IDF troops continue to harass journalists in West Bank

April 24, 2002, New York—CPJ deplores the continuing harassment of journalists by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops deployed in the West Bank.

In the most recent incident, the IDF today detained Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana, who was CPJ’s 2001 International Press Freedom awardee, and Hussam Abu Alan, a photographer for Agence-France Presse (AFP). IDF troops stopped the two journalists at the Beit Einun checkpoint north of Hebron when they tried to reach a nearby village to cover a funeral for Palestinian militants killed by Israeli forces.

Dana told CPJ that soldiers detained them for about three hours and confiscated their cameras. Dana was released, but Abu Alan was handcuffed, blindfolded, and later taken to an undisclosed location.

The soldiers at the checkpoint threatened to shoot Dana. The cameraman was released soon after Abu Alan was taken away, but his equipment has not yet been returned.

Christian Chaise, Jerusalem AFP bureau chief, told CPJ that according to the IDF, Hossam Abu Alan is still being held for questioning.

“The Israeli government must allow journalists to report on the ongoing conflict in the West Bank,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We urge the IDF to release detained journalists immediately and to allow them to carry out their work without further hindrance.”

CPJ has documented several other recent cases of official interference with the press:

On April 22, IDF soldiers confiscated the press cards of 17 foreign and Palestinian journalists who had attempted to approach Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, site of an ongoing standoff between the Israeli army and Palestinians holed up inside.

Troops stopped them when the journalists, from news organizations including The Associated Press, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, the BBC, and AFP, tried to approach the church. An officer told the group that it was a closed military area and ordered the journalists’ press cards confiscated. Most of the cards were returned later that day following protests from news organizations. Other journalists told CPJ they expected to receive their cards soon.

On April 20, Israeli troops detained veteran Reuters photographer Mahfouz Abu Turk at an army checkpoint while he and two colleagues were leaving the Jenin refugee camp. After examining the journalists’ press cards, the soldiers blindfolded Abu Turk and took him away in an armored personnel carrier.

When one of the journalists asked why Abu Turk had been detained, a soldier told them that the photographer was on a “list” and had to be “questioned.” Abu Turk later told CPJ that he was handcuffed and put on a bus, where he was held for 22 hours without food or water before being released. He was never questioned.

On or about April 18, Israeli forces arrested Maher al-Dessouki, the host of a talk show on the Ramallah-based Al-Quds Educational TV. Al-Dessouki was taken from his brother-in-law’s home along with another journalist, Kamel Jbeil. Both are being held at the Ofer detention facility near Ramallah and have not been charged with any offense, according to CPJ sources. Dessouki hosts the popular weekly talk show “Space for Opinion.”

See full list of cases of harassment of journalists in the West Bank and Gaza since 2000.