The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has backed its affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), in condemning the “dramatic increase” in violations against Palestinian media and journalists following the publication of the PJS 2017 annual report.
In 2017, the PJS recorded 909 media violations in West Bank and Gaza, 37% more than the ones recorded the previous year. The media violations included the closure of media offices and production companies, financial penalties, websites blockages and journalists´ arrests.
According to PJS report, released earlier this month, 81% of the media violations (740) were committed by Israeli forces while 19% (169) were attributed to Palestinian authorities.
The IFJ and PJS are concerned by the rise of these violations, especially those committed by the Palestinian authorities as they have increased by 61%.
“With this sharp escalation in the Israeli violations against our journalists, it is shameful to see such an increase in the violations committed by the local authorities,” said PJS President, Nasser Abu Baker, who is also a member of the IFJ's Executive Committee.
Abu Baker also condemned Facebook’s decision to close 158 Palestinian accounts based on an Israeli request.
The second part of the year witnessed higher percentage of violations, according to the report, and December was the worst month for Palestinian media and journalists as a result of clashes in Jerusalem, Hebron and Ramallah following the US government’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
December represents 20% of all violations last year followed by July. Also in December there was an incitement campaign by Israeli media and social media against Palestinian journalists, the report added.
Furthermore, the report covers other restrictive measures on press freedom, which included closure in October of eight offices of three media production companies on the order of the Israeli military. Two other radio stations were raided and closed, two journalists got a 2-year jail sentence because of their professional activities while 25 journalists faced financial penalties, according to the PJS Head of freedoms committee Mohammed Allaham.
Jerusalem recorded more media violations (147) last year, followed by Hebron and Ramallah.
The PJS report also highlighted a new trend of media violations by Palestinian authorities, mainly the electronic crimes law, which drove to blocking and prohibiting 29 websites since June and several arrests within the profession.
“The IFJ is deeply concerned about the dramatic increase in violations against Palestinian journalists reported by our affiliate the PJS,” said IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger. “We call on both Israeli and Palestinian authorities to secure safety of our colleagues who are covering protests in the area as well as to ensure press freedom for all media in West Bank and Gaza.”