Four Palestinian journalists assaulted by Israeli soldiers

New York, December 14, 2012–Israeli soldiers assaulted four Palestinian journalists and forced them to strip naked at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday, according to news reports. Two of the journalists worked for Reuters, and two for local Palestinian news outlets, the reports said.

Soldiers stopped Reuters cameramen Yousri Al Jamal and Ma’amoun Wazwaz, freelance journalist Mohamed al-Sagheer, and Akram al-Natsha, a reporter for the Hamas-affiliated Al-Quds TV, as they were driving to cover a story of a Palestinian teenager shot dead by an Israeli border guard, according to Reuters and local press freedom group the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom, or MADA. Reuters said the journalists were in a vehicle marked “TV,” and that the Reuters journalists were wearing “Press” jackets.

Wazwaz told MADA that about 10 soldiers ordered the journalists out of the car. He said the soldiers punched them, beat them with their guns, and forced all of them to strip down to their underwear and kneel on the road with their hands behind their heads. The soldiers confiscated two gas masks from the journalists’ car, as a well as a video camera, fired tear gas at them, and left the scene in an Israel Defense Forces patrol car, the reports said. The journalists later found their video camera undamaged on the side of the road.

Wazwaz was treated for tear gas inhalation at a local hospital, Reuters said.

Al Jamal and Wazwaz told Reuters that the soldiers did not allow them to show their official press identifications. Reuters reported that the soldiers accused the cameramen of working for B’Tsalem, an Israeli human rights group that distributes video cameras to Palestinians to document human rights violations in the West Bank.

Reuters reported that IDF spokeswoman Colonel Avital Leibovich said the Israel Defense Forces would investigate, but offered no explanation for the attack.

“These actions by members of the IDF are completely unacceptable and require immediate action,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “The IDF leadership must hold its troops accountable for these abuses and end its tolerance of mistreatment of journalists.”

In a separate case on Thursday, Israeli soldiers briefly detained four journalists after prohibiting them from covering clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protesters at the funeral of the teenager shot dead by soldiers, according to local press freedom groups and the Palestinian Journalists Union. Nasser al-Shiyoukhi, cameraman for The Associated Press, told MADA that he was detained with Hazim Badir, a cameraman for Agence France-Presse; Abd al-Hafeez al-Hashlamoun, a cameraman for the European News Agency; and Reuters cameraman Ammar Awad. Badr told MADA that the soldiers also beat him on his back and foot.

CPJ documented a series of Israeli airstrikes in mid-November that struck two buildings housing news media and injured nine journalists. Separate missile attacks resulted in the deaths of at least two journalists during an eight-day offensive in the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials have broadly asserted that the individuals and facilities had connections to terrorist activity but have disclosed no substantiation for these serious allegations.

CPJ has written to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking an explanation for the Gaza attacks. Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, told Agence France-Presse that the government would respond to CPJ. The government has yet to do so.

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