May 3, 2002
His Excellency Ariel Sharon
Prime Minister of the State of Israel
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street
Via facsimile: 972-2-651-2631
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly protests the Israeli government’s continued detention of several journalists in the West Bank.
As of today, at least three journalists are in Israeli custody after being arrested while carrying out their professional duties. The IDF has so far provided no explanation for their detentions. They are:
Youssry al-Jamal, Reuters. On April 30, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops in the West Bank town of Hebron detained Youssry al-Jamal, a soundman for the Reuters news agency. Al-Jamal and Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana were filming near the Al-Ahli Hospital when soldiers demanded to see their identification cards and then informed them that they were under arrest.
The journalists were blindfolded, handcuffed, and taken to an outdoor holding area, where they spent the night without food or water. Dana was released the next day, but al-Jamal remains in custody.
Hussam Abu Alan, Agence France-Presse (AFP). On April 24, the IDF detained Abu Alan, a veteran, Hebron-based photographer for the AFP. IDF troops stopped Abu Alan and Mazen Dana of Reuters (mentioned above) at the Beit Einun checkpoint north of Hebron when they tried to reach a nearby village to cover the funeral of Palestinian militants killed by Israeli forces.
The soldiers detained the two journalists for about three hours and confiscated their cameras. Dana was released and his camera was later returned, but Abu Alan was handcuffed, blindfolded, and taken to an undisclosed location. He remains in Israeli custody.
Jalal Ehmad, Al-Roa’ TV. On April 3, IDF troops in downtown Bethlehem detained Jalal Ehmad, a cameraman with the private, Bethlehem-based television station Al-Roa, along with several other journalists who had set up a makeshift media center in Manger Square. Ehmad is still being held at a detention facility near Beitunia in the West Bank, according to CPJ sources. His colleagues have all been released.
CPJ is also concerned about at least two other journalists who remain in Israeli custody after troops arrested them in Ramallah on or about April 18: Maher al-Dessouki, the host of a popular talk show on the Ramallah-based Al-Quds Educational TV; and Kamel Jbeil, a reporter with the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds. Both men were arrested at the residence of al-Dessouki’s brother-in-law and are being held elsewhere in the area.
Arresting journalists and barring them from carrying out their professional work constitutes an unacceptable infringement of press freedom, a right that all free societies accept. We call on Your Excellency’s government to release these unjustly detained journalists immediately and to ensure that the press is able to report the news without further interference from authorities.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your reply.