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Middle East Issues





UNESCO Corrects: Hamas Man Not a Journalist


CAMERA's Israel office prompts correction of a UNESCO press release which had erroneously identified a Hamas man killed during summer fighting in the Gaza Strip as "a Palestinian journalist."
 
The Aug. 29 press release had stated:
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, today denounced the killing of Palestinian journalist Abdullah Murtaja, who died on 25 August.

“I condemn the killing of Abdullah Murtaja,” the Director-General said. “Journalists must be able to carry out their work in safe conditions and their civilian status needs to be respected at all times. Society needs to be kept informed of events, never more so than when living in the shadow of conflict...”
UNESCO also listed Abdullah Murtaja on a dedicated website to journalists who were" killed in the exercise of their profession" and which "remembers their contribution to freedom of expression, democracy and peace."
 
In the last week, however, two blogs (Israellycool and Elder of Ziyon) revealed that the Hamas' Al Qassam Brigades had released a video showing that Murtaja was a member of the terrorist group. In addition, the Al Qassam Brigade released this image of Murtaja:
 

 
Following communication from CAMERA's Israel office, UNESCO promptly issued this commendable press release:
UNESCO Director-General Statement regarding Abdullah Murtaja
 
On 14 November, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, issued an update about the statement she issued on 29 August, 2014, regarding Abdullah Murtaja, in the context of UNESCO’s mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom.
 
The original statement issued on 29 August was in line with UNESCO’s policy of condemning all killings of journalists. During this week, information has been brought to the attention of UNESCO that Mr Murtaja was a member of an organized armed group -- an active combatant, and, therefore, not a civilian journalist. This has come to light in a video was posted recently on the Internet with Abdullah Murtaja speaking as a member of an organized armed group.
 
UNESCO therefore withdraws the statement of 29 August.
 
“I deplore attempts to instrumentalize the profession of journalists by combatants," declared Irina Bokova. “The civilian status of journalists is critical, especially in situations of conflict, to ensure the free flow of information and ideas that are essential to the wider public and the restoration of stability and peace,” declared the Director-General.
UNESCO has also removed him from its list of journalists killed while working.
 
In November 2012, CAMERA had prompted correction of a Los Angeles Times article which similarly misidentified Ramez Harb, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader killed in Operation Pillar of Defense, as "a Palestinian journalist."
 
In 2013, CAMERA was also instrumental in convincing the Newseum, Washington, D.C.’s journalism museum, to “reevaluate” its decision to add the names of two Hamas members to its “Journalists’ Memorial.”

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