October 2, 1998
His Excellency Benjamin Netanyahu
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non-governmental organization of journalists devoted to upholding press freedom worldwide, writes to strongly protest the recent series of attacks perpetrated by Israeli police against Palestinian journalists in the West Bank.
On September 30, Israeli police assaulted a group of Palestinian journalists who were attempting to film clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers in Hebron. Among those attacked were Nasser al-Shyioukhi and Imad al-Said of the Associated Press (AP) and Mazen Dana, Nayef Hashlaman, and Nael Shyioukhi of Reuters. According to the journalists, Israeli police punched and kicked them after telling them that the area was closed to journalists. Israeli and foreign reporters had in fact been granted access to report the event. Jewish settlers who were in the vicinity of the attack joined the fray; one of them kicked Dana in the face. The journalists said that police also hit them with their rifles and eventually forced them to evacuate the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron.
Local journalists reported that an unidentified cameraman from the local Mustaqbal TV was arrested after being severely beaten by police. He was released after a few hours in order to receive medical treatment.
The attack on Wednesday comes just two days after the brutal police beating of al-Said, while he was attempting to cover another violent encounter between Palestinians and Jewish settlers in Hebron on September 28. Al-Said was on his way to the Tal al-Remaideh neighborhood in Hebron when two policemen from the Anti-Terrorism Unit approached him and told him that the area was closed by military order. After al-Said requested to see the written order, one of the officer threatened him, saying "if you don't go away you will see what will happen to you." The officer then grabbed al-Said by the neck and proceeded to kick him in the back. The officer also began to choke him and kicked him in the groin. Footage of the incident, filmed by al-Said's colleagues, was broadcast Monday evening on Israel TV's Channel One.
CPJ is aware that Israeli police quickly responded to the incident by dismissing the officer in question from his unit, but we have also learned that he remains on active duty in another unit.
For many years, CPJ has documented a disturbing pattern of physical assault and armed attacks carried out by Israeli armed forces against journalists attempting to perform their professional duties. Repeated requests from our organization for information on the status of investigations into specific attacks against journalists have gone unanswered by Israeli authorities. To date, CPJ is unaware of a single case in which members of the IDF or police have been prosecuted or severely disciplined for attacks against members of the press.
It is CPJ's position that violent attacks on journalists, if unpunished, will have a chilling effect on the ability of the press to function and can only encourage similar attacks from occurring in the future. The failure of the Israeli government to punish members of the police and armed forces sends a disturbing message: that those who seek to silence the press through physical attack can do so with impunity.
The Committee to Protect Journalists respectfully urges the Israeli government to adopt the following recommendations aimed at guaranteeing the right of journalists to report the news freely, without fear of violent reprisal:
Thank you for your attention to this most important matter. We will continue to monitor closely future developments.
We await your response.
Ann K. Cooper
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