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Journalists are "no longer safe" in the Gaza Strip, according to a report released Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), an international association committed to protecting the freedom of the press.
The report, entitled "Palestinian Journalists Caught in the Gaza Crossfire" and based on a fact-finding mission carried out by RWB earlier this month, scathed Palestinian factions "that do not hesitate to target media that criticize them."
The report highlighted lawlessness in the Gaza Strip and infighting between Palestinian factions as causal factors in the recent decline of press freedom in the territories.
In the past year, "Palestinian militants caused damage to seven news media by setting them on fire or smashing equipment, and attacked at least four journalists... [and] six foreign journalists have been kidnapped by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," says RWB.
The report also had harsh criticism for the IDF: "This year alone, the Israeli army attacked or threatened 16 journalists and wrecked the premises of three news media." After meeting with Palestinian and Israeli authorities from December 4-7, RWB stated: "The Palestinian factions and the Israeli army profess a desire to respect press freedom and the work of journalists, but the statistics belie their claims."
The report concludes "that the safety of journalists will never be taken seriously until the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli army decide to apply the law by bringing those responsible for crimes against journalists to justice."
RWB published recommendations for improving the quality of freedom of the press in Israel and the territories, such as creating a distinctive insignia so that journalists can be more easily identified.
In a related study, RWB ranked the freedom of media in 168 countries in 2006. Israel ranked 50th on the list, ahead of the United States (53), Jordan (109), and Egypt (133). Finland, Iceland, Ireland, and the Netherlands shared the highest ranking atop the Worldwide Press Freedom Index.