Today is Tuesday, July 13th, 2010. It has been 43 days since the bloody raid carried out by the Israeli army in international waters. During this raid on the Mavi Marmara nine people, including one journalist, were killed. We are here today as survivors of that attack, and as journalists who were not silenced by Israeli bullets. There were about sixty press members from Turkey and all over the world on those ships, which departed to carry humanitarian aid to the civlians of Gaza, who are imprisoned under an illegal Israeli blockade.
The raid at dawn targeted both journalists and regular civilians. The press members were confronted with death like everyone else on the ship.
The soldiers who illegally boarded the ship and opened fire, by order from the Israeli Ministry of Defence, also prevented us from doing our job. In fact, they ultimately punished us for doing our job. This is in clear violation of international law.
According to the “International Instrument for Citizenship and Civil Rights” which has been accepted by the United Nations since 1966, and the “First Principles Declaration Regarding the Mass Circulation of Media” which has been prepared by UNESCO. This enshrines “the freedom to give information, by journalists” and forbids “preventing them from collecting information”. Rights which Israel has clearly violated.
We were faced with an inhumane intervention that was against international law and in violation of the most basic of human rights. One of our fellow journalists, Cevdet Kılıçlar, was ruthlessly executed with a bullet to his forehead while fulfilling his duties as a journalist.
After the bloody raid was complete, our human dignity was completely disregarded as we were forced on our knees under the burning sun with our hands tied behind our backs. It was a harsh violation of our human rights. Our freedom to collect and keep information was completely ignored. Live broadcasts and all other forms of communication with the outside world were disrupted and prevented by the jamming of our satellite connection.
Our computers, cameras, memory cards- in short all the equipment necessary to do our job- were illegally confiscated, they were all stolen. The vast majority of these items were not returned. The few items that were returned had been destroyed deeming them utterly useless.
In addition to this, all of our personal belongings- books, clothes, shoes, and even toothbrushes were also stolen. Some of our money and passports were forcefully seized and never returned.
We were arrested at gun-point. They put handcuffs on us. We were illegally questioned over and over again, as if we were criminals. We had to endure humiliating body searched, full body searches, in order to prevent any images from reaching the outside world. Neither our press credentials, nor our membership to national and international press associations were acknowledged or respected.
We were told several times, and in the harshest and rudest possible way, that being a member of the press meant nothing. We were kidnapped and illegally detained in prison for two days. During this time we were not allowed to communicate with our press associations, employers or even our families. We were not given lawyers; in fact many of us never even got councilor assistance from our government. We could neither receive information from the outside world, nor send information out.
Press rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by international agreements have been disregarded, disrespected and treated with utter contempt by Israel. The rule of law- one of the shared values of all humanity- was ignored. We cannot and must not remain silent. Not as humans, nor as members of the press. We must protect the rights that have been fought for by so many who sacrificed so much so that we can benefit from them today.
Because of this we have established a platform called Flotilla Free Press (FFP). We will share developments and news about the what happened to us as journalists on that bloody night, and the steps we are taking to secure our rights on our website which shares the name.
We have researched our rights within the framework of international law. We have initiated action with our journalist friends from all over the world and are lodging law suites both in our own countries and in Israel.
We, as journalists, will follow this process to the end by suing for psychological and material damages under national and international law so that the guilty parties in this heinous crime against humanity, this blotch on the human history, will be punished and brought to justice.
In accordance with the information that we have received from our lawyers about the legal status of this action, we consider it beneficial to share with you our demands from both the United Nations and the government of Israel:
1- There is a prohibition against intercepting boats on the open seas according to international agreements. Firstly, the event occurred in international waters that are in the open seas. According to 1958 Geneva and 1983 the United Nations Admiralty Law Contract open seas means international waters which are not under the dominion of any state. There is the principle of the freedom of open seas. The Israeli government committed a crime in intercepting and boarding our ship in complete violation of international contracts, treaties and customs. Those who issued the order to attack, and those who carried out this raid must be held accountable by independent, international courts. The decisions resulting from this inquiry and prosecution are expected to be in accordance with human conscience and first the principles of law.
2- Israel violated international laws by seizing our technical equipment. The Israeli state must immediately return this equipment to journalists intact.
3- The attack on the Freedom Flotilla was an attack against press freedom. The event must be investigated by an objective, international commission under the supervision of the United Nations. The Israeli government must pay compensation to those who have suffered in this event, including their relatives.
4- The Israeli state has used disproportionate force and also ignored UN laws which prevent the deliberate use of force on journalists and civilians.
There were no weapons at all on the ship. On the contrary there was medicine, food, children’s playground equipment and other similar humanitarian aid. Most importantly, Israel knew this. The United Nations must take various actions, including economic sanctions, against Israel. Both the United Nations and the Security Council must deal with this situation seriously. This incident must be condemned in the harshest of terms by the Security Council.
5- Equally, international press associations must draft censure resolutions aimed at the Israeli government, which has prevented journalists from doing their job.
We will persist in our demands of the International community.
We will continue in our struggle to ensure that free media is not attacked.
We will continue reporting the truth.
We will not be silenced.
Flotilla Free Press (FFP) Member Journalists