Israel must stop targeting Palestinian journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Israel to end its systematic attacks on Palestinian journalists, which are encouraged by impunity. Seventeen reporters were targeted, attacked or obstructed by Israeli security forces in early April while trying to cover a surge in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank of the kind that often occurs during religious festivities and was reinforced this year by the newly empowered Israeli far right.
Update on 19/06/2023: Four more names have been added to the list of journalists targeted by Israeli forces. On 8 June, while covering a military operation in Ramallah, three journalists were shot with rubber bullets. While freelance photojournalist Rabea' Monir was wounded in the abdomen, Filistine Post photographer Momen Samreen suffered a serious head injury and had to remain in intensive care for over a week. The third, who was shot in the leg, preferred to remain anonymous. On 16 June, freelance journalist Ihab Alami, a contributor to Al Jazeera, was shot twice in the thigh with rubber bullets from a distance of 10 meters.
In the space of a week, from 4 to 10 April, nine Palestinian journalists were hit by teargas grenades or had teargas fired at them, while eight others were deliberately prevented from reporting. RSF interviewed some of these latest victims.
“Whenever tension or violence erupts in Jerusalem or the West Bank, Israeli forces systematically target Palestinian journalists, obstructing them or attacking them in order to prevent them from filming or taking photos. The international community cannot keep turning a blind eye to these flagrant press freedom violations. A year after Shireen Abu Akleh’s deliberate murder, urgent action is needed to end the entrenched impunity.”
Tension at Al-Aqsa Mosque
Two journalists were attacked and eight were obstructed during tension at the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem. Shortly before the middle of Ramadan and as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, Israeli police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque on 4 April in order, they said, to dislodge “rioters”. It was at this moment of tension that Wehbe Makieh, a freelance cameraman who was reporting in the mosque for Al Mayadeen TV, was arrested and beaten by five Israeli police officers. “I told them I was a journalist and I showed them my press card, but they paid no attention,” he told RSF. He was held for an hour before finally being released. Freelance photojournalist Atta Awisat was also filming in the mosque’s prayer hall when he was attacked by Israeli soldiers. “They hit my left leg with a stick,” he said.
As is often the case during religious holidays, the Israeli police also restricted access to the entire Al-Aqsa Mosque compound that day, denying entry to eight journalists who had been sent to cover the clashes taking place.The eight journalists were Associated Press photographer Mahmoud Illean, freelance photographer Saeed al-Qaq, three journalists with the Turkish news agency Anadolu (photographers Mostafa Al-Kharouf and Fayez Abu Armila and technician Moaz Al-Khatib), Baraah Abu Ramouz, a cameraman working for the Palestinian branch of Jordan’s Roya TV, Hiba Najdi, a reporter for the local news website al-Quds al-Bawsala, and AFP photographer Ahmad Gharabli. The police prevented them from entering the compound but allowed other foreign reporters to enter in order to cover what was happening.
Clashes near Bethlehem
On 9 April, freelance photographer Abd al-Rahman Hassan was injured in the foot by the rubber bullet that an Israeli soldier fired at him while he was in Al-Khader, a village near Bethlehem, in the West Bank, to cover clashes between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents. Wearing a “Press” vest, he initially stayed behind a wall with his assistant. But then he emerged, shouting “Press, Press,” he said. “I thought I would be safe, but a soldier shot me. It was clear that I was directly targeted.” The attack was recorded on his mobile phone.
Six reporters targeted during pro-settler march
During a march on 10 April by several thousand Israeli ultra-nationalists, including government ministers and parliamentarians, to demand recognition of an unauthorised Israeli settlement outpost south of Nablus, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers targeted a group of Palestinian journalists when clashes broke out in the Palestinian village of Beita.
Teargas was deliberately fired at Mujahid Bani Mufleh, a journalist with Ultra Palestine (a branch of the regional media Ultra Sawt), AFP photographer Raneen Sawafta and freelance photographer Shadia Bani Shamseh as they tried to help Mahmoud Fawzi, a freelancer who had been injured in the foot by a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli soldier. All four were nevertheless identifiable as journalists because of their “Press” vests and they kept their distance from the Israeli demonstrators. “Anyone who tried to move or get closer to film the march was liable to have teargas fired at them,” said Mufleh. There are many videos of this attack against this isolated group of journalists.
That evening, Al-Jazeera Mubasher cameraman Muhammad Turkman and Hatem Hamdan, a photographer with the local Jmedia website, were targeted by Israeli soldiers near a checkpoint in Beit El, an Israeli settlement north of Ramallah. The two journalists, who were wearing “Press” vests, had just filmed settlers ransacking parked cars belonging to Palestinians and were about to leave when Israeli soldiers arrived in jeeps, started shouting at them, and then fired stun grenades and teargas in their direction.
This tally does not include incidents reported to RSF by journalists who did not want to be identified, or by journalists who were not deliberately targeted while covering events in the field. Israel is ranked 97th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index.