'Female journalists in Israel face extreme violence'

Int'l group says Israel among countries where women journalists face “threats, political pressure, violence, rape and abuse."

Photojournalists photographers journalists reporters 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Photojournalists photographers journalists reporters 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Israel has been pinpointed by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) as one of six countries where female journalists face “extreme levels of violence” while carrying out their professional duties.
In a letter sent to United Nations General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon to mark the International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women, which took place Friday, the IFJ highlights Mexico, the Philippines, Somalia, Russia, Nepal and Israel as countries where women journalists face “threats, political pressure, violence, rape and abuse… either due to their gender or simply for doing their job.”
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While there have been several reports in Israel of female journalists being harassed and arrests of Palestinian female journalists, in all of the other five countries mentioned in the letter women journalists have been actually killed or shot during the course of their work.
Earlier this year, in an episode that the media dubbed “bra-gate,” a female journalist from the Al- Jazeera television network was denied entry to a press conference with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s after refusing to remove her bra for a security check.
A similar incident took place in July when two female journalists, one from Agence France-Presse, were asked to remove their bra behind a curtain before it was x-rayed for security reasons.
In the letter, which was signed by IFJ Secretary-General Beth Costa and Mindy Rin, chairwoman of the IFJ Gender Council, the organization highlights the recent arrest by Israel of Al-Quds TV journalist Israa Salhab, but it also calls for the release of male journalist Raed Rateb al-Sherif from Hebron radio and “all other journalists that remain in Israeli custody.”
It provides no further information about Salhab’s detainment.
When highlighting the other countries that have mistreated female journalists, the letter does not mention attacks or arrests of male media professionals.
There is also no specific reference to the treatment of women journalists in Egypt, Libya or Syria during the current popular uprisings.
Last week, The Jerusalem Report columnist Mona Eltahawy and film director Jehane Noujaim, both Egyptian- American nationals, were arrested during a protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
According to media reports, Jehane had been interviewing a military officer when she was arrested and labeled an Israeli spy.
El-Tahawy, who has been outspoken in recent months against the military leadership in Egypt, later spoke out on international news channels saying she had been beaten and sexually assaulted.
“It is particularly troubling to note that the majority of these crimes remain unsolved, and attackers or killers do not face justice,” wrote the IFJ’s Costa and Rin in the letter to Moon. “The climate of impunity for crimes against female journalists constitutes a serious threat to the most fundamental of free expression rights.
“On this day, as on all others, we are seriously concerned by the rising number of sexual assaults, intimidations, death threats and killings that victimize women journalists on a daily basis,” they wrote.
Attempts to reach the organization for a comment or further information about why Israel had been specifically highlighted in the letter were not immediately successful over the weekend.
The IFJ has more than 600,000 members in some 134 countries worldwide.
Danny Zaken, Chairman of the National Federation of Israel Journalists in Jerusalem, which is a member of the IFJ, expressed surprise at the letter.
“Over the past two years the IFJ has changed its attitude toward Israel thanks to our efforts and every statement or action was coordinated with me,” he told The Jerusalem Post Saturday night. “Now it seems the organization went back to its bad old behavior.”
Zaken said that he immediately sent a letter to IFJ President Jim Boumelha demanding an explanation why Israel was singled out.
“I have demanded an explanation and I am waiting for them to respond,” he said, adding, “With all the problems we have in the Israeli media recently, harassing women journalists is not one of them, not more then any free country.”