Violations against Journalists and Media Institutions

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the West Bank is the world’s “worst place to be a journalist”.  The West Bank ranked ahead of other dangerous locations, including Afghanistan, Burma, Colombia, and Zimbabwe.  CPJ’s finding is not surprising.  Since the start of the al-Asqa intifada, Israeli occupation forces have increasingly isolated the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) to conceal violations of international humanitarian law by abusing international journalists working in Israel and the OPT, who have special status under international law. Since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000, Israeli authorities have been responsible for over 400 cases of harassment and attacks on journalists.

Israeli forces have either deliberately singled out journalists for harassment and intimidation, or injured media personnel in their disproportionate use of force in responding to the intifada.   Neither action is justifiable under international law. 

 

Foreign journalist wounded in November 2000                 Photo: PCHR Field worker

 

 

The Israeli government’s harassment of independent media coverage has taken several forms: Violence against Palestinian and international journalists; interference in confiscation of news material; harassment and intimidation of journalists; and arbitrary closure of news organizations and independent media outlets.  In their abuse of personnel, Israeli authorities have threatened, interrogated, detained, beaten, fired at, and shot journalists and other media personnel.  They have also shelled and destroyed media institutions, confiscated press equipment and press cards, and occupied foreign media offices.  According to PCHR data, between March 31, 2002 and June 30, 2002, Israeli authorities wounded over a dozen journalists, detained over 70 journalists, and shelled over ten media institutions.  While some media institutions, according to the International Federation of Journalism (IFJ), have “tested the limits” of objective journalism, that in no way justifies both deliberate and indiscriminate violence and intimidation of any media institutions and their personnel.   

 

A particularly egregious violation took place in December 2001, when the Government Press Office (GPO) of Israel adopted a new accreditation procedure to refuse renewal of press cards of Palestinians who work as assistants in foreign networks.  The GPO issued these Palestinians orange cards designating them as foreign-journalist escorts; the cards will only be valid for occupied territories.  The IFJ has condemned the action as victimization of Palestinian journalists.  According to Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, “it is a spiteful act of discrimination.” 

 

The cumulative effect of all these actions goes beyond the physical damage to media personnel and institutions and the undermining of international humanitarian law.  Such actions have also exacerbated a climate of ignorance and fear through censoring information on the conflict, making objective reporting and simple news transmission more difficult.  The organization Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) has condemned Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former Israeli army chief-of-staff Shaul Moffaz as predators of press freedom.  As IFJ General Secretary Aidan White remarked, “People who speak of democracy and then impose censorship to avoid public scrutiny make a mockery of the language of peace and human rights.”

 

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has collected links on the subject “Abuse of the Free Press” to give concerned visitors a sense of the Israeli authorities’ treatment of media personnel and institutions.

Relevant Articles in International Law

Statistics

PCHR regular reports: Silencing the Press

PCHR Studies

External Reports and Press Material

Articles and Features from International Media