The head of the U.N. agency that oversees press freedom sharply criticized NATO on Monday for its criminal July 30 airstrikes against Libyan state television that killed several people and wounded nearly a dozen.
“I deplore the NATO strike on Al-Jamahiriya and its installations,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement.
“Media outlets should not be targeted in military actions,” she said. “U.N. Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006) condemns acts of violence against journalists and media personnel in conflict situations.
At the time of the bombing, NATO spokesman Colonel Roland Lavoie said it “was necessary” as TV was being used for “terror broadcasts” by the Gadhafi regime, “designed to systematically oppress and threaten civilians and to incite attacks against them.” But, Bokova countered, international law prohibits attacks against journalists in war zones, even if they are engaged in propaganda.
But U.S.-NATO powers have recognized information as a weapon for a long time. Notably, during the bombing of Serbia in 1999, NATO attacked the government-run studios of Radio Television Serbia (RTS) in Belgrade, killing sixteen employees. The attack occurred with total impunity and to this day has seen no accountability.
After the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, al-Jazeera’s Kabul offices were attacked with U.S. missile strikes. Reportedly, there were no journalists killed, but al-Jazeera’s managing director confirmed U.S. forces knew the site was al-Jazeera’s. Again, in Iraq in 2003, the Qatar-based news organization had its offices bombed in Baghdad, and again had its journalists attacked in a Basra hotel.
The UNESCO Director-General is right to deplore these NATO attacks, but it is unlikely to serve any accountability to the western powers.