Wave of international support for Palestinian photojournalist shot in the eye
LONDON - Freelance photographer Muaaz Amarneh, a 35-year-old father of two, was wounded in the face with a rubber-coated bullet fired by Israeli forces. Amarneh was photographing clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians protesting the confiscation of Palestinian land in Sureef village, adjacent to the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
The moment of his injury November 15 was captured on video, which showed Amarneh holding his camera in pain as he bled from his eye. He has undergone two operations and is at risk of losing sight in his left eye. He needs urgent medical care because shrapnel remains close to his brain.
Amarneh’s Palestinian colleagues and journalists from all backgrounds began an online campaign to express solidarity. Sit-in protests were staged in Gaza and the West Bank where demonstrators carried placards reading, "The eyes of truth will never be blinded" and other slogans.
During protests in Bethlehem, Israeli forces fired tear gas at journalists expressing solidarity with their colleague and briefly detained two.
The Israeli forces’ violent response fuelled the solidarity campaign. Soon, hashtags #MuazAmarnah, #MuathEye, #ProtectPalestinianJournalists and #EyeOfTruth were trending on social media. Palestinian media figures posted photos of themselves covering one eye with their hand or wearing white eye patches in support of the wounded journalist.
Palestinian officials, activists and supporters around the world expressed sympathy and posted photos in solidarity.
Speaking from his hospital bed, Amarneh, who is from the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, said he was on his way to “a car to leave the scene when a bullet fired by Israeli forces hit a nearby object and exploded, sending shrapnel into my eye.”
Amarneh was wearing a helmet and a protective vest marked “Press” when he was injured, video of the journalist posted on Facebook by his brother, Tareq Amarneh, indicated.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joined its Palestinian affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), in denouncing the attack on Amarneh.
“This was a deliberate targeting by the Israeli army of a colleague wearing a bulletproof vest signed ‘Press.’ We call on international institutions to act quickly to stop this violence against the press in Palestine,” PJS said in a statement.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "Once again, the IFJ deplores the attacks on Palestinian journalists by the Israeli military. The IFJ recalls that international law applies everywhere and that no government is above it.
“It is now time for the UN General Assembly to adopt the Convention for the Protection and Safety of Journalists so that the impunity enjoyed by predators of press freedom and democracy can end in Israel as elsewhere."
Amarneh’s injury was not the first caused by Israeli attacks on journalists. Three other freelance photojournalists lost eyes in attacks this year while reporting on Israeli attacks on Palestinian protesters along the Gaza security fence.
Atiah Darwish and Sami Mosran were injured in December and July, respectively. Darwish, who was hit in the face with a tear gas canister, needs medical attention and cosmetic surgery because he suffered hearing loss, weak vision in his other eye and slight facial disfiguration.
“I know how it feels to lose an eye,” Darwish said. “I stand in solidarity with Muaaz. When I was injured my eye kept bleeding for a week and my ear for the next two days.”
Photojournalists Ahmed Abu Hussein and Yaser Murtaja were killed reporting on protests in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Gaza border protests in March 2018.
PJS said 60 journalists have been targeted with live ammunition fired by Israeli soldiers this year. An additional 170 sustained wounds because of sound and tear gas bombs, including many who were beaten or banned from reporting on events by Israeli authorities. Currently, 18 journalists are held in Israeli prisons and detention centres.
There have been 550 attacks this year on Palestinian journalists, the Palestinian Committee of Supporting Journalists said in a statement following the closure of a Palestine TV office in East Jerusalem by Israeli forces November 20.