CPJ concerned about ongoing restrictions on journalists

New York, October 9, 2001—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about the Palestinian National Authority’s recent restrictions on journalists operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

CPJ has learned that Palestinian authorities today barred foreign journalists from entering the Gaza Strip in an apparent effort to thwart negative coverage following yesterday’s bloody clashes between Palestinian security forces and Palestinian demonstrators that resulted in the deaths of two protestors and the wounding of dozens more in Gaza City.

The demonstrators were protesting U.S. military strikes against Afghanistan and were also expressing support for Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

Yesterday, Palestinian authorities barred some foreign reporters from entering Gaza and prevented others from reaching the scene of the clashes. At least two journalists who did cover the demonstration were attacked by Palestinian police and later detained for several hours.

“In recent weeks the Palestinian National Authority has shown an unmistakable resolve to smother undesirable news coverage,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We condemn these blatant acts of censorship and call on the PNA to cease its harassment of journalists immediately.”

On September 11, PNA security forces harassed and censored journalists covering celebrations among some Palestinians of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. [See CPJ letter]

On September 20, PNA security forces temporarily shut down Al Roa, a private television station in the West Bank. [See CPJ alert] The station had recently aired a statement from a militant group called the Al-Aqsa Brigades, affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization, which claimed responsibility for an attack on two Jewish settlers that left one settler dead.

Al-Roa’s bulletin apparently embarrassed PNA authorities because it suggested that a group technically under Arafat’s control might have violated the recently announced Palestinian cease-fire.