3514 International Dr. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Dear Minister Barak,
The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by a recent spate
of press freedom violations in the West Bank,
including detentions, censorship, harassment, and physical attacks by Israeli
soldiers. We ask that you ensure that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) examine
the cases outlined below and discipline any individuals who are found to have
Since the beginning of February, CPJ has documented seven cases and spoken directly to the
journalists involved. A request for comment from the IDF on the cases was not
Israeli forces fired rubber bullets at Xinhua News Agency
photographer Nidal Ishtieh in the village
of Oraq Burin, near Nablus on February 6. Ishtieh was covering a
confrontation between Israeli settlers and people from the village. Members of
the IDF ordered him to stop, Ishtieh told CPJ. When he insisted on continuing
his work, he said, the soldier shot him with rubber bullets in his foot.
The same day, the Palestinian
Center for Development and Media Freedoms
reported that the Israeli military
held a bus carrying 50 journalists at the Container Checkpoint outside Bethlehem. The journalists
were returning from Ramallah to Hebron
after voting in the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate election. Raed al-Atrash,
a producer and presenter for Baladna Radio in Hebron, told CPJ that Israeli soldiers
ordered them to disembark and confiscated their identity cards, which
identified them as journalists. Al-Atrash then argued with one of the soldiers
who pushed, cuffed, and locked him in a room. The remaining journalists refused
to leave without their colleague and remained at the checkpoint until al-Atrash
was released an hour and a half later. He was made to sign a document stating
that he had not been tortured, al-Atrash told CPJ.
that several journalists covering an Israeli military operation in the Shu’fat
refugee camp, just outside East Jerusalem,
were injured when Israeli soldiers fired teargas grenades, stun grenades, and
rubber bullets into a crowd containing journalists on February 8 and 9. Diala Jweihan, a photographer
for Qudsnet, a news Web site,
was injured in the stomach as the result of an IDF-fired stun grenade. Jweihan
told CPJ that she was covering the clashes from a distance when a soldier fired
the grenade in her direction. While covering the same clashes on the afternoon
of February 8, Palestine TV cameraman Nader Pepers, CNN cameraman Karim Khadr, and Reuters photographers Sinan Abu Mizer and Amar Awad were also injured
by teargas grenades and rubber bullets fired by Israeli soldiers, according to
Al-Jazeera. Three other photographers, Atta Awissat and Mahmoud Alyan
of Al-Quds newspaper, and Ahmad al-Gharably of Agence France-Presse, were
injured on February 9 while covering a second day of clashes between camp
dwellers and Israeli soldiers. Al-Gharably told CPJ that soldiers deliberately
targeted them and tried to take their equipment.
On February 23, Associated
Press photographer Nasser al-Shuokhi was arrested by Israeli forces outside
the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.
Al-Shuokhi was taking pictures of the mosque when an Israeli soldier approached
him, confiscated his camera, and called him a “terrorist,” he told CPJ. He was
then taken to an interrogation room in the Kiryat Arba’ settlement and informed
that he was being sued by a settler for assault. Al-Shuokhi denied the charge
and was released on a bail of 1,000 NIS
(US$266). He said he is due to appear in court on September 28.
On March 7, Associated
Press photographer Mahfouz Abu Turk and Al-Quds newspaper photographer Mahmoud Alian were injured by
Israeli forces while covering clashes between the soldiers and Palestinians in
the courtyard of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, according to news reports. Abu
Turk told CPJ that he sustained an injury to his right leg when it was hit with
a rubber bullet and that a soldier tried to confiscate his camera.
On the same day, European Press Photo Agency photographer
Abdel-Hafiz Hashlamoun, Palmedia news
Web site cameraman Abdul Ghani Natshe, Quds TV correspondent Akram Natshe, and
Palestinian TV cameraman Mohamed Hmeidat were injured by Israeli forces. The
journalists were covering clashes near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. Hashlamoun told CPJ that two Israeli
soldiers pushed him into a wall and broke his camera. Hmeidat and Akram Natshe both
told CPJ that they were beaten and bruised by Israeli soldiers and were forced
to leave the scene.
We ask that you take decisive
action to end the harassment of journalists and bring the IDF’s practices in
line with international standards of press freedom, allowing journalists to
conduct their work safely and without deliberate interference.
Thank you in advance for your
attention to these important matters. We look forward to your response.