Geneva – The targeting and prosecution of journalists in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is deeply concerning, said Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor in a statement, and indicates a serious decline in public freedoms.
Violations against journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have escalated in recent days, culminating on the evening of Saturday 5 August with the injury of journalist Mohammed Abed by Palestinian security forces. Amid the forces’ suppression of a demonstration in the Jenin refugee camp following an armed attack carried out by a Palestinian from Jenin in Tel Aviv, a tear gas grenade was fired directly at Abed’s knee.
Euro-Med Monitor noted that the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, including journalists, is a violation of human rights, particularly the right to life and physical integrity. The attack comes just one day after the occurrence of multiple violations of press freedom in Gaza, including the detention of Agence France-Presse photojournalist Mohammed al-Baba and independent journalist Bashar Taleb by security personnel dressed in civilian clothing.
Al-Baba and Taleb were in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza to cover demonstrations calling for economic improvement when they were persuaded to board a civilian vehicle. They were taken to the Jabalia camp police station and interrogated for nearly 40 minutes about their presence in the area; police examined their cameras and phones before ultimately releasing the journalists. In a separate incident, independent journalist Ehab Fasfous was stopped by a security officer dressed in civilian clothes, who confiscated Fasfous’ mobile phone and told him to go to the Internal Security Force headquarters to retrieve it. The officer asked Fasfous to leave the area, as the latter was on his way to cover demonstrations in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.
The aforementioned violations were preceded by violations in the West Bank, in which plainclothes security forces violently assaulted four journalists in front of Hebron University last Thursday. The journalists were documenting a protest by female students calling attention to their own assault inside the university the day before. Among the journalists assaulted were J-Media Agency photographer Abdul Mohsen Shalaldeh, Wattan News Agency and Quds News Network photographer Sari Jaradat, Palestine Today TV reporter Nidal al-Natsheh, and independent journalist Loay Amr.
According to the journalists, about 10 individuals in civilian clothing approached them and asked for their press credentials. When asked to identify themselves, the individuals responded, “This is defiance and thuggery; you have to stop filming,” and threatened to break the journalists’ cameras. One individual tried to forcefully take al-Natsheh’s phone as the reporter was beaten with fists and feet. Al-Natsheh’s camera was eventually confiscated, and the other three journalists were pepper sprayed. Although the identity of the attackers is known, local law enforcement agencies have taken no action against them, indicating official involvement and complicity in the incident.
Authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must investigate these incidents, hold those responsible accountable, and return all confiscated devices and equipment to their rightful owners, said Euro-Med Monitor. The organisation’s statement emphasised the right of journalists to work freely, without fear or intimidation.
Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor urges authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to respect the work of journalists and crews on the ground, adhere to international standards to protect journalists, and stop intimidating members of the press and impeding journalistic work.