IDF bars Al-Jazeera from covering West Bank rally

New York, May 3, 2010The Israeli military obstructed an Al-Jazeera crew trying to cover a rally in the village of Bil’in west of Ramallah on Friday, according to news reports and interviews. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns these actions and calls on Israeli authorities to end the harassment of journalists in the West Bank.

Israel Defense Forces arrested Al-Jazeera cameraman Majdi Bannoura and assistant Nader Abu Zer when they arrived in Bil’in to cover a weekly protest against the separation barrier being erected there by Israel, according to local news reports.

Soldiers informed the crew that Bil’in was a closed military zone and that no one was allowed to videotape in the area, Bannoura told CPJ. When Bannoura noted that other media groups had been allowed to videotape there, soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded him and his assistant and took them to a military checkpoint. (Al-Jazeera crews themselves have been allowed to film there previously.) The two journalists were made to wait there for four hours before being transferred to Ofer military base in Ramallah, Bannoura said. There, they were interrogated for half an hour and then released with a warning not to return to Bil’in, he told CPJ.

“We are concerned that Al-Jazeera appears to have been singled out and prevented from filming in the West Bank,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “The Israeli army should clarify why some crews were allowed into Bil’in, which it had declared a close military area, while Al-Jazeera’s crew was detained when they sought to enter the village.”