A journalist associated with Spain’s El Pais newspaper on Monday condemned attempts by Israeli authorities to “silence and confuse” foreign reporters amid the latest outbreak of violence.
“It’s never been easy for international media to communicate with Israeli authorities. But when a conflict like this, with dozens of civilian victims, threatens to tarnish the image of the Jewish state, it becomes arduous,” wrote Juan Carlos Sanz Jerusalem-based Middle East correspondent of the El Pais.
He pointed out the false reports that came out late Thursday night about Israel launching a ground operation in Gaza.
At that time, the Israeli media sent out a statement to the foreign press saying: “IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip.”
When asked by foreign reporters, the international spokesperson of the Israeli Defense Forces Jonathan Conricu, confirmed the story. The news of a dramatic ground invasion spread around the world but turned out to be completely false.
Meanwhile, the Israeli media, which received its information from the military in Hebrew, did not report on the ground invasion. Instead, some Israeli news outlets, such as Channel 12, applauded the military’s ruse.
Channel 12 claimed that the military manipulated the foreign media to draw Palestinian militants into tunnels to prepare for ground fighting. Israel used that to launch a flurry of airstrikes with the tunnels as their main targets.
Conricu denied that it was a ploy and told the foreign press that spreading false information was an honest mistake.
Sanz also aimed the recent Israeli attacks on both foreign and local media offices.
On Saturday, Israeli warplanes destroyed a building in Gaza City with offices of various media groups including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press.
Israeli officials alleged that the office tower was also being used by Hamas, but has yet to provide any evidence.
-Act to stop journalists
Al Jazeera called the bombing a “clear act to stop journalists from conducting their sacred duty to inform the world and report events on the ground”.
The Associated Press released a statement saying: “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”
The American news agency also cast doubt on whether Hamas was using the building.
“AP’s bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building. This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk,” said the statement.
-23 media outlets attacked
But that hasn’t been the only attack on media infrastructure by Israeli forces. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the premises of 23 media outlets have been attacked in the last week.
The first attack occurred last Wednesday when the Israeli army destroyed the Al-Jawhara Tower. It housed 14 media outlets including the Palestine Daily News and the Spanish news agency EFE.
RSF has called on the International Criminal Court to investigate whether the Israeli air force attacks on the media constitute war crimes.
In 2008-2009, Sanz reported that Israeli authorities not allowing foreign journalists to cross into the Gaza strip.
According to RSF, several journalists have been injured or “disproportionately attacked” since the conflict broke out, including three working for the Anadolu Agency. The majority have been Palestinian, but two were Turkish.
Israel is ranked 86th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index.
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