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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Towards an Independent Investigation into Israel's Targeting of Journalists in Lebanon

Wednesday , 28 February 2024

On February 23, 2024 More than 120 local and international bodies, including the Samir Kassir Foundation, submitted two official letters to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, and the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, demanding an independent investigation into Israel’s targeting of journalists in south Lebanon, which resulting in the killing of the Reuters videojournalist Issam Abdallah and Al-Mayadeen correspondent Farah Omar and Al-Mayadeen camera operator Rabeh Al-Maamari, in addition to the injury of other journalists, including Carmen Joukhadar and Elie Barkhia (Al-Jazeera), Christina Assi and Dylan Collins (Agence France-Presse), and Maher Nazih and Thaer Al-Sudani (Reuters).


The two letters were signed by the family of the martyr journalist Issam Abdullah, journalists wounded as a result of attacks targeting journalists, and survivors of them, Lebanese and Arab media institutions, the National Commission for Human Rights in Lebanon, union institutions and bodies concerned with journalism in Lebanon and the Arab world, local, Arab and international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Euromed Rights, International Federation for Human Rights and MENA Rights Group, in addition to current and former Lebanese MPs and ministers.


In the letter addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, based on his responsibility to promote human rights in the world, the signatories specified the three demands: (1) Conduct an independent investigation through independent experts in the field of human rights appointed by his office to reveal the facts related to these targeting and publish a report specifying responsibilities, (2) Mentioning this issue in his remarks at the February/March session of the Human Rights Council.


In the letter addressed to the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, the signatories asked, based on her responsibility to enhance the safety of journalists and combat impunity for those who target them, to take the following actions: (1) advocate for accountability for the apparent war crimes committed by Israel in south Lebanon against seven journalists on October 13, 2023 and against two journalists on November 21, 2023, (2) publicly and privately support our call for an OHCHR investigation, and (3) include the cases of Mr. Issam Abdallah, Mrs. Farah Omar and Mr. Rabih Al-Maamari in the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists.


The two letters included a summary of the results of the investigations by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, and Reporters Without Borders into the killing of Issam Abdullah, which concluded that Israel deliberately targeted the journalists on October 13, which constitutes a war crime according to international law.


It also included a summary of the letter of Special Rapporteurs Irene Khan (on the right to freedom of opinion and expression), Maurice Tidball Benz (on extrajudicial executions) and Mary Lawlor (on the situation of human rights defenders), which they addressed to the Israeli government and was published on 13 January 2024 following the latter did not respond to them despite 60 days having passed since their correspondence, in which they announced their concern that the targeting of media workers occurred as a direct result of their work as independent journalists.


The letters also included a reference to the report of the United Nations special rapporteurs on Israel’s targeting of journalists in Gaza and southern Lebanon, in addition to local and international reports on these deliberate targeting and killing crimes.


Read the letters here:

Letter addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk

Letter addressed to the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay

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