'More assaults on media by Palestinians than Israel'

For first year, Palestinian authorities were responsible for more "violations" than Israel, Ramallah-based NGO says.

Journalists cover a protest in Hebron 390 (photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
Journalists cover a protest in Hebron 390
(photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
The Palestinian media faced more assaults on press freedom from its own authorities over the past year than it did from Israel, a recent report published by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has highlighted.
According to the report, which was released last week, there were a total of 206 violations restricting, intimidating or physically attacking journalists in the West Bank and Gaza strip in 2011, with Palestinian security services responsible for 106 incidents and the IDF and Israeli settlers responsible for 100.
While the division is still comparable, MADA general-director Mousa Rimawi said in a statement released with the report that this was the first year Palestinian violations exceeded those committed by Israel.
He also noted that attacks on press freedom by the Palestinian authorities last year marked a significant increase over the previous year, where 79 incidents were recorded.
Among the incidents highlighted in the 60-page document, MADA noted that the most horrifying violation of press freedom was the murder last April of Italian journalist Vittorio Arrigoni by an armed Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip. The authors also point to the fact that there has been a significant increase in general of violent attacks against journalists across the Middle East over the past year, with 20 people being killed in 2011.
The report’s authors claimed that many of the violations in 2011 were spurred on by the ongoing political division among the Palestinians and said that “despite the signing of a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas in 2011, no real steps towards appeasement have been made and there remains a void in accountability and due process of law, thereby fostering hostilities and leading to this marked increase in Palestinian perpetrated violations.”
The increase in Palestinian violations has meant that the Palestinian territories now rank in the bottom quarter of the global list on freedom of opinion and expression, compiled by Reporters without Borders, MADA pointed out in its report.
More than half of the total violations committed by Palestinians against journalists took place in Gaza, with 63 violations out of 106. MADA identified the violations as prevention of travel, raiding of media outlets, prevention of coverage, equipment confiscation, arrest, detention, assault, interrogation, trial, killings, threats and blocking websites. The majority of the violations were interrogations, followed closely by physical assaults.
In terms of Israel’s violations against Palestinian media, the center pointed out that the largest number of incidents took place in Jerusalem, where Palestinian journalists are often prevented from working, followed closely by violations in the Ramallah area, especially attacks on those covering protests against the “occupation.”
Physical assault, prevention of travel, prevention from covering events, equipment confiscation, arrests, detention, trial and the raiding of homes, are all among the violations cited by MADA.
MADA’s Rimawi pointed out that although Israel’s violations against Palestinian journalists’ freedoms had decreased they still constituted a “greater threat to the health and well being of journalists,” who, he said were often targeted with “excessive and inappropriate force” by Israel.
According to its website, the center was established in 2006 to support the journalists in the Palestinian Territories in their fight for freedom of expression. The Washington DC-based Open Society Institute assisted in compiling the report.