NGO accuses IDF of violence against reporters

Reporters Without Borders slams "impunity" enjoyed by soldiers, says IDF investigations "seldom [reach] any conclusions."

By MICHAEL OMER-MAN
February 15, 2012 07:28
2 minute read.
IDF soldiers detain a journalist in Nabi Saleh

IDF soldiers detain a journalist in Nabi Saleh 390 (R). (photo credit: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)

 
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Reporters Without Borders issued a strong rebuke of the IDF on Tuesday for what it described as the use of violence against Israeli, Palestinian and international photojournalists covering protests in the West Bank.

In a report published on its website, the international organization established in 1985 to fight for press freedom said it "deplores the total impunity enjoyed by the soldiers responsible for these abuses."

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The report highlighted the cases of six photojournalists, whom it claimed the IDF struck with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets. In at least two cases, the report cited unnamed witnesses accusing the army of deliberately firing projectiles in the direction of journalists.

Noting that the organization has "on many occasions asked the Israeli army to undertake independent and impartial investigations" into the incidents, it lamented IDF's responses, saying that "even when the army does carry out an investigation, it seldom reaches any conclusions."

Last summer, The Jerusalem Post reported on a complaint lodged with the IDF by Israeli photojournalist Mati Milstein, alleging that IDF soldiers intentional fired projectiles toward him and a group of journalists covering a protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office responded at the time of the original report that “the IDF respects journalistic freedom of expression and understands its importance. As proof of this, every week there are dozens of journalists present covering the disturbances [in the West Bank] in a free manner, as long as they do not interfere with the work of [IDF] forces."

It continued: “Every complaint that is issued will be thoroughly examined by the IDF and any deviation from command, if discovered, will be dealt with accordingly. It should be noted that journalists who enter territories in which there are disturbances and illegal activities on a regular basis – such as Nabi Saleh – do bear responsibility. Since full information on this incident was not submitted, it will not be possible to examine it in depth."

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In a piece published on the 972mag.com website at the end of December 2011, Milstein criticized the official response sent to him by the IDF, which closely resembles the statement provided to the Post. Milstein said the IDF's response "justified the use of force and violence by Israeli security forces against both protesters and media personnel," adding that the letter made no reference to any investigation.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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