At least 35 journalists attacked while covering West Bank protests
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns targeted violence by Palestinian security forces against many journalists covering the past week of protests against the murder of a well-known critic of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The authorities must not tolerate any violation of the freedom to inform, RSF said.
While covering the demonstrations, which have been marked by clashes between protesters and security forces, many journalists have reported being attacked, threatened or chased. They say stones were thrown at them, teargas was fired at them and in some cases their equipment was destroyed.
In most cases, their assailants were men in civilian dress who acted with complete impunity while uniformed security forces watched without taking any action or in some cases participated in the attacks.
On 28 June, 50 journalists issued a joint appeal to the United Nations on “take necessary and immediate measures to protect [them].” Another day of protest is planned for tomorrow in the West Bank.
“We strongly condemn acts of violent repression against journalists that have very clearly been systematic in nature,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Detailed accounts show that a ‘no-holds-barred’ approach has been used to prevent journalists from working. It is unacceptable for media workers to be deliberately targeted and assailed from all directions as these have been. We urge the authorities to tolerate no violation of their freedom to inform.”
Women journalists have been particularly targeted by the violence. Freelance reporter Saja Elmi told RSF: “We didn’t wear a press vest on Thursday. We didn’t think we needed armour in the middle of the city and we hadn’t expected the crackdown. But I wore a vest and a gas mask on Saturday.”
Middle East Eye correspondent Shatha Hammad said a member of the security forces deliberately fired a stun grenade at her with the result that she had to be taken to hospital because she was losing a lot of blood. Quds News Network reporter Najlaa Zeitoun said she was struck, threatened with rape and subjected to sexist insults. When she told her assailant she was a reporter, he replied: “I don’t give a damn.”
Filistin Time reporter Sarah Al-Rifai said a police officer ordered her to stop filming and then grabbed her sleeve until a male journalist stepped in to defend her. J-Media’s Fayhaa Khanfar said a man in civilian dress snatched her phone and then another pushed her violently to the ground. After recovering consciousness, she asked a police officer for help but another officer told him: “Don’t bother.”
Many journalists also report that they are now the targets of smear campaigns on social media and in the local media. They include freelancer Faten Alwan, who told RSF that she and other journalists are now on a “shame list” and that she is accused of being a US agent.
Palestine is ranked 132nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.