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Journalists assaulted and censored

Palestinian journalists are facing rubber bullets from Israeli soldiers and censorship from the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian journalists are facing rubber bullets from Israeli soldiers and censorship from the Palestinian Authority.

via MADA

Palestinian journalists are under attack from Israeli forces and are also subjected to raids and arrests as a result of political rivalry between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, report the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Meanwhile, Israel continues to target and detain scores of Palestinians involved in protests against the separation barrier in the West Bank with freedom of movement and expression violations, reports Human Rights Watch.

In MADA's 2009 report on press freedom violations in the occupied Palestinian territories, it recorded 97 attacks on the press committed by Israeli occupation forces and settlers, and 76 committed by Palestinian security forces and armed groups in the West Bank and Gaza. Four Palestinian journalists were killed as a result of attacks by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. Israeli security forces escalated assaults on journalists in Jerusalem and barred entry to the premises of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. During 2009, Palestinian authorities detained 30 journalists, while Israeli authorities detained seven. Palestinian journalists injured by Israeli forces climbed to 34, while Palestinian authorities injured six.

The report adds that Israeli authorities have restricted the movement of Palestinian journalists to and from the Gaza Strip, prevented journalists in the West Bank from travelling to and from Israel and Jerusalem, and prevented some journalists from travelling abroad. Rifts between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas led to media organisations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip being shut down by authorities or halted by media owners due to fear of reprisals. As a result, Palestinian journalists regularly self-censor out of fear of both Hamas and Fatah.

Journalist Mustafa Sabri has been routinely arrested and harassed. His home in the West Bank was raided on 9 March by members of the Palestinian Authority's security forces, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Just hours after Sabri, former bureau chief of the newspaper "Filastine", was released from prison on bail, he was prevented from giving an interview at his home with Al-Quds TV station about the role of the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate. In Gaza City, security forces for Hamas raided the home of Noufouz Al-Bakri, correspondent for the newspaper "Al-Hayat Al-Jadida", the day after she criticised women's right violations in the Gaza Strip online on 7 March.

Human Rights Watch reports that British journalist Paul Martin was released on 11 March after being detained without charge for 25 days by Hamas. Martin went to Gaza to testify on behalf of a detained former militant charged with spying and collaboration. Hamas authorities suspected Martin of being a spy. "That a high profile, foreign journalist can suffer such unfair detention makes me wonder about the rights of lower-profile, Palestinian detainees caught in Hamas's military court system," said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.

According to MADA, on 5 March, six journalists were attacked while reporting on clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian demonstrators in Jerusalem and Hebron. Associated Press photographer Mahfouz Abu Turk was wounded by rubber bullets while covering the conflict between Palestinian youth and Israeli security forces at Al-Aqsa Mosque. European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) photographer Abdel-Hafiz Hashlamoun was beaten by soldiers while covering clashes in Hebron and his camera was broken. "They tried to stop us from covering the clashes between Israeli forces and young people, where soldiers have launched sound and tear gas bombs." Other journalists were brutally assaulted by Israeli soldiers.

More attacks on the media took place on 16 March as police blocked both foreign and local journalists from covering clashes in Al-Esawiya near Jerusalem. Two Palestinian television cameramen were attacked, others were detained. On 15 March police lobbed tear gas grenades at Palestinian journalists attempting to film clashes in Jerusalem.

In other clashes, Israeli military authorities have arbitrarily arrested and denied due process to Palestinians protesting the building of the separation wall on West Bank land rather than along the Green Line, says Human Rights Watch. Palestinians advocating non-violent protests against the separation barrier are being charged based on false evidence and coerced confessions. Detainees, including children, are being denied access to lawyers and family members.

Mohammed Khatib, a leader of the Bil'in Popular Committee and the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, which organises protests against the wall, was detained and charged with "stone throwing" at a demonstration in 2008, even though his passport shows he was in New Caledonia, a Pacific Island, at the time. He was released in August 2009 with the condition that he present himself at a police station at the time of weekly anti-wall protests, barring him from participating. Khatib was detained again in January 2010 and released in February. He has published articles calling for non-violent protests in leading U.S. media, reports Human Rights Watch.

In the last two months, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented several cases of attacks on the press, including detentions, censorship, harassment and physical attacks by Israeli soldiers. Israeli forces fired rubber bullets at Xinhua News Agency photographer Nidal Ishtieh in the village of Oraq Burin on 6 February. The same day, the Israeli military held a bus carrying 50 journalists at the Container Checkpoint outside Bethlehem.

Related stories on
  • MADA's 2009 annual report on press freedom

    MADA recorded 173 violations of media freedoms, 97 committed by Israeli occupation forces and settlers and 76 by Palestinian security forces and armed groups.

  • Seven journalists assaulted in Jerusalem and Hebron

    Several of the journalists were injured in clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian demonstrators.

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