Silencing the Press
A Report on Israeli Attacks against Journalists
June 30, 2001 – August 29, 2001
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations
Affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists – Geneva
Member of the International Federation for Human Rights – Paris
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948
“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966
“Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians … They shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians…”
Article 79 – Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (Protocol 1)
This report is part of PCHR’s efforts to document Israeli practices against journalists of local and international press agencies during Al-Aqsa Intifada. It documents Israeli abuses against journalists of local and international press agencies during the period of June 30 – August 29, 2001. This is the fifth report in a continuing series about Israeli attacks on the local and international press. From September 29, 2000 to June 29, 2001, PCHR documented 134 attacks on local and international journalists. They included 51 cases of shooting at journalists and causing injury, 23 cases of shooting at journalists without causing injury, 26 cases of beating and humiliating journalists, 16 cases of arrest and interrogation, 10 cases of destruction of media equipment, and 8 cases of shelling of media centers and institutions.
The period under study witnessed a grave, qualitative escalation in Israeli practices against journalists. In an unprecedented incident since the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada, the Israeli occupation forces killed two Palestinian journalists while on duty. The same period witnessed also 6 cases of shooting at journalists and causing injury, 6 cases of shooting at journalists without causing injury, 18 cases of beating and humiliating journalists, 5 cases of obstruction at military roadblocks and interrogation. In 5 cases, the Israeli occupation forces also shelled media centers and institutions, causing severe damage. Thus, the total number of attacks on journalists during the period under study was 42 cases.
PCHR condemns these attacks by Israeli forces, which violate all relevant covenants and conventions, especially Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. PCHR considers these practices as part of an Israeli policy that aims to hide crimes committed by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. PCHR warns the international community against continuing the conspiracy of silence and calls upon it to immediately intervene to put an end to war crimes committed by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian civilians.
The following is a list of attacks by the Israeli occupation forces on journalists and reporters of local and international press agencies during the period under study:
July 1, 2001
Israeli occupation soldiers, positioned at a military roadblock in Deir Ebzi’ and ‘Ein ‘Arik area in Ramallah, obstructed the work of three Palestinian journalists who wished to photograph and interview Palestinians who were waiting to be allowed to pass. The three journalists were:
Mahmoud Khalaf, 24, a journalist of the Palestinian Press Agency (Wafa);
‘Omar ‘Awwad, 21, a cameraman of Reuters press agency; and
Mohammed Seddiq, 14, a freelance cameraman.
According to Khalaf, Israeli occupation soldiers prevented them from talking to Palestinians at the roadblock. He added that they were threatened at gunpoint when they tried to talk with and photograph people at the roadblock. Israeli soldiers forced them to leave the area.
July 6, 2001
In the afternoon, Israeli occupation soldiers fired at Lu’ai Abu Haikal, 25, a cameraman of Reuters press agency, wounding him with a rubber-coated metal bullet in the right thigh. Abu Haikal was covering a demonstration organized by Palestinian civilians at Al-Shallala Street in Hebron, to protest attacks by Jewish settlers and Israeli occupation forces on Palestinians in the city.
July 12, 2001
Al-Marah radio station and Al-Nawras television channel in Hebron were shelled by Israeli occupation forces. Broadcasting equipment of the two media institutions were severely damaged. Shelling of the two stations was part of a more comprehensive shelling of Hebron that continued throughout the night. Fawzi Da’na, Director of Al-Marah radio station, said that the two institutions were targeted because of the role they play in covering Israeli practices in the city, especially at night, as they were covering shelling of the city directly.
July 16, 2001
Israeli tanks shelled the building of Majd television channel, obstructing its work, as cables were cut, antennas were damaged and a main broadcasting unit was put out of work. Losses were estimated at US$ 25,000.
For the second time in less than one week, Israeli occupation forces shelled Al-Marah radio station and Al-Nawras television channel in Hebron, severely damaging them. The shelling took place when Israeli tanks moved into, and shelled Hebron.
July 19, 2001
At approximately 18:30 local time, four journalists were fired at by Israeli occupation forces while on duty. The journalists were:
Chris Den Hond, a Belgian reporter of the Kurdish Medya TV;
Mereille Court, a freelance French journalist;
Mazen Da’na, a cameraman of Reuters press agency; and
Na’el Shioukhi, a correspondent and cameraman of Reuters press agency.
It was evident that Israeli occupation soldiers targeted the four journalists, who were clearly recognizable by their press equipment, although no clashes were reported in the area then.
In their testimonies to PCHR, Hond and Court said:
“On Thursday, 19th of July 2001, we went to Hebron for our reportage. We arrived at 18:30 (local time) in the center of Hebron, close to the gas station, Hassouna. We were near the market, called El-Medina El-Monawara. The Israeli soldiers were at El-Romeida area. We were walking in the center of Hebron with our digital camera, clearly visible, in order to show that we were doing our job as journalists.
“Less than five minutes after were entered a small restaurant to eat some chicken, the gunfire started from the Israeli position. There was no one shooting from the Palestinian side, no one was throwing stones, there were no clashes of any sort. We were only amongst Palestinian civilians. The shooting came only from an Israeli military position at the Tal El-Romeida area. Some bullets hit the door of the restaurant.
“More than 40 minutes, we remained blocked inside the restaurant, meanwhile the gunfire continued. The owner of the restaurant told us that one day before, a man had been shot in the back, just in front of the restaurant. At about 19:30 (local time), we left the restaurant, running 10 meters in the street before running to the left under an archway, crossing a yard and crossing the main street. The shooting did not stop during this moment.
“When we arrived at the other side of the main street, outside the gun range, two Palestinian journalists, Mazen Da’na and Na’el Shioukhi, working for Reuters joined us. We decided all together to cross two intersecting streets, in order to escape from the dangerous area. When we crossed the streets, the shooting started again. Mazen Da’na, myself (Chris Den Hond) and Na’el Shioukhi reached the other side of the market place El-Medina El-Monawara under the gunfire. Mireille Court and a Palestinian boy stopped between the two streets, because the bullets were hitting the ground close to her, less than one meter (see video evidence). They were shooting the bullets one by one, just targeting us. It was not a burst of gunfire.
“Na’el Shioukhi saw two bullets very close to Mireille Court. For five minutes, Mireille and the Palestinian boy hid behind a wall of one meter high. As the shooting continued an as they were not safe at the place, they decided to cross the second road, still under fire.”
July 29, 2001
A number of journalists of local and international press agencies were humiliated and beaten by Israeli occupation soldiers while they were covering clashes between Palestinian civilians and Israeli occupation forces in the courtyard of Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Holy Sanctuary). Clashes erupted after the Israeli High Court decided to allow the entry of the so-called “Temple Mount Faithful” into the Holy Sanctuary to place the foundational stone for a claimed Jewish temple. The journalists were:
Ahmed Siam, a freelance cameraman;
Mousa El-Sha’er, a cameraman of France Press Agency;
Nasser ‘Atta, a journalist of ABC television channel;
‘Omar ‘Awwad, a journalist of Reuters;
Fater ‘Olwan, a correspondent of the Egyptian Nile TV;
‘Atta ‘Oweisat, a journalist of the Israeli Yediot Ahronoth newspaper;
Guevara El-Budeiri, a correspondent of Al-Jazeera satellite channel;
Nasser ‘Abdel-Jawad, a cameraman;
Muna El-Qawasmi, a journalist of Al-Ayyam daily local newspaper;
Majid El-Safadi, a journalist of Al-Jazeera satellite channel; and
Mahfouz Abu Turk, a journalist of Reuters.
July 31, 2001
At approximately 11:00 local time, Israeli occupation soldiers, positioned at Qalandya military roadblock, attacked two journalists. ‘Awadh Mohammed ‘Awadh, 30, a photographer of France Press Agency, stated that at approximately 11:00 (local time), he went to the an Israeli military roadblock southeast of Qalandya Airport, north of Jerusalem, to photograph aggressive practices by Israeli occupation soldiers at the roadblock against Palestinians. An Israeli soldier prevented him from photographing. When the journalist asserted that it was his right to photograph, the Israeli soldier pushed, shouted on and detained him at the roadblock. While he was detained, Tariq ‘Abdel-Jaber, a correspondent of Egyptian television, arrived at the area. When he saw Israeli occupation soldiers detaining his colleague ‘Awadh, he asked them about the reason for his detention, but Israeli soldiers ordered him to leave the area. When he refused, an Israeli soldier shouted and pushed him. He also asked him for his press card. When the Israeli soldier knew that ‘Abdel-Jaber was Egyptian, he insulted Egypt and its president Hosni Mubarak, and cut his press card issued by the Israeli Governmental Press Bureau.
At approximately 14:00 local time, Israeli combat helicopters shelled the office of the Palestinian Center for Studies and Media, located in a housing building in Nablus. Eight Palestinians, including two journalists were killed. Mohammed El-Bishawi, 27, a photographer of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida daily local newspaper and Al-Haq ,
Magazine, and ‘Othman Ibrahim ‘Abdel-Qader El-Qatanani, 24, a journalist of Nablus Press Office and the Kuwaiti KONA press agency, were killed while they were interviewing Jamal Mansour and Jamal Salim, prominent political leaders of Hamas. The two journalists and six other Palestinians, including the two Hamas leaders and two children were killed. In addition, Ahmed Abu Shallal, a journalist of the International Solidarity Institute for Human Rights, was seriously injured.
August 1, 2001
Israeli soldiers, positioned at a military roadblock at the entrance to Nablus, detained a team of the Arab News Network (ANN) and denied their entry into the city. During their two-hour detention, the team, comprised of Mohammed El-Sayed, a correspondent of ANN, Ahmed El-‘Eissa, a cameraman and their driver, were humiliated by Israeli soldiers. The Israeli soldiers also tried to force them to translate questions to Palestinians passing through the roadblock, but the team strongly rejected this.
August 11, 2001
At approximately 11:00 local time, members of the so-called “Border Guard” and Israeli police severely beat ‘Awadh ‘Abdel-Hadi, a photographer of Agence France Presse, and ‘Atta ‘Oweisat, a cameraman of Zoom press agency while they were on duty near the Orient House in occupied Jerusalem.
In the afternoon, Israeli occupation soldiers, positioned near Al-Shuhada’ junction, south of Gaza City, fired at a civilian car, in which a Palestinian cameraman working for a Japanese television channel traveled. The car was hit with several live bullets, but the cameraman, ‘Abdel-Salam Mohammed ‘Abdel-‘Azziz Shehadeh, 40, from Gaza City, was not hurt. In his testimony to PCHR, Shehadeh said he was traveling with a Japanese journalist, Digua Nubishar, head of the foreign department at Middle East Magazine, in a car that had the Japanese flag and a clear press sign. They stopped the car approximately 700m north of the junction. Although Shehadah warned the Japanese journalist that the area was very dangerous, since Israeli occupation soldiers frequently opened fire, the Japanese journalist decided to get out of the car and walk towards the Israeli occupation forces, while Shehadeh remained in the car. Immediately, Israeli occupation soldiers opened fire. Live bullets hit the car and Shehadaeh was forced to move it back, losing contact with the Japanese journalist. Later, Shehadeh phoned him and discovered that the he was not hurt and was hiding with some women and old people at the side of the road.
August 13, 2001
In the afternoon, Israeli occupation soldiers, positioned at Qalandya military roadblock, severely beat an Egyptian television team in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. ‘Abdel-Nasser ‘Abdoun was injured in the abdomen and his colleague Tariq ‘Abdel-Jaber was seen on the screen being slapped by an Israeli soldier.
In an attempt to restrict the work of Palestinian and Arab journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israeli occupation authorities decided to cancel official press cards from dozens of Palestinian and Arab journalists, accusing them of bias and subjectivity in covering incidents in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and of being tools in the hands of the Palestinian National Authority. In this context, Israeli sources stated that the Israeli Governmental Press Office would prepare “a black list” nominating journalists whose press cards were to be cancelled. The Director of the Israeli Government Press Office, Dani Siman, stated that those journalists must decide whether they were bias or tools to serve the Palestinian Authority. If they boycott official Israeli departments, then there was no reason to be concerned about them and offering them help, he added. It is worth mentioning that the number of Arab journalists working in Israel is 450, mostly Palestinian. They are issued official press cards by the Israeli Government Press Office that allows them to work in Israel.
The Israeli occupation forces fired at Shirfi Yoto Kathamatu, 43, a Japanese journalist, wounding him with a live bullet in the right hand. According to eyewitnesses, Kathamatu was wearing a press jacket, and the Israeli forces fired at him from a distance of approximately 100m. Kathamatu was covering clashes between Palestinian civilians and the Israeli occupation forces at the northern entrance of Al-Bireh.
August 19, 2001
Ramzi Khouri, Editor-in-Chief of the Jordanian Arab Daily, suffered from tear gas inhalation fired by Israeli occupation soldiers at Qalandya military roadblock at Palestinian civilians. Khouri, a Palestinian who has US citizenship, came to the Occupied Palestinian Territories to write a report on Israeli practices against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
August 21, 2001
Israeli occupation soldiers, positioned at Tel-Bourin military roadblock, south of Nablus, beat Hassan El-Titi, a photographer of Reuters press agency when was trying to photograph the suffering of Palestinians at that roadblock. El-Titi stated that Israeli occupation soldiers tried to confiscate his camera and film, but he refused. Then, they pushed and beat him and confiscated the camera and films.
August 26, 2001
At approximately 18:30 local time, Israeli occupation soldiers, positioned at Qalandya military roadblock, fired at Mahmoud Makhlouf, 25, a journalist of the Palestinian Press Agency (Wafa), and Mohammed Sadiq, a journalist of Associated Press, wounding the former with four rubber-coated metal bullets in the left leg and hand and the right thigh, and wounding the latter with a rubber-coated metal bullet in the left foot. The two journalists were evacuated to Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Ramallah. They were wounded while they were covering clashes between a number of Palestinian children and Israeli occupation soldiers. Makhlouf said that they were surprised when Israeli occupation soldiers fired at them, since they were approximately 400m away from the roadblock and they could be recognized as journalists from their press equipment.
August 27, 2001
Late at night, a journalist, Tamer Nasser Ziada, was injured by shrapnel in the head while he was covering an incursion by Israeli occupation forces into Rafah, during which they demolished 15 Palestinian houses, leaving more than 140 Palestinian civilians homeless.
PCHR considers these practices against journalists as part of ongoing Israeli abuses against Palestinian civilians. PCHR also considers it evidence of Israeli disregard for international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. PCHR asserts the following:
Most attacks by the Israeli forces against the local and international press agencies were willful and intentional, especially since members of the press wear clearly marked attire. The attacks are designed to prevent the objective coverage of incidents in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These attacks are part of a systematic Israeli policy of isolating the Occupied Palestinian Territories so as to allow further abuses against Palestinian civilians.
PCHR calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to meet their obligations under the Convention and immediately provide international protection for the Palestinian people.
PCHR calls on all international media to intervene and to exert pressure on Israel to stop its occupying forces’ attacks on journalists and to provide the proper climate for practice of the profession without restriction.