Friday, 9 January 2015

It is never right to forcibly attack journalists

Today the Guardian published shortened version of a letter to the  editor  I submitted. Below is the full text:

Your trenchant leader against the criminal terrorism committed in Paris (8 January) asserts the “adjectives are simply not there to capture the horror of weapons of war in a civilian office.”
(“The Guardian view on Charlie Hebdo: those guns were trained on free speech,”
Maybe not for the Paris outrage. However, we should not forget NATO - on our behalf  - has twice bombed media headquarters in its invasions of Serbia and Afghanistan respectively.

Your security specialist, Richard Norton-Taylor reported 16 years ago, (“Serb TV station was legitimate target, says Blair,” 24 April 1999, that NATO attacked the Serbian State television (RTS) headquarters  in the centre of Belgrade, killing thirteen members of the media, which contradicted an apparent earlier assurance by NATO  that only transmitters would be hit,  was condemned by international journalists' organisations, representing both employers and unions.

The then prime minister Tony Blair and NATO's military spokesman, Air Commodore David Wilby, described RTS as an “entirely legitimate target.” But the then general secretary of the National Union of Journalists described the attack as 'barbarity', adding   “Killing journalists does not stop censorship, it only brings more repression.”

Then in 2001, just before the Northern Alliance marched into Kabul on 12 November, the US airforce, acting for NATO, dropped a 500-pound bomb on the studios of the popular Arab satellite TV station al-Jazeera, also damaging  damaged nearby offices of the BBC and the Associated Press.

By chance, nobody was hurt, as the building was not occupied at the time by any of the 10 al-Jazeera journalists and technicians based there.

It is never right to attack journalists, even if you disagree with the editorial position of their media outlet, print or broadcast. We should uphold this defence of freedom, not apply it selectively.


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