Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Gaza: In Need of Journalists | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The recent kidnapping of two foreign journalists working for Fox News in Gaza was not the first of its kind. Over the past few years, kidnappings have become frequent but have often been interpreted as incidents that violate the context of the general situation of the city, in contrast to the situation in Iraq.

Kidnapping operations would usually last for one or two days. Last year, when French journalist, Mohammed Ouathi of Algerian origin was kidnapped for nine days, it was clear that the hostage takers did not have a clear plan, were well known and that their demands were in reference to livelihood. The aim behind stating these facts is not to simplify the kidnapping and detaining of hostages whoever they may be, as this act deprives a person of the most vital of human rights, namely, liberty.

What is surprising regarding the kidnapping of the two Fox News journalists, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig who were freed after nearly two weeks, is that the operation was unlike other hostage-taking operations that have preceded it in Gaza. The gunmen were unknown, which is quite unusual for the most crowded district of the world. The gunmen had adopted a professional style in comparison to previous operations. In the center of the city and close to the center of the Palestinian security forces, the gunmen were able to force two journalists to get out of their car and take them to an unknown location. Efforts by the weak and fragile local authorities had failed to identify where the perpetrators and hostages were located.

The hostage-taking operation was followed by an announcement made by an Islamic Jihad organization stating that it had detained the two men. After a few days had passed, similar videos in both form and content to those seen in Iraq were broadcast.

What has taken place is a serious and unprecedented change and will undoubtedly impose itself on the reality of media coverage in Gaza and Palestinian areas in general. These areas have witnessed the departure of a great number of western journalists and staff from international corporations, some of which were burnt to the ground and destroyed in the aftermath of the Danish cartoon controversy.

Palestinians now live in a constant state of anger and rage that has only increased since the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in June. Despite this, news from Gaza failed to appear on the front pages of newspapers or as the main story of news bulletins due to Israel’s war on Lebanon, which attracted many journalists and reporters from all over the world, even though 187 Palestinians have been killed since last July, mainly in Gaza. On the day that the ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel was announced, a house was demolished in Gaza with a mother and her two children inside following Israeli bombing, however the media barely covered the story.

The fact that the two journalists work for Fox News, a right wing American media organization, is irrelevant and does not justify the kidnapping operation that was carried out against them. The operation came at a time when the Palestinians are in dire need of media coverage, western coverage in particular, in order to reflect the tragedies and painful realities that this nation is enduring.