman, said the target of the strikes was Al-Manar and Al-Nour, Hezbollah’s radio station. He told The Associated Press that five of those station’s antennas were hit.
“It’s important to understand why the attack was carried out. This will disrupt their ability to communicate,” he said, adding that cell phones were a “key communication link” for the guerrillas.
An Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Al-Manar and LBC may have been sharing an antenna.
LBC’s terrestrial transmission was knocked out to homes in the surrounding portion of north-central Lebanon, though homes with satellite dishes received it without interruption.
By attacking the relay stations, Israel was broadening what the IFJ called its “assault on media.”
“The bombarding of media facilities is a deplorable assault on the democratic infrastructure of Lebanon,” White said. “It was inevitable that media staff will become the victims when this policy comes into effect.”
After White condemned last week’s bombing of the Hezbollah-run Al-Manar TV station, several Israeli journalists quit the organization in protest. One Israeli journalist and IFJ member, Yaron Anosh, told White he was not welcome in Israel until he retracted his censure.
The IFJ noted that it has protested targeting of news operations in the past, especially in 1999 when a NATO strike on Radio Television Serbia in Belgrade resulted in the deaths of 16 media workers. Since then, IFJ said, it has condemned raids against media in Palestine, Indonesia, Iraq and Pakistan.
“Once media are attacked with impunity, journalists on all sides are at risk,” White said. “We insist that journalists and unarmed media must be regarded at all times as non-combatants and must not be attacked by military forces.”