Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Middle East: Violations of media freedoms in Israel, Palestine in February 2013


Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA
(MADA/IFEX) - In the month of February 2013, a serious escalation of violations by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) against journalists in the occupied Palestine was witnessed, embodied by the detention of a cartoonist, and the targeting of journalists with rubber bullets and tear gas.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has monitored the violations that took place in February, specifically during the journalists' coverage of the public solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for several months.

MADA reported only three violations committed by Palestinians in February, one occurred in the West Bank and two in Gaza. While MADA welcomes the obvious decline in Palestinian violations against media freedoms since the start of 2013, it calls on the related authorities to stop their violations against journalists, to allow them to operate freely and to re-print and distribute banned newspapers in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

MADA condemns all violations against journalists, and expresses its concern over the escalation of violations by the IOF and the dangers they pose with regards to the safety of journalists. MADA also calls upon the international community to intervene immediately and pressure the Israelis to halt violations against journalists, and to release the journalist Amer Abu Arafa and cartoonist Mohammed Saba'na.

Israeli Violations

A number of journalists were injured over the past month by rubber bullets while covering various events in the West Bank. On 11 February 2013, Pal Media cameraman Amer Abdeen was wounded in his left leg while covering the demolition of a house in Beit Awwa village in Hebron, where clashes erupted between Israeli forces and the people of Beit Awwa after the demolition.

A photographer of Raya Media Network, Samer Nazal, was hit with two rubber bullets, the first hit his gas mask and broke the glass, and the second hit the lower part of his leg. A photo journalist named Shadi Hatem was also wounded by a rubber bullet in his back which caused him bruises. Both incidents occurred during their coverage of the clashes that erupted near Israel's Ofer prison situated close to the city of Ramallah, on 15 February.

In Hebron, Aljazeera English TV cameraman Joseph Handal was shot from a close distance with a rubber bullet, wounding his right knee, while he was covering clashes that erupted between the IOF and Palestinians in the “Martyrs' Square” on 22 February.

The Director of Photography at Pal Media Fadi Madi was hit in his lower abdomen by a tear gas canister while he was covering the Ofer prison clashes on 21 February.

On 16 February 2013, the IOF detained 34-year-old Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Fayeq Saba'na, while on his way back from Jordan via the Karamah crossing. Saba'na has been banned from receiving any visits by a lawyer or his family since his arrest. The IOF also extended the administrative detention of Shehab Agency reporter Amer Abu Arafa for the fourth time in a row since his arrest on 21 August 2011; he should have been released when his detention was scheduled to end on 19 February 2013. In addition, the Pal Media cameraman Abed Alghani Al-Natsha was detained for about 36 hours during his coverage of the peaceful demonstrations in Kana'an Village in Hebron on Saturday 9 February.

On 2 February, the IOF attacked a group of journalists and prevented them from covering the evacuation of Al-Nawateer Village, close to Burin village near the city of Nablus.

Israeli forces also targeted a group of journalists who were covering the peaceful demonstrations in Kna'an Village in Hebron on 9 February. They attacked, detained, and arrested the journalists on site The forces also attacked another group of journalists in Hebron on 22 February.

The IOF prevented three journalists, Alquds TV correspondent Mamdouh Hamamra, Pal Media cameraman Samer Hamad, and Alquds Dot Com Cameraman Abdulrahman Younis, from covering the raid on AlDoha town near Bethlehem on 19 February.

On 23 February, members of the Israeli Border Guards assaulted the European agency photographer A'la Badarnah and the French agency photographer Ja'far Ishtayah, during their coverage of Israeli settlers' attack on the people of Kosra in Nablus.

Palestinian Violations

In the West Bank on the morning of 1 February 2013, a group of young people confiscated all copies of Bent Al-Balad Magazine in the city of Beit Sahur, disagreeing with an article critical of the Orthodox Scouts of Beit Sahur.

The Hamas Public Prosecutor summoned the vice chairman of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate Tahseen Al- Astal for investigation on 28 February, based on a complaint filed by the Public Investigation Services on charges of "defamation" in an article entitled "Police Against the Law". And on 27 February in the city of Rafah, the police prevented the Pal Today TV crew from filming, detaining them for about 30 minutes in the city.

For more details on the individual cases presented above, click here.