Almost half of all Palestinian field reporters, photographers and camera crews have been shot at, beaten, detained or banned from covering news, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) revealed in a new report.
The PJS annual press freedom report, published on 17 January, recorded more than 600 attacks and violations of Palestinian journalists´ rights during 2016. The vast majority of these attacks (557) were committed by the Israeli army and security forces. Dozens of other attacks against journalists were committed by the security forces of Hamas, the de facto government in Gaza Strip, and the security forces of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank.
The PJS said in the report, which it launched at its offices in Ramallah, that the Israeli army and security forces actions included causing injury to 84 journalists hit by rubber bullets, stun bombs or teargas canisters. 65 journalists were charged in Israeli courts and 40 were arrested, 12 of whom remain behind bars. 118 journalists were briefly detained or prevented from covering events and 16 journalists were prevented from traveling outside Palestine through the borders with Jordan. Media companies also suffered at the hands of the Israeli authorities. 37 organizations were closed down, or had their equipment confiscated.
“Our report shows clearly that the Israeli occupation is waging a real war against the Palestinian journalists and media. This is what the Israeli government said it would do in its inciting statement on 15 February against Palestinian media. We call for international support to help protect journalists from the Israeli occupation,” said Nasser Abu Baker, PJS President.
“We salute our Palestinian colleagues for their resilience and steadfastness in the face of such danger and hardship,” said IFJ President Philippe Leruth. “These Palestinian journalists have been subjected to these kind of attacks and intimidation year and after, it can only reflect a shameful policy of targeting them by the Israeli authorities as well as by the security forces in Occupied Palestine. This must stop immediately.”
The PJS also reported that in the Gaza Strip, 13 journalists were detained and violently questioned by the security forces of Hamas, the de facto government. 17 more were also questioned and verbally assaulted by the security forces. In the West Bank, the PA security forces and police questioned 21 journalists for long hours and some of them under inhuman conditions. In both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, dozens of journalists were beaten and/or prevented from covering protests and demonstrations.
“Palestinian security forces must respect the rights and freedoms of the Palestinian journalists guaranteed by the Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World which was signed by President Abbas. They must also respect the agreement signed by the Palestinian Attorney General which prohibits the detention and arrest of journalists for their work,” added Abu Baker.
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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries