Our editors & readers talk
A camera is not a weapon – redux
I’ve written before that a camera is not a weapon, that a journalist is not a combatant, that the pen and the sword should not be confused.
Yet the Israel Defense Forces seem to be putting the camera very much in the category of weapon in a report on the death in April of Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana.
I’ve given a quote to our reporters about my disappointment in the report.
That it does state that the death was a “tragedy” does not counteract the fact that it condoned the firing of two deadly shells at people it admitted had not been identified clearly and whose only crime was to put a camera on a tripod.
Said the report: “Two persons were spotted leaving the vehicle, carrying a large black object. The black object was placed on a tripod above a dirt mound, and directed at the tank…. The tank crew reported the spotting to its superiors. The latter authorized firing a tank shell at the characters, in light of the genuine suspicion that the object mounted on the tripod and directed at the tank was an anti-tank missile or mortar, a suspicion consistent with the characteristics of that day’s hostilities…”
I do understand the stresses of the battlefield.
I do not understand the deliberate decision to fire on the basis of suspicion and uncertainty.
I wonder how journalists can do their job if doing that job raises such suspicion in the eyes of the Israeli or any other military.
The dangers seem too great.
And yet, the stakes of not reporting a war to the world are too high as well.
“…the tank crew was unable to determine the nature of the object mounted on the tripod and positively identify it as an anti-tank missile, a mortar, or a television camera,” the report said.
To me, killing on the basis of such little certainty makes the death of Fadel Shana much more than just a tragedy.
For a little more investigation, a little more military intelligence, would have shown clearly that he was just a professional doing his job.
And that his camera was a weapon only for the truth.
Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana looks out of the window at the Reuters office in Gaza City April 4, 2006. Shana, 23, and two other Palestinian civilians were killed on April 16, 2008, in what local residents said was an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip. Picture taken April 4, 2006. REUTERS/Don Pessin