Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Middle East: Palestinian women journalists subjected to attacks by both Israeli and Palestinian forces


10 March 2014
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA 

In Palestine, the rights of women journalists are being violated both by the Israeli forces and various groups with authority in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has monitored several recent attempts aimed at silencing women journalists and limiting their ability to express themselves.

Palestinian women journalists have suffered during the past years of Israeli occupation while doing their jobs. Al-Quds Net correspondent Diala Jwehan was exposed to many injuries and violations, the most recent was last week when she was covering clashes in the city of Jerusalem. Jwehan says:

"The occupation always targets anyone in the media field, but they see me as a weak woman, and they believe they can intimidate me by their repeated physical attacks on me. In fact, these violations only served to give me the motivation and determination to continue with quality and more comprehensive work in the media".

Among the violations committed by Israeli forces, MADA recalls the attack last year on Associated Press photographer Huda Alhodali while she was covering the eviction of the Al Nawater village near Jerusalem. She was pushed, shoved and treated harshly by Israeli soldiers.

Al-Quds TV correspondent Linda Shalash was sprayed with wastewater by soldiers during her coverage of the release of a second batch of Palestinian prisoners under the "Shalit Deal", after midnight on 30 October 2013. Shalash reported to MADA:

“I fell to the ground from the power of water pressure, and I was fully soaked. Despite of that, I continued my work and I went to the presidential residence in the province to cover the entire event planned for prisoners, where a welcoming reception was held for them”.

On 6 March 2014, 48 hours prior to the International Women's Day, Faten Alwan, a correspondent for Alhura TB, was pushed and threatened by a member of the Palestinian security forces while she was covering a women's protest in front of the Palestinian Authority Headquarters "Almoqata'a" in Ramallah, demanding amendments on the Penal code and the personal status for women law, especially in regards to the so-called "honour killings". Alwan reported to MADA:

"A security officer in civilian clothes started pushing all the journalists who were on site, including my colleague, Yahya Habayeb, an Alhura TV cameraman. When I asked the officer, "why are you doing this?" He commanded me to stay away or he will confiscate the camera, and when I asked him what his name was, he told me, "you journalists need discipline", and then he said, "Thank your Lord that you are not a man."

Alwan said she insisted on knowing his name so she can file a complaint against him, but he told her: "I'm a ghost no one can punish me".

Things did not stop there; the Ministry of Palestinian Women's Affairs withheld the honouring of journalist Nahed Abu Taima for criticizing the government, parties and institutions for not protecting women in Palestine on her Facebook page. The incident raised the ire of other women journalists like Amal Joma'a, Ruba Alnajjar, and Christine Alrinawe, which led to their refusal to be honoured by the Ministry at its honorary ceremony that is supposed to be held to mark the International Women's Day.

Abu Taima reported to MADA:

"There is a heavy burden on Palestinian women, and for 20 years we have begged the successive governments to protect women by amending the legal penalties and personal status, but with no avail, and since all Palestinian laws guarantee citizens the right to freedom of expression, it is our right as journalists to express our opinions about the government's different policies especially those relating to women. The attempts to intimidate women journalists, offending and abusing them in any form, and imposing censorship on their writing are unacceptable and contrary to the spirit of the laws."

In Gaza, women journalists also face numerous threats due to their profession. Journalist Samia Alzebidi reported to MADA that she had received several threats in different ways from an unidentified person for expressing her opinion. She said that sometimes the threat is padded and alludes to the possibility of fabrication of a moral case against the journalist if she continues her criticism of the government.

Nofuth Albakri, an Alhaya Aljadeda newspaper correspondent, reported to MADA - who monitored numerous attacks on her in the past years – that there are many obstacles that limit the ability of journalists to practice journalism in Gaza, and she noted that the security forces and officials exercise hidden and evident violations on the right of journalists. One example of this is the difficulty of access to information by journalists, where officials could deal with journalists in the smoothest and fastest manners, and women journalists are harassed and forced sometimes to wear a veil before entering for some events. Albakri added:

"We also face the problems of access to some places; in general the police or security can stop a taxi and inquire about the reason for our presence in the car with the driver without a man, which hinders our work and our access to many of the events. In addition, when we go to cover stories in the field, they push young men to harass us by entering our personal space and stand very near to us."

On the International Women's Day, MADA expresses pride in Palestinian women journalists for being role models in exercising their profession, their insistence on disseminating news of the suffering of their people under Israeli occupation and the siege captured in words and images, and their great efforts to showcase the reality of Palestinian women and other issues of concern to the Palestinian community despite all the difficulties, obstacles, and repression they face.

MADA congratulates the women of Palestine and the world, especially women journalists, and it condemns all attacks on their rights, and demands all parties concerned and responsible to protect women journalists and empower them to do their work in complete freedom, and to hold accountable all those responsible for attacks on their rights. We demand an end to discrimination against women journalists, and that they be enabled to reach leadership positions in media outlets.