Israel's commitment to press freedom questioned after journalist shot

Foreign Press Association: "The case offers an important test of Israel’s commitment to protecting all civilians and ensuring freedom of the press."

June 8, 2017 10:48
1 minute read.
Wounded Palestinian reporter

A wounded Palestinian reporter is carried by a medic and civilians on May 18, 2017 near the Hawara military checkpoint.. (photo credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel on Wednesday called into question Israel's commitment to protecting civilians and ensuring freedom of the press. The FPA's statement follows the wounding of an Associated Press photographer by an Israeli national who opened fire in an act of "self-defense" during a disturbance in the West Bank town of Hawara on May 18.

In the statement, the Board of the FPA called on "the Israeli police and all other relevant authorities to conduct a thorough and timely investigation into the actions of the shooter and to take legal action against him if any wrongdoing is found."

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According to the statement, the police were still investigating the matter but concern was expressed over the lack of punishment handed down.

"Instead of any punitive measure being taken, the settler has reportedly received his handgun back, and Israel's deputy defense minister has praised him for shooting a “terrorist who threatened his life,” the statement read. "The case offers an important test of Israel’s commitment to protecting all civilians and ensuring freedom of the press."

Palestinian protesters surround a car reportedly driven by an Israeli settler as it attempts to cross a crowd of demonstrators near the Hawara military checkpoint in the West Bank on May 18, 2017. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Videos of the Hawara incident showed the man’s car being assaulted by a mob of about 200 Palestinians who pelted it with rocks. In an act of apparent self-defense, the driver opened fire. The shooting by the driver, a resident of the nearby Itamar settlement and father of eight, resulting in the death of one Palestinian and wounded the Associated Press photographer. The driver later told reporters that he saw his life flash before his eyes as his car was under attack.

Images from the scene showed that the photographer was wearing a protective vest and was clearly identified as a member of the press. The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry identified the wounded photographer as Majdi Shtayyeh.

The Foreign Press Association in Israel represents nearly 500 journalists who are employed by international news organizations and report from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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