Monday 19 feb. 2001

Attacking Journalists: Israeli forces violate Palestinian right to freedom of expression

The journalists working in the Palestinian territories do not escape the brutality of the military occupation to which the Palestinian people and their institutions have been subjected for many years. Local and foreign journalists alike are vulnerable to attack by Israeli soldiers or settlers, particularly since the outbreak of the current crisis in September 2000. Until the date of this report, Israeli forces have gravely violated all principles of international humanitarian law and international conventions relating to the protection of civilians in time of war. Israeli soldiers and militant settlers have carried out frequent attacks on journalists and reporters working for newspapers and television stations, as well as field researchers for the human rights organisations operating in the Palestinian territories. LAW Society’s documentation indicates that 39 journalists and reporters have been injured by Israeli soldiers and settlers, with injuries ranging from wounds incurred by live bullets and shrapnel to assault. 32 of these are Palestinian journalists or reporters and 7 are foreign reporters working in the Palestinian territories. In addition, four field researchers for Palestinian human rights organisations have also been injured. According to LAW’s information, Israeli forces have deliberately caused harm to teams of journalists, including subjecting them to severe beatings and a barrage of gunshots from close range. Journalists have had their equipment confiscated and been chased, even though their equipment and vehicles were clearly marked ‘PRESS’ and they carried press cards. Threats to life and security of person Journalists Adel Abu Ni’ma (Reuters and Al Ayyam), Fat’he Barahma (The Voice of Palestine) and Imad Abu Sumbul (France Press and Al Hayat Al Jadida newspaper), were shot at with machinegun fire by soldiers stationed at the ‘Virdari’ settlement near Jericho and the Israeli military outpost at the entrance to the city. The journalists, whose car was clearly-marked, were on their way to Al Jadid Hospital in Jericho to cover the clashes on 28 October 2000. Khalid Zaghari, a photographer for Al Quds daily newspaper, stated to LAW, “I went to photograph the Friday noon prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque on 29 September 2000. Immediately after the prayer, clashes broke out, so I started taking more photographs. Suddenly I saw Israeli soldiers approaching me; they hit me with batons on my shoulders and hands, which I had raised to cover my head. While they were beating me, they shot at me from a distance of less than one metre, hitting me in the leg with a rubber-coated steel bullet. I was taken to Hadasa hospital, but I lost my camera and the pictures I had taken. That was the twentieth time in seven years that Israeli soldiers have attacked me. I have been hit by live and rubber coated steel bullets, and I have also been beaten several times.” Ata Awisat, a freelance photojournalist from Jerusalem’s Jabal Al Mukabir was severely injured in the head and face and his body was bruised when special Israeli forces disguised as Arabs (known as ‘Musta’ribeen’) attacked him in Jerusalem on 4 October during clashes after the funeral of Mohammad Al Sarkhi. Awisat described the incident to LAW as follows “On 4 October 2000, I was in Jerusalem with a group of journalists, mostly Israelis. A group of ‘Musta’ribeen’ suddenly started attacking and arresting people, so I began taking photos. Seven of them attacked and hit me. They got me on the ground and stepped on me. They tried to confiscate my cameras but I wouldn’t let go. Then they tried to pull me up so they could get the camera I had around my neck. A border guard officer came and grabbed my neck, and one of the ‘Musta’ribeen’ stamped in my stomach. Then they noticed that there were other photographers present so they left me and took off quickly. I passed out and woke up later at the hospital.” Awisat added: “They treat Israeli journalists much better. One photographer took a picture of me on the ground being beaten by six ‘Musta’ribeen’. I had photographed two ‘Musta’ribeen’ while one was holding a gun and the other choking a child; perhaps that was what provoked them to attack me.” He went on: “That was the third time I have been attacked during this Intifada. The first time was during the massacre on 29 September 2000 and the second was in Shu’fat when the Israeli police attacked me while I was taking photographs. I hold the Israeli authorities accountable for any future threats to my security, because I feel that the Israeli police are filled with hatred and do not handle these matters correctly. The Israeli police spokesman said today that I had been standing between protesters, which means that tomorrow if I was “between protesters” that might justify their killing me. Now the Israeli forces and police are settling accounts with all journalists, especially since the filming of the murder of Mohammed Al Durra in Gaza.” 34 year-old photojournalist Hazim Bader from Hebron, who works for Associated Press, told LAW: “On 29 September 2000, I was at Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Israeli soldiers opened fire at Palestinian worshippers and clashes broke out that went on for almost twenty minutes. I tried to take some photos, but then I saw Israeli soldiers pointing their guns at me. I was hit by a bullet in my right hand, the one holding the camera. I was taken to Hadasa hospital for surgery.” 30 year-old Nasser Ishtaya from Salem/ Nablus, who works for Associated Press in Jerusalem, stated to LAW: “At 8:30 pm on 13 November 2000, I was on my way home along with Abdul Rahman Al Kusini, a reporter for Reuters. Our yellow-plated (Israeli-licensed) taxi, driven by Usama Bazbaz, was attacked by about 30 Israeli settlers on the road near the Israeli Za’tara military outpost. While Israeli soldiers were watching, they threw large rocks at us and managed to destroy the car, even though it was clearly marked ‘Press’. We were bruised. We escaped to the nearby Palestinian village of Beta where we received first aid before being taken to Rafidia hospital in Nablus.” Ishtaya added: “That was not the first time I was attacked. On 11 October, while I was driving my car at the northern entrance to Al Bireh, Israeli soldiers fired at me with a machinegun. They destroyed my car. I managed to escape and was rescued by a Red Crescent ambulance.” 39 year-old photographer Mazin Da’na from Hebron, who works for Reuters, stated to LAW: “On October 2 I was at Bab Al Zawyi in Hebron with a group of other photographers. I felt a sharp blow on the neck and then a bullet in my left foot. I received treatment at the nearby Red Crescent Society field hospital and then I was admitted to Alia hospital where I underwent surgery on my foot. That was not the first time I have been attacked; I was hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet on 1 October and settlers attacked me on 2 October, the same day I got shot.” 27 year-old Mohammad Al Ashkar from Tulkarem is a cameraman for ‘Al Salam’ television. He told LAW the following: “On Friday 24 November, there was a massive protest in south-west Tulkarem. I was covering the protest while wearing a bullet-proof vest and a hat with the word ‘Press’ written on it. I was also carrying a camera. When the clashes started, a man was shot twice in the leg and fell to the ground - his name was Hashim Abu Samaha. I started filming him from a distance of only three metres; we were 15 metres away from the Israeli soldiers. Suddenly I was hit in the heel by an unknown type of bullet. I held my camera up so the soldiers would realise I was a journalist, but then I heard another shot. An ambulance took me to Tulkarem hospital. I am positive that I was intentionally shot by the soldiers, who were very close by.” At 1:00 pm on Sunday 28 January 2001, the ‘Watan’ television news crew was apprehended at a checkpoint near Ein Keenya, west of Ramallah. According to LAW’s documentation, the crew, including Duha al Shami (22) and Ashraf Kutkut, was held at the Israeli checkpoint, although they all had valid press cards. An Israeli soldier hit Al Shami, confiscated her video cassettes and handed Kutkut an order to see the Israeli intelligence department in Hebron. Finally, the crew was released, and the next day they retrieved their cameras and video cassettes after they had been inspected by the Israeli authorities.” These are not the only Palestinian journalists attacked by Israeli forces and settlers during the current crisis. LAW has documentation indicating that the following journalists and photographers were also injured: · Amer Al Ja’bari, who works for NBC, was shot in the head in Hebron. He was admitted to Hadasa hospital. · Awad Awad, a photojournalist for France Press, was severely beaten by Israeli soldiers who also broke his cameras in Al Aqsa on 29 September 2000. · Naji Da’na, a photojournalist for French Channel 1, was hit in the leg by a rubber coated steel bullet. He has also been beaten on several occasions. · Luay Abu Haykal, a Reuters photojournalist, has been severely beaten on many occasions. · Nasir Al Shuyukhi, a freelance photojournalist, was hit in the waist by a rubber-coated steel bullet. · Raed Awad, a Watan television cameraman, was shot in the left leg. · Muwafaq Matar (46) a photojournalist for ‘Dar Falasteen Al Yawm’ in Ramallah, was shot in the head while covering clashes at Netsarim junction on September 30, 2000. · Mahfouz Abu Turk, a freelance photojournalist from Jerusalem, was hit by a rubber coated steel bullet in the shoulder at Al Aqsa on September 29. · Khalid Abu Ikir, a France 2 reporter, was beaten by Israeli Special Forces in Al Aqsa on September 29, while covering the clashes. · Marwan Al Ghoul, photojournalist and manager of Mayadeen Media Production, had his car shelled near Netsarim junction by an Israeli helicopter gunship on 2 October 2000. The car and its contents (including about $20,000 worth of cameras) were destroyed. · Rami Nofal, a reporter for Palestine Radio Station, was beaten by Israeli soldiers at Bethlehem checkpoint. · Wafeek Matar, a journalist for the Palestinian Political Orientation Office in Gaza, was beaten by Israeli soldiers. · Jamal Al Aruri (30), a freelance photojournalist from Ramallah, was hit in the right arm by a rubber-coated steel bullet. · Ibraheem Al Husari, who works for ‘Watan’ television, was hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet in the left ear. · Abdul Rahman Al Khateeb (27), a photojournalist for ‘Al Ayyam’ newspaper in Gaza, was hit in the mouth by a steel bullet on 20 October while covering violent clashes near the Neve Dakaleem settlement west of Khan Younis. · Journalist Hamid Ighbariyi, manager of ‘The Voice of Right and Freedom’ in Nazareth, was attacked by Israeli police and border guards while covering the clashes in Nazareth. · Adel Khnaifis of ‘Al Ain’ newspaper in Nazareth was attacked by Israeli police and border guards while covering the clashes in Nazareth. · Abdul Rahman Khabisa, an Associated Press photojournalist, was attacked by settlers near Hiwara on October 24. His car was attacked with rocks. · Ahmad Jad Allah (30), a Reuters photojournalist from Gaza, was hit by shrapnel in the head on 13 February 2001 when Israeli forces shelled Khan Younis. · Shams Al Deen Awdit Allah (31), a Reuters photojournalist from Khan Younis, was hit by shrapnel in the right foot on 13 February 2001 when Israeli forces shelled Khan Younis. · Abed Rabu Awdit Allah (27) from Khan Younis, a photographer for Palestine Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), was hit by shrapnel in the head on 13 February 2001 when Israeli forces shelled Khan Younis. Four field researchers for human rights organisations also attacked: · Fahmi Shaheen, a researcher for LAW Society, was beaten by Israeli soldiers and border guards on 30 September. A teargas shell was intentionally fired at him from a distance of 50 metres as he monitored clashes in the Old City of Jerusalem. Shaheen was bruised and suffered teargas inhalation. · Thuraya Alian, a researcher for LAW Society, was hit in the leg on 27 October by a steel bullet fired by an Israeli soldier. Thuraya was monitoring the clashes at the northern entrance to Al Bireh when she was hit. · Abdul Haleem Abu Samra, a field researcher for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, was attacked on 15 December 2000 by Israeli soldiers while monitoring clashes at Tel Al Sultan in Rafah. The attackers confiscated his camera and films. · Israeli soldiers at Beit Fureek- Beit Dajan junction attacked Thawri Abu Jeesh, a field researcher for LAW Society, while he was on his way home on 4 January 2001. The soldiers hit Abu Jeesh, held him for 45 minutes and confiscated his ID card for several days. Foreign journalists · 57 year-old French journalist Jan Marie Projet of Paris Match was critically wounded when an Israeli soldier shot him in the chest on October 22. He was flown to France after having undergone surgery at Ramallah Hospital. · Luis Dilia of Delahye - News Week had a lucky escape when a bullet hit his camera while he was covering clashes in Ramallah on 9 October. · American journalist Ben Wideman of CNN was shot in the back on 31 October at Al Mintar junction in Gaza. · French journalist Robert Laurent (44), who works for Associated Press, was hit by shrapnel from Israeli gunfire at Al Tufah outpost while covering clashes in Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza on November 9. · Japanese journalist Riokahi Yama was hit by a steel bullet in the left eye on November 9 while covering clashes north of Al Bireh. Yama was treated at Al Razi Ophthalmic hospital. · American journalist Yula Monkov (26), of Associated Press, was shot in the pelvis on November 11 near Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. · Belgian photojournalist Laurent van Drustek of Gama was shot in the left leg at the northern entrance to Al Bireh on 9 February 2001. Using bombs to silence the press The offices of media and press associations have also come under attack. On Thursday 12 October 2000, Israeli helicopter gunships bombarded and severely damaged the transmission stations of the Palestine TV and Radio stations in Ramallah. Israeli forces also bombed the Palestinian Radio 2 station in Gaza on November 21. On 8 February 2001, Israeli forces shelled the offices of ‘Al Hayat Al Jadida’ newspaper, destroying two doors, nine windows, a printing machine, three PCs and several spotlights. They also bombarded the premises of ‘Al Salam’ and ‘Al Fajir Al Jadeed’ television stations in Tulkarem, causing severe damage. The attacks were in October and November 2000. Israel cancels Palestinian press cards The Israeli press office, controlled by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, issued an order to cancel the press cards used by Palestinian journalists working for press centres in PNA controlled areas or occupied Jerusalem. The order meant that Palestinian journalists could no longer cover stories in areas under Israeli control, including occupied Jerusalem. The siege and the press The tight military siege over the West Bank and Gaza Strip has prevented Palestinian newspapers from reaching and being distributed in the Gaza Strip three times; most recently since 15 February 2001. Attacking Journalists: The legal context Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates, “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 29 of the same Declarations states: “Everyone has the duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.” Articles 50 and 51 of the ‘Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Convention’ emphasise the protection of civilians in time of war including journalists, since they are part of the civilian population: “The civilian population comprises all persons who are civilians.” “The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations.” Article 79 of the ‘Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Convention’ stipulates: “Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article 50, paragraph 1. They shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this Protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians.” LAW Society views the Israeli army’s measures against journalists as a policy of silencing the press by terrorising journalists in order to prevent them from documenting the crimes committed against the Palestinian people. LAW demands: 1. The Israeli Government to immediately stop the use of excessive and indiscriminate force and collective punishments against Palestinian civilians. 2. The establishment of an international investigation committee based on United Nations Security Council resolutions 1322 of Oct 7, 2000, to investigate the violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Israeli forces inside the occupied Palestinian territories. 3. The international community to hold a conference for the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to take practical measures to ensure Israel's adherence to the convention. 4. The international community to pressurise Israel to immediately put an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories and effectively support the implementation of the Palestinian right to self-determination. 5. Palestinian civilians to be placed under international protection. 6. The international journalists’ unions to take immediate measures based on their responsibilities and based on the international conventions relative to journalists rights in order to ensure Israel’s adherence to such conventions and to stop attacking journalists in the Palestinian territories.

LAW – The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is affiliate to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Fédération Internationale des Ligues de Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and Member of the Euro- Mediterranean Human Rights Network