Israeli Security at the Old City of Jerusalem at the Lion's Gate .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The High Court of Justice pressed the police, an NGO and the media to negotiate a compromise on media access to Jerusalem’s Old City during tense periods.
Representatives of Israeli and foreign media and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) have all petitioned the High Court after the police limited media access to parts of the Old City during last summer’s Palestinian unrest.
Following a Palestinian terrorist attack against border police on the Temple Mount in July, Israel temporarily closed the site; restricted access to worshipers under the age of 50; and put a series of heightened security measures in place.
Palestinians protested in response, in some cases violently.
During the protest period, there were several times when police allowed Jewish Israeli citizens to enter certain tense areas while barring journalists.
There have also been instances in which journalists have been roughed up by police.ACRI
said that while police have the right to declare an area closed area for security reasons where reasonable, they do not have the right to allow some persons access and specifically restrict journalists.
ACRI lawyer Roni Peli said the petition is about the fundamental “right of the public to know” what is happening during such tense times and how police and security forces are handling themselves.
Peli pointed out that non-journalists who are allowed into these zones shoot video of what is happening, but lack any commitment or skills for objective and professional reporting.
The state told the High Court the issue was moot, as there had been no restrictions for months and even when there were restrictions, many times they were imposed only for a few hours at a time.
Peli responded that the July dispute was only the latest in a long history of the police infringing on media access, particularly in the Old City and surrounding the Temple Mount.
Further, she said “a few hours” was problematic, as often those few hours are the key moments when the conduct of security forces needs to be followed most closely.
At first, Justice Uri Shoham seemed to take the state’s side.
Petitioners had said the police could not formulate a new set of procedures for such tense periods without obtaining the media’s agreement.
Shoham responded on Sunday, “No. That is going too far to say that the procedures need to be acceptable to you. What, do you think you have a right to veto?” adding that the Justice Ministry and other law enforcement officials ultimately get to decide the issue.
Subsequently, however, Shoham pressed the police to try to reach an agreement with the petitioners.
Justice Noam Sohlberg gave the parties approximately three months to reach a deal.