10 August 2011

NATO launches airstrikes at media outlet

Three journalists were killed and 21 others injured in Tripoli after North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) warplanes bombed three transmission towers on 30 July in an effort to take Libyan state television off the air. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have condemned the attack.

According to NATO, "TV was being used as an integral component of the regime apparatus designed to systematically oppress and threaten civilians and to incite attacks against them. [Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi's increasing practice of inflammatory broadcasts illustrates his regime's policy to instill hatred amongst Libyans, to mobilise its supporters against civilians, and to trigger bloodshed."

In a letter to NATO, CPJ has asked for a more detailed explanation for the motivation behind the attack, saying "we are concerned any time a media facility is the target of a military attack. Such attacks can only be justified under International Humanitarian Law if the media facility is being used for military purposes or to incite violence against the civilian population."

CPJ is asking for evidence of specific broadcasts intended to incite violence. The letter also asks if more airstrikes are being planned since the initial strike failed to halt state television.

IFJ says the bombing is in contravention of UN Security Council resolution 1738, which condemns attacks against journalists, clearly establishing media equipment and installations as civilian locations that should not be considered a target for military reprisals.

"Our concern is that when one side decides to take out a media organisation because they regard its message as propaganda, then all media are at risk," said IFJ. "In conflict situations, international law is clear that unarmed journalists cannot be treated as combatants, irrespective of their political affiliations."

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has also spoken out against the strike on Al-Jamahiriya and its installations: "The NATO strike is also contrary to the principles of the Geneva Conventions that establish the civilian status of journalists in times of war even when they engage in propaganda."

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