Reuters photographer detained in Gaza

New York, May 24, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the ongoing detention of several journalists by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

At least five journalists remain in Israeli custody after being arrested in recent weeks. On May 22, most recently, Israeli troops detained Reuters photographer Suhaib Jadallah Salem at the Abu Holi checkpoint in the Gaza Strip. Salem was arrested while attempting to enter the town of Rafah.

According to Reuters, Salem was traveling to Egypt, where he was supposed to catch a flight to Japan to cover the World Cup soccer tournament. He was traveling in a Reuters armored car, clearly identified as a press vehicle, with a driver and two other passengers.

Reuters has received no official communication from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) about Salem’s detention.

Salem joins several other journalists in Israeli detention. They include Youssry al-Jamal of Reuters, Hussam Abu Alan of Agence France-Presse, Maher al-Dessouki of Al-Quds Educational TV, and Kamel Jbeil of the newspaper Al-Quds. Details of the cases are provided below.

CPJ once again calls on Israeli authorities to release all detained journalists immediately and to ensure that all journalists in Israel and the Occupied Territories are allowed to work without further harassment.

Journalists currently in Israeli detention

  • Youssry al-Jamal, Reuters. On April 30, 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 administrative detention. In a letter sent to Reuters on May 23, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s legal advisor claimed that Jamal was “directly connected to enemy terrorist activities which have no connection to his job as a journalist.” Israeli authorities have provided no evidence to support this accusation, according to Reuters.

  • Hussam Abu Alan, Agence France-Presse (AFP). On April 24, Israeli forces detained Abu Alan, a veteran, Hebron-based photographer for 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 under administrative detention. AFP received a letter from Israeli authorities on May 3, which said that Abu Alan was being held “on suspicion of aiding the Tanzim terror organization.” Israeli authorities have not provided any evidence to support this accusation, according to AFP.

At least two other journalists 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.