Israel, Palestinian Authority violate rights of journalists - report

The Committee to Support Journalists documented 86 violations against Palestinian journalists in December.

Mortally wounded Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja, 31, is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops at the Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip April 6, 2018. (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
Mortally wounded Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja, 31, is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops at the Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip April 6, 2018.
During the month of December 2019, the Committee to Support Journalists documented serious violations of media freedoms in the Palestinian Territories by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
In its monthly report, the committee reported 86 violations – 55 by Israel and 31 by the Palestinian Authority – ranging from arresting and extending the arrest of journalists to targeting journalists with live and rubber-coated metal bullets and poison gas grenades.
Mohammed Laham, a member of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, told The Media Line that there are several parties that violate Palestinian freedom of the press, “foremost of which is the Israeli occupation.”
Laham pointed out that in the West Bank, despite attempts to improve the situation, the PA continues to summon and arrest journalists and prevent them from reporting, “but most recent was the ban of 49 [media] websites, which not only harmed our media freedoms but affected our government's reputation as well. We have an agreement with the Palestinian prosecution that a journalist can’t be jailed without a court order.”
In Gaza, he stressed, the situation is much worse; Hamas’ violations against journalists have included torture and humiliation “in addition to raiding their homes to arrest them, preventing them from traveling and destroying their equipment." Laham added, "The country has lost many talents because tens of journalists emigrated from Gaza.”
Laham also described a long series of Israeli violations: Last year two journalists were shot dead by the Israeli army in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and “we documented over 750 Israeli violations: 90 journalists were hospitalized during the year 2019, 80 of them were shot by bullets, and two of them lost limbs, most recently Muath Amarneh, who lost his eye.”
Palestinian photojournalist Muath Amarneh, 35, lost his left eye when an Israeli soldier allegedly shot him while he was covering an anti-occupation demonstration in Surif village, 8 miles (13 kilometers) northwest of Hebron, on November 15. The event was viewed as part of a systematic policy to reduce coverage of Israeli security forces’ actions against unarmed Palestinians.
“Israel doesn’t see the journalists or care about them; the Israeli government doesn’t even care about the treaties it signed regarding human rights and freedoms,” Amarneh told The Media Line. He added that Palestinian journalists constantly suffer from Israeli violations, which include targeting journalists with tear gas and the foul-smelling wastewater-like material known as “skunk water.”
“I personally suffered more than once from the Israeli army until I lost my eye. Once they targeted me with wastewater and destroyed my camera,” Amarneh said. However, he said that the most difficult of all the Israeli violations are the army’s attempts to use journalists as human shields. “When they targeted me the last time, I was keeping a proper distance from soldiers. I lost my eye, and the bullet is still in my head near my brain.”
He also described the Palestinian security forces’ suppression of a protest in 2014: “The march and the protest were suppressed. They broke my camera and I was beaten by more than 15 men.” Muath suffered major bruises and was hospitalized after this incident.
“Palestinians journalists’ rights are violated since they don’t want us to speak the truth. I feel like nowadays, everywhere, people don’t want a free journalist but a politicized one. The government rejects journalism that reflects the streets,” he added.
In 2018, Human Rights Watch accused both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas of harassing journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as both the PA and Hamas judge journalists’ work based on whether it serves their political agendas and views.
Reportedly, there is significant Palestinian discontent with allowing Israeli journalists to work in the West Bank while Israel is violating the rights of Palestinian journalists and citizens, and prevents Palestinian journalists from covering news in Israel or sometimes even entering the country at all.
Ohad Hemo, the Palestinian affairs correspondent for the Israel Television News Company, told The Media Line that Palestinian journalists take umbrage with the fact that he regularly enters the West Bank as a journalist, and that this has led to his being harassed by Palestinian journalists.
“I’m not really free to enter the West Bank because of the insane and unbelievable incitement carried out by the Palestinian media against me. Sometimes they threaten to hit me and my team or to remove us from the West Bank,” Hemo said.
He added that there are social media campaigns that provoke anger against him in the West Bank. “They urge people to throw stones at me and my colleagues. I even once reached out to the government to ask why the Palestinian media aren’t allowed into Israel but I got no answer.”
Hafez Abu Jabra, a Palestinian journalist who works for Roya Television, told The Media Line that Palestinian attempts to prevent Israeli media from entering the West Bank are not directed at Hemo personally. “We criticize our government’s welcoming Israeli media people while their army attacks us constantly.”
Abu Jabra added that while Hemo can enter the West Bank to carry out journalistic work, Palestinians aren’t allowed into Israel to begin with; in addition, Israel violates their rights in their own country. “We demand a law preventing them [the Israeli media] from entering our lands,” he said.