April 16, 2018
“Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) is deeply concerned about the firing of Kevin Metcalf, a staff person at Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), following a statement he issued in the name of the organization condemning the recent attack on Palestinian protesters by the Israeli Defence Forces,” said Corey Balsam, Independent Jewish Voices’ National Coordinator.
The CJFE statement called on Canada, a close ally of Israel, to “defend universal principles of human rights, democracy and press freedom” and to condemn the one-sided use of military force against civilian demonstrators and members of the press in Gaza. The statement was written in response to the shooting of hundreds of protesters by Israeli snipers. Among those shot were six journalists wearing vests identifying them as members of the press. One of the wounded journalists, Yasser Murtaja, subsequently succumbed to his wounds. Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, declared that soldiers who fired live ammunition at the protesters and media personnel covering the demonstration “deserve a medal” and that there would be no investigation.
“With Israel’s blockade of access points to the occupied Palestinian territories, local reporters are among the few sources of information coming out of the region,” continued Balsam. “Canadian Journalists for Free Expression was right to condemn the killing of their colleagues as well as other lethal attempts to silence Palestinians’ right to protest, much as they do in other contexts.”
Other international media watchdogs have issued similar statements. Reporters Without Borders went further than the CJFE statement, accusing Israel of “deliberately shooting” journalists in Gaza. Meanwhile, the CJFE statement has been removed from their website and Metcalf, the staffer who drafted it, has been terminated from his position.
The CJFE board of directors has since issued a follow-up statement to clarify its position, noting that, while the original statement had been determined to be “overreaching”, the organization stands by its condemnation of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and its call for an investigation into the incident.
IJV believes that this clarification is insufficient and calls on CJFE to explain its decision to terminate Metcalf. “The firing of Mr. Metcalf for defending press freedom against attacks in Palestine sends the message that support for freedom of the press is contingent,” said Balsam. “We call on CJFE to reinstate Metcalf and to redouble its efforts to pressure the government of Canada to condemn Israel’s indiscriminate use of force against civilians,” he concluded.