Newseum, the Washington D.C. journalism and media museum, announced on Friday it would not back down from its decision to honor two Gaza-based journalists working for a Hamas-run news outlet.
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The two journalists were killed by the Israeli army during operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
Since 1996, the museum has been holding an annual ceremony in which it honors journalists killed while reporting. This year, 90 names will be added to the plaque that currently includes the names of 2,246.
The two journalists, Hassam Salama and Mahmoud al-Kumi, were killed in an IDF airstrike while travelling in their car in the Gaza Strip. They were covering the events there for Al Aqsa TV, a Hamas-run news outlet.
Criticism over the inclusion of the two journalists was voiced by various parties, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the National Jewish Democratic Council, and various U.S. right-leaning media organizations.
Newseum defended its decision on Friday by reiterating the criteria for its commemoration of fallen journalists. "To be listed on the memorial, an individual must have been a contributor of news, commentary or photography to a news outlet; an editor or news executive; a producer, camera operator, sound engineer or other member of a broadcast crew; or a documentary filmmaker, it said in a statement.
Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so, Sarah Lee Whitson, the Middle East director of Human Rights Watch, was quoted by Huffington Post as saying. Journalists who praise Hamas and TV stations that applaud attacks on Israel may be propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate targets under the laws of war.
Journalists working in war zones are protected by international law.