While the press is largely free within Israel proper, the country’s military assault on the Occupied Territories fueled a sharp deterioration in press freedom in the West Bank and Gaza during much of 2002. Despite vocal international protest, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) committed an assortment of press freedom abuses, ranging from banning press access in the West Bank to opening fire on journalists covering events.
In late March, following a string of deadly Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon launched the country’s largest military offensive in the West Bank since 1967, when the army captured the area from Jordan. In the initial days of the six-week operation–code-named Operation Defensive Shield–the IDF declared nearly all of the West Bank’s main cities “closed military areas” and off-limits to the press. Journalists attempting to cover the action were frequently thwarted at checkpoints by troops and forced to take alternate routes into cities through orchards, back roads, or dirt paths. Israeli officials maintained that the ban was instituted for safety reasons. However, the hard-line approach against journalists trying to defy the closed military zones indicated otherwise.
CPJ documented numerous instances in which troops fired on or in the direction of clearly identified journalists. Authorities also detained and threatened members of the press, confiscated their credentials and film, and in some cases expelled them from the country. Troops raided, and at times temporarily occupied, media offices in the West Bank. In an April case that drew widespread international media coverage, IDF troops hurled stun grenades and fired rubber bullets at reporters waiting outside the besieged Ramallah compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Foreign journalists who covered the events said that they had never witnessed such harsh treatment from Israeli government forces. In one particularly disturbing incident on April 1, NBC correspondent Dana Lewis and his two-person camera crew came under IDF fire in Ramallah while driving in an armored car clearly marked as press. A soldier fired two rounds at their car and then a third round, after the journalists had stopped the vehicle, turned on an interior light to make themselves visible, and placed their hands on the windshield.
Throughout the operation, at least three journalists were wounded by suspected IDF gunfire. Several more had shots fired in their direction. In one case, it was unclear whether Palestinians or Israelis were responsible for opening fire. CPJ wrote numerous letters to the Israeli government protesting the army’s rough treatment of the press.
The Israeli army also detained several journalists–sometimes for weeks or months at a time–without charge. Three of the longest held were Hossam Abu Alan, a veteran photographer for Agence France-Presse; Youssry al-Jamal, a soundman for Reuters; and Kamel Jbeil, a reporter for the Palestinian daily Al-Quds. IDF troops detained the journalists in April, held them in administrative detention, and accused them of having contacts with armed Palestinian groups. All three were released in the fall without charge.
Local Palestinian media infrastructure was heavily damaged as a result of the IDF’s military operation. In January, Israeli forces dynamited the offices of the Palestinian National Authority’s Voice of Palestine radio station and Palestine Television, which the Israeli government has accused of “incitement.” Israeli troops also raided or occupied and ransacked several private Palestinian stations during 2002.
Even in the weeks after Operation Defensive Shield, members of the press continued to face movement restrictions in the West Bank. The Israeli army intermittently imposed the closed military zones, shutting out the press, during brief incursions into Palestinian areas. On June 19, the military barred journalists from covering the latest operation, Operation Determined Path, which resulted in Israel’s reoccupation of most major West Bank towns.
During 2002, the number of checkpoints increased across the West Bank, and the army blocked alternate routes that journalists had used to evade roadblocks. Journalists often waited for hours at checkpoints, and some were still denied entry.
Many foreign correspondents believe that the restrictive measures were an attempt by Israel, unhappy with what it perceived as unfair treatment in the international media, to dictate the conflict’s coverage. These reporters maintain that army constraints on the press made it difficult to verify rumors and unsubstantiated reports. In April, for example, the Israeli order prohibiting journalists from entering the West Bank town of Jenin fed confusion about the human and material toll of the IDF’s incursion and battle with Palestinian militants there.
But even when the IDF was not in the midst of a major operation, troops harassed the press, confiscating film, verbally abusing, or physically assaulting journalists. Gunfire from troops continued to pose a mortal danger. During 2002, three journalists were killed in the line of duty by Israeli gunfire. Imad Abu Zahra, a Palestinian fixer and free-lance photographer, was shot in Jenin (and later died as a result of his wounds) at a time when no clashes appeared to be taking place.
As in previous years, the army failed to conduct thorough investigations in 2002 and has punished troops in only a handful of incidents in which journalists were wounded by gunfire or attacked by troops since the second intifada began in September 2000. In late August 2002, the IDF announced that it had concluded an inquiry into the March shooting death of Italian photographer Rafaelle Ciriello and reported that there was “no evidence and no knowledge of an [army] force that fired in the direction of the photographer,” despite eyewitness testimony to the contrary.
The army was not the only obstacle to the media. Militant Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza continued to perpetrate violent attacks against journalists. In October, settlers punched and assaulted reporters with stones while they covered the dismantling of the West Bank settlement Havat Gilad.
Many international media outlets employ Palestinian stringers or fixers, who serve as essential, front-line personnel at foreign news organizations. But only a handful of these media workers have received their accreditation, or GPO card, which facilitates movement through checkpoints. These new, more restrictive regulations affecting Palestinian journalists have handicapped media organizations’ ability to operate in the Occupied Territories.
Today, only a few Israeli journalists venture into the territories because of army restrictions barring them and due to threats from Palestinian militants. The few who go must sign a waiver absolving the army of responsibility for their safety. The army has arranged trips to the West Bank for Israeli reporters. In March, the practice was temporarily stopped after Israel’s Channel 2 television allegedly broke a pool agreement and bypassed military censors to air disturbing footage of an IDF raid on a Palestinian home, during which a mother died while her children watched.
The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported in April that government-run Israel Radio’s Arabic-language department had implemented new guidelines restricting language used in news broadcasts, including forbidding the use of the word “victim” when referring to Palestinian civilians killed in the conflict. Ha’aretz also cited complaints from journalists about other official interference in news content.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Supreme Court dismissed a high-profile libel case launched nearly a decade ago by then defense minister Ariel Sharon against Ha’aretz and journalist Uzi Benziman. In 1991, Sharon sued over an article in which Benziman alleged that Sharon had misled then prime minister Menachem Begin about his true war aims in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, arguing that Sharon had failed to disclose his intent to move into the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
Although Israel’s Hebrew-, Arabic-, and English-language press are mostly free, government and military officials can censor media outlets if authorities deem certain news–such as troop buildups and death counts–harmful to the country’s security interests. Journalists, however, have the option of appealing to the High Court of Justice. Most media can circumvent the restrictions by attributing sensitive stories to foreign news outlets. In December, the government closed the Islamist weekly Sawt al-Haq wal Huriyya, maintaining that it posed a threat to public peace.
In the Palestinian Authority Territories, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat maintained a tenuous hold on power in 2002, despite Israel’s massive spring military offensive into the West Bank and pressure from both Israel and the Bush administration to resign as head of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). As the conflict intensified during the year, the PNA’s power weakened.
That weakness appeared to significantly reduce the PNA’s ability to restrict press freedom. Nevertheless, officials managed to impose constraints on the media, if not with the same intensity and breadth of past years, while militant groups and Palestinian civilians also harassed members of the press. In at least one case, a Palestinian gunman opened fire, on an Associated Press armored vehicle in Ramallah.
In January, Palestinian security authorities in the West Bank city of Hebron closed the weekly newspaper Akhbar al-Khalil without explanation. Newspaper staff alleged that the PNA was responding to Israeli and U.S. pressure to shutter the publication, which frequently criticized those countries’ Middle East policies.
PNA officials also confiscated journalists’ film and intimidated reporters covering sensitive news stories. In February, Palestinian police took footage from photojournalists who had filmed a Palestinian mob at a Jenin courthouse killing three defendants who had just been convicted of murder. In June, officers from Arafat’s security force seized videotapes from a France 2 television crew of a demonstration led by Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin, who was supposed to be under PNA house arrest at the time.
In March, Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo urged the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera not to air a live interview with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon because of his aggressive attitude toward Palestinians. The interview was eventually canceled because, according to Al-Jazeera, Sharon failed to cooperate with the station’s terms, which required a Doha-based interviewer rather than an Israel-based one.
In August, the pro-PNA Palestinian Journalists’ Association barred journalists from photographing Palestinian children wearing military uniforms or carrying weapons, arguing that such footage violated children’s rights and served “the interests of Israel and its propaganda against the Palestinian people.” However, the group has no legal power over the media and did not say what the consequences would be for those who violate the ban. The order was rescinded a few days later amid local and international protest.
In September, Israeli authorities arrested an aide to Palestinian Legislative Council speaker Ahmed Qurei for allegedly threatening a Jerusalem Post reporter. The newspaper reported that its correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh had received threatening phone calls after writing that Qurei had spoken with Sharon to request a meeting to discuss the siege on Arafat’s Ramallah compound.
Meanwhile, Palestinian militiamen and demonstrators repeatedly attacked reporters and occasionally prevented them from covering stories. In one April incident in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Palestinian militants threatened journalists working for international media outlets and forced them to hand over footage of the body of an alleged Palestinian collaborator who had been murdered. In October, also in Bethlehem, a group of Palestinians assaulted photographers covering the funeral of a militant kilýed by Israeli forces. A Reuters photographer was seriously injured in the incident. That same month, another group of Palestinians assaulted several journalists covering a Gaza City explosion in which three Hamas members had died, apparently while making bombs.
The escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict has made the mainstream Palestinian press–already staunchly pro-PNA–more loyalist, while years of physical attacks, arbitrary detentions, threats, newspapers closures, and official censorship have increased self-censorship. The media avoid criticizing Arafat and the security services, as well as reporting news that reflects negatively on PNA leadership. Indirect pressure, such as phone calls, are said to be common. Two of the three main daily newspapers–Al-Ayyam and Al Hayat al-Jadida–have direct or indirect relations with the PNA and its officials, either because the editor is an aide to Arafat or because the PNA finances the paper’s payroll. (The third main daily, Al-Quds, is privately owned but avoids criticizing the PNA.)
In an effort to crack down on militants, in late 2001, authorities closed the opposition Islamist weeklies Al-Risala and Al-Istiqlal–Gaza-based publications affiliated with the Khalas Party, which comprises former Hamas members, and the Islamic Jihad group, respectively. But in April, the Palestinian High Court of Justice ruled that Al-Risala‘s closure was illegal and ordered it reopened. The PNA at first refused to comply but in early November gave the paper permission to resume publishing. Al-Istiqlal remained closed at year’s end.
Some Palestinian journalists criticize the Palestinian media’s failure to discuss important issues affecting the Palestinian community, such as the movement for PNA leadership and structure reform, which gained momentum after the siege on Arafat’s compound was lifted in May. After the PNA shuffled its Cabinet and security chiefs in June, one Palestinian journalist lamented in the online publication Amin.org that “it was not the Palestinian media who carried out news about the reform; instead, non-Palestinian media like Arab satellite channels, the foreign media, and the Israeli press [did,]” and that “it was not Palestinian journalists who started the debate but Palestinian academics and political analysts.”
The PNA controls the official Palestine TV and Voice of Palestine radio, which loyally reflect PNA views. These stations operated under extreme duress after Israeli forces destroyed their offices. Israel has repeatedly accused the stations of inciting Palestinians to commit violence against Israelis. But these official outlets garner few viewers among Palestinians, who prefer local news from the popular Al-Jazeera satellite channel, Abu Dhabi TV, or even Lebanese Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV. For example, during Israel’s March and April West Bank offensive, Al-Jazeera provided local information about emergency services available to citizens there.
To some extent, private Palestinian broadcast stations have served a similar role during the second intifada, but during Israel’s 2002 offensive, several were forced off the air or had their studios destroyed or vandalized by Israeli troops. Some of those unable to broadcast beamed Al-Jazeera on their frequencies.
As discussions about reform intensified in May, Arafat signed the Palestinian Basic Law, which, among other statutes, guarantees press freedom. Legislators had originally adopted the law in 1997. At year’s end, amid the chaos of the renewed conflict in the West Bank and Gaza, it was too early to tell what impact the law would have. While it prohibits censorship and other restrictive practices against the press, the law leaves open the possibility of imposing future constraints on the media.
The offices of the weekly newspaper Akhbar al-Khalil, in the West Bank city of Hebron, were raided by Palestinian security authorities. The officials ordered the paper’s immediate closure but gave no reason for the move. According to an editor at the paper, however, a Palestinian National Authority (PNA) security officer told him that the PNA was responding to Israeli and U.S. pressure to close the paper, which frequently criticized those countries’ Middle East policies.
Voice of Palestine
In the early morning hours, Israeli forces entered a five-story building that houses administrative offices and broadcasting facilities for the Palestinian National Authority’s (PNA) Voice of Palestine (VOP) radio station, as well as studios for the PNA’s Palestine Television. The forces confiscated equipment and detonated explosives, setting the building on fire and causing half of it to collapse.
VOP resumed broadcasting at the facilities of a private West Bank Palestinian radio station. The Gaza-based Palestine Television also continued to broadcast through its main facility. The Israel Defense Forces described the action as a response to a Palestinian gunman’s attack on a banquet hall in the Israeli city of Hadera two days earlier, which killed six Israelis and wounded dozens.
Palestinian police harassed and confiscated the tapes of camera crews who were filming riots outside a courtroom in the West Bank city of Jenin, where a Palestinian mob had stormed the courtroom and killed three defendants who had just been convicted of murder, according to the Foreign Press Association of Israel, which is based in Tel Aviv.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) denied journalists access to the Gaza Strip during military operations, according to the Foreign Press Association of Israel (FPA). In a statement, the FPA said, “We understand possible concerns for the safety of journalists in a conflict zone. But the IDF’s sweeping closure went well beyond what is justifiable under these circumstances.” The statement added that journalists were also denied access to areas where no conflict was occurring. A single press pool was created for print journalists, the FPA said.
Sagui Bashan, Channel 2 Television
Bashan, a reporter with Israel’s Channel 2 television station, was shot by one or more Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers while the journalist was driving his car toward the Karni border crossing near the Gaza Strip. Bashan was trying to retrieve film footage from his cameraman, who was covering the aftermath of a bomb attack against an Israeli tank that had killed three soldiers.
Moments before the incident, a soldier at an IDF roadblock located in Israel proper, about one-half mile (1 kilometer) from the Karni crossing, tried to prevent Bashan from entering the area. Bashan asked the soldier to produce an official military order to justify barring him access as a journalist, which the soldier could not do. Bashan then told the soldier that he intended to approach the Karni crossing. He re-entered his car, put the vehicle in reverse, and headed for the crossing via a side road.
Moments later, several rounds of live gunfire struck his car. Ricocheted bullets grazed Bashan in the arm and leg, and he was later treated at a hospital. An IDF spokesperson contacted by CPJ said that the incident was “under investigation.”
Voice of Palestine
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) entered a two-story building housing offices and studios used by the Palestinian National Authority’s Voice of Palestine radio and Palestine Television. Khaled Al-Siam, director of both outlets, told Agence France-Presse that the IDF soldiers confiscated equipment and later detonated explosives, setting the building on fire and causing it to collapse.
Israeli forces directed heavy machine gun fire at the City Inn Hotel, where about 30 to 40 reporters and cameramen, most of them from Western media outlets, were filming an Israeli army operation against the Al-Amari refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Israeli forces fired on the hotel, which is located some 300 yards (275 meters) from the Al-Amari camp, for about 15 minutes, according to press reports and journalists on the scene. Israeli forces gave no prior warning of the attack. Journalists said thÀ gunfire smashed windows and damaged the interior and exterior of the building. There were no injuries. However, gunfire destroyed an ABC camera after the fleeing crew left it on its tripod.
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman told CPJ that the army was responding to Palestinian gunfire coming from the hotel’s upper floors and other nearby buildings. The spokesman added that the army was unaware that journalists were in the hotel, and that Israeli forces ceased fire after news agencies alerted the IDF to the situation.
Several journalists who spoke with CPJ vehemently denied that a gunman was in the hotel, which was located away from cross fire and provided a good vantage point on the refugee camp. Journalists argued that the army should have been aware that media representatives were inside the hotel because some 20 clearly marked press vehicles were parked outside. Several Israeli tanks drove by the hotel before the attack, they said.
Raffaele Ciriello, free-lance
The central Ramallah offices of the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera came under Israeli gunfire shortly after the station finished an interview with Palestinian National Authority information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, Al-Jazeera correspondents told CPJ.
The gunfire came from a tank stationed about 111 yards (100 meters) away from the office and struck a window where a second staff cameraman was filming Israeli-Palestinian clashes occurring some 333 yards (300 meters) away from the station. Another round entered the fifth floor office and hit a wall, narrowly missing a cameraman’s head. Other staff members ducked for cover, while some rounds hit the outside of various floors of the building, Al-Jazeera sources said.
Tareq Abdel Jaber, Egyptian TV
Abdel Jaber, a reporter for Egyptian TV, told CPJ that he and his cameraman were driving on a main street in Ramallah when their car, which was clearly marked as a press vehicle, came under fire. There was no fighting in the area at the time, the journalist said. Bullets penetrated the car and struck Abdel Jaber’s flak jacket, but he was not seriously hurt. The journalist could not identify the shooter but said that Israeli tanks and military personnel were surrounding the area at the time.
A group of journalists traveling in an Associated Press (AP) armored car came under fire from Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Ramallah, according to international wire reports. According to the AP, gunmen fired on the car for about 30 seconds, puncturing the vehicle’s tires. No one was injured in the attack. The gunmen later told the reporters that they had opened fire on the vehicle after hearing a report that Israeli soldiers were driving around in a vehicle marked “TV,” a rumor Israeli officials vehemently denied.
Carlos Handal, Nile TV, Abu Dhabi TV
Handal, a Palestinian cameraman who works for Egypt’s Nile TV and the United Arab Emirates’ Abu Dhabi TV, was shot in the mouth after his car came under attack in Ramallah, according to international press reports. Handal was hospitalized in stable condition. It is unclear who fired the shot at him.
Anthony Shadid, Boston Globe
Shadid, a reporter for the Boston Globe, was wounded by a single gunshot in Ramallah. The journalist told CPJ that he and his colleague, Boston Globe stringer Said Ghazali, were walking away from Palestinian National Authority chairman Yasser Arafat’s besieged compound in Ramallah when a bullet entered Shadid’s left shoulder. The area was completely quiet at the time, and both journalists were wearing flak jackets marked “TV” in red tape. Shadid told CPJ that he did not see who shot him, but that Israeli tanks and soldiers were surrounding the area. He was taken to a Palestinian hospital after a group of Israeli soldiers gave him first aid.
Majdi Banura, Al-Jazeera
Banura, a cameraman with the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, was injured when Israeli troops fired at the Star Hotel in Bethlehem, where most journalists covering the Israeli army’s offensive into
the West Bank were staying. Two of Banura’s colleagues told CPJ that he and several journalists were standing on the fifth floor of the hotel when Israeli troops began firing into the hotel. Both journalists said that there was heavy Israeli-Palestinian
cross fire outside at the time. As bullets punctured the window, Banura was struck in the head by broken glass but was not seriously injured.
Ismail Khader, Reuters
Mark Mina, Middle East Broadcasting Centre
Khader, a cameramen for Reuters, and Mina, a cameraman for the Middle East Broadcasting Centre, were forced to strip down to their underwear by Israeli troops on the fourth day of the Israeli army’s offensive into Ramallah, which began on March 29. Khader and Mina told CPJ that they were in an armored car owned by Reuters, which was clearly identified as a press vehicle. Israeli troops signaled the journalists to stop as they neared Al Manara Square, which had been secured by Israeli forces at the time.
Both men said that there was no exchange of fire in the area that morning. The soldiers ordered the men out of the car and motioned for Khader to approach. When he was about 20 meters (66 feet) away, the soldiers ordered Khader to place his camera and cell phone on the ground and to remove his flak jacket, shirt, and pants. Mina was ordered to do the same. When he refused to remove his pants, Khader said a soldier threatened to shoot Mina. The journalists were forced to kneel in their underwear for about 25 minutes before being allowed to leave.
Dana Lewis, NBC
Lewis, a correspondent with the U.S. TV station NBC, and his two-person camera crew came under fire from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Ramallah at dusk while driving in an armored car that was clearly identified as a press vehicle. After an initial burst of gunfire hit the car, a lone IDF soldier opened fire with a second burst from a range of about 50 to 100 feet (15 to 30 meters). The journalists then stopped the car, turned on an interior light to make themselves visible, and placed their hands on the windshield. After 15 to 20 seconds, the soldier fired a third burst, hitting the windshield. The NBC crew escaped by driving away in reverse.
Orla Guerin, BBC News
Guerin, a BBC correspondent, and her television crew came under Israeli fire while covering peaceful protesters walking through the streets of Bethlehem. Video footage of the incident shows the camera panning on the demonstrators and then focusing on an Israeli tank, which then fires machine gun rounds at the camera. The crew took cover behind a car that was clearly marked as a press vehicle. No one was injured in the attack.
The Associated Press
Journalists working for The Associated Press, Reuters, and Palestine TV in Bethlehem were threatened by Palestinian militants and forced to hand over footage, shot the night before, of the body of an alleged Palestinian collaborator who had been shot in a parking lot.
Marc Innaro, RAI
Mauro Mauritzi, RAI
Fernando Pelligrini, RAI
Toni Capuozzo, TG5
Garu Nalbandian, TG5
Luciano Gulli, Il Giornale
Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Bethlehem opened fire on a car carrying journalists Innaro, Mauritzi, and Pellegrini, of Italy’s television and radio station RAI; Capuozzo and Nalbandian, of the Italian television station TG5; and Gulli, of the Italian daily Il Giornale. The journalists had gone to Bethlehem to cover the Israeli army’s military offensive in the West Bank and were traveling in a white armored car marked “TV.” According to Innaro, Israeli troops had allowed the journalists into the town at about 10 a.m. Shortly after they arrived, the journalists heard gunfire in the vicinity of Manger Square.
÷s they approached the square, the group decided to leave because it was too dangerous. They turned their car around and began to leave the city center. After traveling about 220 yards (200 meters), they encountered two Israeli armored vehicles.
The journalists spoke through a loudspeaker to inform the troops that they were journalists who were attempting to leave. The soldiers did not respond but motioned for the journalists to leave the area. Some of the journalists exited the car, raised their hands in the air, and walked toward the vehicles, identifying themselves as journalists. The journalists told CPJ that the immediate area was clear of fighting.
As the journalists approached, the troops opened fire at the car with four journalists inside. “One of the soldiers aimed his weapon at us and other soldiers shot at the car,” Innaro told Israel’s daily Ha’aretz. “The photographers got back in the car. We turned around and headed for the church.” Innaro telephoned a Franciscan monk at the Church of the Nativity compound and asked him to open the door to the monastery so they could take refuge.
“We parked the car by the monastery and ran, under fire, to the door of the monastery,” Innaro said. Because they were running, he said, it was not possible to determine whether the fire came from Israeli troops or Palestinian militants.
Atta Oweisat, Gamma
Oweisat, a photographer for the photo agency Gamma, was detained by Israeli troops in Ramallah and held for nearly six hours. He and other journalists were ordered out of their car and forced to take off their flak jackets and put their personal possessions on the ground. The troops detained Oweisat when they found that his press card had expired. He was blindfolded and handcuffed during his detention.
Magnus Johansson, Reuters
An Israeli soldier fired one round toward the car of Reuters photographer Johansson, which was clearly identified as a press vehicle, while he was reporting in Bethlehem. Before the incident occurred, Johansson had heard soldiers shouting at him and exitpd his car. The soldiers ordered him back in the vehicle, and the shot was fired as he attempted to drive away.
Al-Quds Educational TV
Al-Quds Educational TV offices near Ramallah were occupied by Israeli troops early in the evening. Two staffers were detained briefly, and the station was forced off the air. Al-Quds Educational TV is a project affiliated with Al-Quds University. Recent programming on the station has included health information, public service announcements, and programming designed to help children deal with trauma. The soldiers occupied the offices until April 21, when staff returned to find the premises damaged, according to CPJ sources.
Layleh Odeh, Abu Dhabi TV
Jasem al-Azawi, Abu Dhabi TV
Israeli authorities expelled al-Azawi, a journalist and talk show host for the United Arab Emirate television station Abu Dhabi TV, after revoking his press credentials along with those of Odeh, a Ramallah-based correspondent for the channel.
On April 2, Israeli government press spokesman Daniel Seaman ordered the journalists to turn over their press credentials, and al-Azawi was given two days to leave the country. No specific reason was cited for the deportation. Before al-Azawi’s accreditation was revoked, he and Odeh had reported a story on March 31 alleging that Israeli troops had executed surrendering Palestinian police officers in Ramallah. Police took al-Azawi from a Jerusalem press building and escorted him to a police station and then to his East Jerusalem hotel to pack his belongings before going to the airport.
Maher Rumani, Al-Manara, Nasser TV
Rumani, a news presenter for Ramallah-based Al-Manara radio station and Nasser TV, was detained by Israeli forces on or about April 3 during the Israeli offensive into Ramallah. The journalist was detained when troops entered the building that houses both stations. Rumani was the only staff member there at the time. He had been broadcasting emergency information on the radio station and keeping watch over the offices. According to station director Ammar Ammar, Rumani was held for 20 days, and Israeli forces blindfolded and beat him during his detention.
Ashraf Faraj, Al-Roa
Jalal Ehmad, Al-Roa
Faraj, an editor at the private, Bethlehem-based television station Al-Roa, and Ehmad, a cameraman at the station, were detained by Israeli troops in downtown Bethlehem. Several other journalists who were detained with them were released later that day. The group had opened a makeshift media center in Manger Square to cover events unfolding in the town. Troops confiscated cameras, tapes, and other equipment. Faraj and Ehmad were held at a facility near Beitunia in the West Bank before being released several days later, according to CPJ sources.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fired stun grenades and rubber bullets at a group of
at least 24 reporters attempting to cover
the pending arrival of U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni at Palestinian National Authority leader Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah compound.
Eyewitnesses told CPJ that the journalists had driven to the compound in several armored press cars. Shortly after they arrived and exited the vehicles, IDF troops arrived and hurled about six stun grenades in their direction. According to CNN, the grenaýes “produce a blinding flash and a very loud explosion, designed to disorient those targeted.” One grenade exploded under CNN reporter Michael Holmes’ foot. The IDF troops ordered the journalists to leave and then fired rubber bullets at their armored vehicles, CNN reported. The journalists regrouped and tried to return to the area, but Israeli troops turned them away.
Some journalists had their press accreditation confiscated, CPJ sources said.
Abu Dhabi TV
A building in Ramallah housing Egyptian television channel Nile TV and United Arab Emirate channel Abu Dhabi TV was raided by several Israeli soldiers. A witness reported that troops forced the journalists in the office to lie on the ground and knocked Nile TV cameraman Raed al-Helw to the ground. Soldiers dismantled journalists’ cell phones and threw the parts around the room. Troops also fired live rounds at a locked office door to gain access to the room, according to the same witness. After 45 minutes, the soldiers left and searched the rest of the building, which houses several other foreign television stations.
Gilles Jaquier, France 2
Jaquier, a cameraman with television channel France 2, was wounded by a single gunshot near his shoulder while reporting outside the West Bank city of Nablus, an eyewitness told CPJ. Jaquier, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was transported to a Jerusalem hospital after having the bullet removed at a hospital in Nablus. It is unclear who fired the shot, and the witness said the area was quiet at the time of the shooting.
Vincent Benhamou, free-lance
Benhamou, a French free-lance cameraman, had a tape confiscated by Israel Defense Forces. He told The Associated Press that after he turned to walk away from the soldiers, he heard two shots fired in the air.
Mohammed Daraghmeh, The Associated Press
Daraghmeh, an Associated Press (AP) correspondent, was detained by Israeli forces early in the morning and released that evening. According to the AP, the journalist did not arrive home until the next day. Daraghmeh, who was rounded up along with 50 other men during a sweep in the West Bank town of Nablus, was released from an Israeli army base 6 miles (10 kilometers) away from his home. As Daraghmeh made his trek back, Israeli soldiers threatened him, harassed him, and forced him to take unsafe roads by foot to his house, he told the AP. Daraghmeh has been covering the northern West Bank for the AP since 1996. He also writes for the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam.
Kamel Jbeil, Al-Quds
Maher al-Dessouki, Al-Quds Educational TV
Jbeil, a reporter for the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, and al-Dessouki, a talk show host with Al-Quds Educational TV, were detained on or about April 18 at al-Dessouki’s brother-in-law’s residence in Ramallah. Al-Dessouki was released on June 27 after being held for more than two months in administrative detention without charge. Jbeil was held, also without charge, until September 15.
Jbeil’s lawyer told CPJ that in early July, an Israeli military judge had extended the journalist’s administrative detention for another three months. In a June 23 letter to CPJ, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s adviser Ranaan Gissin wrote that Jbeil and other detained journalists were “arrested on suspicion of having contact (unrelated to their journalistic work) with a terrorist organization.” The letter provided no details supporting those allegations.
Mahfouz Abu Turk, Reuters
Veteran Reuters photographer Abu Turk was detained by Israeli troops 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.
Hussam Abu Alan, Agence France-Presse
Mazen Dana, Reuters
Abu Alan, a veteran, Hebron-based photographer for Agence France-Presse (AFP), and Dana, a Reuters cameraman, were detained by Israel Defense Forces troops. Soldiers stopped the two men 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.
After repeated protests from AFP, the army said in a May 3 letter that it suspected Abu Alan of “assisting the terrorist Tanzim organization.” AFP repeatedly asked Israeli authorities, including Foreign Minister Shimon Peres during a Paris press conference, to furnish proof of Abu Alan’s involvement in wrongdoing but received none.
AFP quoted lawyer Mohammed Burghal as saying that on July 24, a military judge had extended Abu Alan’s detention for three months. He was then moved from Ofer Prison to Ketziot Prison, in Israel’s southern Negev desert. On October 22, Abu Alan was released without charge.
Youssry al-Jamal, Reuters
Mazen Dana, Reuters
Al-Jamal, a soundman for Reuters news agency, and Dana, a Reuters cameraman, were detained by Israel Defense Forces troops in the West Bank town of Hebron. The two journalists were filming near the Al-Ahli Hospital when soldiers demanded to see their identification cards and arrested them. 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 remained in custody.
Reuters told CPJ that according to a June 18 military court decision, al-Jamal was to be released on July 10. But sources at Reuters said that the detention was later extended for three months. On July 11, Reuters protested to Israeli authorities and noted that it had been denied access to information about its employee’s detention.
Israeli officials accused al-Jamal of having contacts with Palestinian militant groups but provided no evidence to support the allegations. On October 9, al-Jamal was released without charge.
Suhaib Jadallah Salem, Reuters
Salem, a Reuters photographer, was detained by Israeli authorities for five days. According to Reuters news reports, no charges were ever filed against him. Israeli authorities took Salem into custody at the Abu Holi checkpoint in the Gaza Strip. Reuters reported that Salem was attempting to enter the town of Rafah, en route to Egypt, where he was scheduled to fly 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 reported that Israeli soldiers produced a plastic bag containing a grenade while they were searching Salem’s car. “I had never seen it before,” said Salem when he was released. “I don’t know where it came from.”
Hamouda Hassan, Reuters
Abdel Karim Khadr, Reuters
The armored car of Reuters cameraman Hassan and Reuters soundman Khadr, which was clearly marked as a press vehicle, came under Israel Defense Forces gunfire at the entrance to the al-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah. Israeli soldiers then ordered the two journalists out of the car at gunpoint and detained them for about an hour-and-a-half, said Hassan.
Mazen Dana, Reuters
Dana, a Reuters television cameraman, came under gunfire in the West Bank town of Hebron when a single bullet pierced the side of his video recorder as he was filming from a window on the top floor of a three-story apartment building. The journalist was filming the Israeli army’s destruction of a Palestinian National Authority security forces building about 330 yards (300 meters) away. Several Israeli soldiers were stationed about 165 yards (150 meters) from his location.
Dana did not see who fired the shot but said there was no exchange of gunfire in
the vicinity of the building at the time of the shooting. He added that he had been filming from the same window for about
40 minutes without incident. Other Palestinian residents had been watching the demolition from a window one floor below where Dana was stationed, also without incident. The Israel Defense Forces spokesman’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Imad Abu Zahra, free-lance
Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz
Miki Kratsman, Ha’aretz
Levy, a reporter with the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, and Kratsman, his photographer, came under Israel Defense Forces (IDF) gunfire in the West Bank town of Tulkarem while they were traveling in a taxi with a representative from an international human rights organization. As they approached
the IDF’s District Coordination Office, a soldier at a lookout post about 165 yards (150 meters) away fired at them. Three
bullets hit the armor-plated taxi’s windshield, but no one was injured.
The journalists, who were in the area with IDF permission, were traveling in a white armored Mercedes with Israeli license plates. The army apologized for the incident and said the unit that opened fire had not been informed that the journalists had permission to be in the area.
An army spokesman told CPJ that the soldier responsible for firing the shot was not punished, but that his commanding officer received a suspended 21-day jail sentence. In addition, the IDF ordered a second soldier confined to base for 35 days for failing to alert the unit that the journalists had permission to be in the area.
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, a professional press association based in the Gaza Strip, attempted to prevent Palestinian and foreign journalists from photographing images of Palestinian children wearing military uniforms or carrying weapons by “banning” such images. However, the group has no legal power over the media and did not say what the consequences would be for those who violate the ban.
The syndicate’s statement said that such footage serves “the interests of Israel and its propaganda against the Palestinian people,” reported The Associated Press (AP). The AP also quoted syndicate deputy chairman Tawfik Abu Khosa as saying that photographs of children in these situations violates children’s rights and has “negative effects” on Palestinians. The ban was reversed a few days later after local and international protests.
Issam Tillawi, Voice of Palestine