In what is being decried as a blatant attack on press freedom, Israeli forces destroyed a building in Gaza that housed offices of international media outlets including Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera. Israel alleged that Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, operated from within the building.
Gary Pruitt, AP’s president and CEO, said that the news agency “was shocked and horrified” by the strike. “The Israeli government says the building contained Hamas military intelligence assets. We have called on the Israeli government to put forward the evidence. 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,” Pruitt said in a statement.
“The attack is on journalism, the attack is on information – the freedom and flow of information,” said Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara.
The Committee to Protect Journalists demanded “a detailed and documented justification” for the military attack, which was condemned by several countries and international press freedom organisations.
The Editors Guild of India said that the attack was a “de facto attack on news media by the Israeli government.”
The United States also denounced the attacks on journalists saying, “we have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.” However, it came under criticism for keeping mum on civilian deaths so far.
Israel’s air raids, following drawn-out conflicts between the Jewish country and the Palestinians fighting for independent state, has caused disproportionate deaths and destruction in Gaza Strip, where at least 212 people have lost their lives as of May 18.
A few days before Israel began launching air raids on Gaza, security forces injured at least eight journalists covering protests against Israel’s efforts to forcefully displace Palestinians from the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem.
Social media censorship
Meanwhile, major social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were criticised for censoring content related to the Al Aqsa mosque and Sheikh Jarrah. Users reported that hashtags such as #SaveSheikhJarrah and #Al-Aqsa were blocked.
The head of Instagram termed it “widespread global technical issue.”Al Jazeera said in a report, however, that digital rights groups called on the social media platforms to use transparent moderation policies.
“The issue was not resolved. We’re demanding clarity on this censorship, and system glitches are no longer accepted as an excuse,” Marwa Fatafta, Middle East and North Africa policy adviser for Access Now, told Thomas Reuters Foundation.
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