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Silencing the Press

 

A Report on Israeli Attacks against Journalists

July 01- September 30, 2002

 

 

 

 

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations

Affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists – Geneva

Member of the International Federation for Human Rights – Paris

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network

 

E-mail: pchr@pchrgaza.org

Web-Page: www.pchrgaza.org

 

 


 

 

 

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948

 

 

  

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966

  

 

“Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians … They shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians…”

Article 79 – Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (Protocol 1)


 

Introduction

 

This report is the eighth in an ongoing series of reports, produced by the PCHR, documenting Israeli actions against journalists from local and international press agencies, during the present al-Aqsa Intifada.  This report is aimed at documenting the maltreatment of journalists by Israel between the 1st July and 30th September 2002.  From 29th September 2000 to 30th June 2002, the PCHR documented at least 443 attacks on local and international journalists, including shootings, beating and humiliating journalists, cases of arrest and interrogation, cases of destruction of media equipment, and the shelling of media centers and institutions.[1]

 

Over the summer period under study, a full-scale Israeli offensive throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  Two Palestinian journalists were shot dead by Israeli forces during this offensive.  On 11th July 2002, Israeli forces fired at ‘Emad Subhi Abu Zahara, 30, director of al-Nakhil Press and Media Office in Jenin, seriously wounding him with a heavy caliber bullet to the right thigh.  He died from the wound in hospital the next day.  On 22nd September 2002, Israeli forces shot dead ‘Essam Mithqal Hamza al-Talawi, 30, from Bitounia, a journalist from Sawt Falastin (Voice of Palestine) radio station, with a bullet to the head.  Al-Talawi was covering the peaceful marches organized by local civilians in Ramallah, in solidarity with the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who at the time was confined to his office under Israeli military siege.

 

The period under study witnessed a further three cases in which journalists were wounded by Israeli gunfire, one case in which a journalist was beaten, three cases in which journalists were fired at but not hurt, three cases in which journalists were detained, one case in which a journalist’s identity and press cards were confiscated, and three cases in which houses of journalists were raided.  The total number of Israeli attacks on the media within the three month period under study is 16, increasing the total number of Israeli attacks on local and international media since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada to 459 that can be classified as follows:

 

  • 4 cases in which 5 journalists were killed by Israeli occupying forces;

  • 128 cases in which journalist were fired at and wounded by Israeli gunfire;

  • 61 cases in which journalists were fired at, but not hurt;

  • 60 cases in which journalists were beaten and humiliated;

  • 138 cases in which journalists were arrested and interrogated;

  • 21 cases in which media institutions were shelled and destroyed;

  • 43 cases in which press cards and equipment were confiscated; and

  • 3 cases in which houses of journalists were raided.

 

It is becoming clear that Israeli aggression against journalists, is part of an Israeli policy aimed at isolating the OPT from the outside world and thus easing the perpetration of the numerous human rights crimes against Palestinian civilians and their property that have been committed on such a regular basis.

  

The PCHR condemns these attacks, which reflect the indiscriminate and completely disproportionate use of lethal force by Israeli forces.  The PCHR considers these practices to be part of an Israeli policy aimed at hiding war crimes committed by their forces against Palestinian civilians.  The PCHR reiterates its calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their legal and moral obligations, and immediately intervene to stop the human rights violations commited by Israel, and provide international protection for the Palestinian people.

 

This report constitutes a list of attacks by the Israeli forces on journalists and reporters of local and international press agencies during the 3 month summer period.


 

Journalist Killed by Israeli Forces

 

In the third incident of its kind since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada on 29th September 2000, Israeli forces shot dead a journalist while he was filming Israeli military action in Jenin.  According to information gathered by the PCHR, at approximately 15:30 on Thursday, 11th July, two tanks and an armored personnel carrier moved into Jenin, at a time when the curfew regularly imposed on the city had been temporarily lifted. A group of Palestinian children were throwing stones at the Israeli military vehicles.  A number of Palestinian journalists were filming this Israeli incursion into the town. Israeli soldiers on a tank soon opened fire on the journalists from a distance of less than 50m, wounding two:

1.      Emad Subhi Abu Zahra, 30, director of al-Nakhil Office for Media and Press in Jenin, wounded by a heavy caliber bullet in the right thigh that cut an artery; and

2.         Sa’id Shawqi al-Dahla, 27, a photographer of the Palestinian News Agency (Wafa), wounded by a live bullet to the left leg. 

3.         Abu Zahra underwent a 5-hour surgery at hospitalHe was pronounced dead the following day

 

Journalists Denied Entry into West Bank Areas

 

On 17th July 2002, Israeli forces at Qalandya military checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem prevented Palestinian journalists from entering Ramallah claiming that they did not have the necessary permits.  According to Mahmoud Khallouf, a reporter of the Palestinian News Agency (Wafa), Israeli forces prevented all Palestinian journalists from entering Ramallah and instead ordering them to go to the “Civil Administration” to obtain the necessary permits. 

 

 

Administrative Detention of a Journalist Extended

 

On 23rd July 2002, Israeli forces extended the administrative detention of Hussam Abu ‘Allan, a photographer of France Press Agency, by 3 months.  Abu ‘Allan was arrested by Israeli forces in Hebron on 24th April 2002.  He had been held in administrative detention for three months previously.  Israeli forces accuse him of aiding the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of the Fatah Movement.[2]     

 

House of a Journalist Raided

 

On 2nd August 2002, Israeli forces held 20 Palestinian civilians, including 14 children, in the house of ‘Emad Sa’ada, a journalist, in the old town of Nablus.  They searched the house and damaging and destroying furniture. 

 

Journalists Fired at But Not Hurt

 

On 11th August 2002, a vehicle containing Gideon Levy, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Miki Kratsman, a photographer for the same newspaper, Salah Haj Yahia, an investigator for Physicians for Human Rights Organization and Meno Lehrman, the driver, came under fire from Israeli forces while on a tour of the West Bank town of Tulkarm.  Windows and tires of the vehicle were damaged.  In a press release issued on 12th August 2002, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz asserted that the tour was coordinated with the Israeli army and Levy and his companions had the necessary permits.  The newspaper added that Levy and his companions were forced to wait for two hours at an Israeli military checkpoint on the road between Taybeh and Tulkarm the previous day, before they were allowed to enter the town.   Inside the town, they were stopped by an Israeli military vehicle that forced them to go to the headquarters of the Israeli Coordination and Liaison unit in the west of the town, to see whether they were allowed to be in the town.  While they were approximately 150m away from the headquarters, an Israeli soldier firing opened fire on their vehicle without any warning. Levy stated that “they shot to kill, as bullets hit the front windscreen of the vehicle, close to our heads.”[3]

 

Journalist Beaten

 

On 18th August 2002, Israeli forces beat Nayef D’iab ‘Abdul Hafizh al-Hashlamouni, 49, a reporter working for the Reuters press agency from Hebron, while he was filming Israeli movements against Palestinian civilians and their property in the West Bank town. 

 

Al-Haslamouni stated to the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (LAW):

 

At approximately 13:00 on Sunday, 18 August 2002, I was in al-Shallala Street near the old town, while two Israeli soldiers were interrogating two Palestinian young men.  When the soldiers saw me, one of them came up to me and asked the reason for my presence in the area and I told them that I am a journalist.  He ordered me to show him my identity and press cards and I did.  He confiscated them and the other soldiers ordered me to leave the area immediately.  I told him that I am a journalist.  Then, he ordered me to wait near an Israeli military checkpoint near Ussama School, close to “Beit Rumano” settlement.  Israeli soldiers in the area insulted me, while at least 20 settlers gathered in the area and insulted me also.  Things went worse when a number of Israeli soldiers beat me and confiscated my camera.  An hour later, they allowed me to leave the area.  I informed the office of Reuters about the incident, and the office called the Israeli authorities, protesting the attack and demanding the return of my identity and press cards.” 

 

 

Journalist Wounded

 

At approximately 13:45 on 26th August 2002, about 15 minutes before re-imposing the curfew on Ramallah, two Israeli military jeeps drove into the centre of town and fired at Palestinian civilians passing by. Six civilians, including ‘Ammar Mohammed ‘Awadh, 23, from Jerusalem, a photographer of Reuters news agency, were wounded by rubber-coated metal bullets.

In his testimony to the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (LAW), Mahoud Makhlouf, a reporter of the Palestinian News Agency (Wafa), said:

“At approximately 13:45 on Monday, 26th August 2002, when the curfew imposed on Ramallah was temporarily lifted, two Israeli military jeeps arrived at al-Manara square. Israeli soldiers opened fire indiscriminately at people passing by. Soon, a number of children gathered near a bus station in the area and threw stones towards the two jeeps. Me and some journalists, ‘Ammar ‘Awadh, a photographer of Reuters news agency; ‘Abbas al-Mumani, a photographer of France Press Agency; and a photographer of CNN called Susan, were photographing the clashes from a distance of approximately 50m. Unjustifiably, an Israeli soldier fired at us, wounding ‘Awadh with a rubber-coated metal bullet in the left shoulder.”

 

Houses of Journalists Raided 

 

 

Early in the morning on 28th August 2002, Israeli forces raided and searched the houses of Sa’id and Seif Shawqi Sa’id al-Dahla, cameramen of the Palestinian News Agency (Wafa), in al-Marah neighborhood in Jenin.  They also threatened the two journalists that they would face the same destiny of ‘Emad Abu Zahra, who was killed by Israeli forces in Jenin on 11th July 2002, if they continued to pursue their investigation.  Israeli forces also stole jewelry and two mobile phones from two houses. 

 

In his testimony to the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (LAW), Sa’id Shawqi Sa’id al-Dahla said:

 

At approximately 02:00 on Wednesday, 28 August 2002, Israeli occupying forces raided our houses in al-Marah neighborhood in Jenin after they surrounded them with heavy military vehicles.  They gathered our families and us, counting 10, in one room.  They held us there for about three hours.  When they left our houses, Israeli soldiers threatened us that we would face the same destiny of ‘Emad Abu Zahra, a journalist who was killed by Israeli occupying forces in Jenin.  I was wounded in the left foot in the same incident.  Then, Israeli tanks opened fire at our houses to terrify our children and wives.  Later, we discovered that Israeli soldiers stole jewelry and two mobile phones from our houses” 

  

Press Equipment Damaged

 

 

At approximately 10:00 on 29th August 2002, Israeli heavy military vehicles, covered by intense shelling, moved approximately 150m into ‘Omar Ben al-Khattab Street near Salah al-Din Gate by the Palestinian-Egyptian border, south of Rafah.  Israeli armored military bulldozers demolished 21 Palestinian stores, which had been closed since the beginning of the Intifada owing to repeated Israeli shelling.  At approximately 11:00, Israeli soldiers fired at a video camera that belongs to Bassam Mohammed Mas’oud of the Reuters news agency, set near Bahlul fuel station, causing severe damage to it.

 

 

Swedish Journalist Wounded

 

At around the same time, 10:00 on the 29th August, David Silver a Swedish journalist was reporting on the Israeli entry into Jenin. Upon entry into the central square, Israel force opened fire in his direction, wounding Silver with a live bullet to the right arm, while he was quite clearly just reporting on the events. 

 

Palestinian Journalist Killed

 

In the fourth incident of its kind since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada on 29th September 2000, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian journalist.  At approximately 01:00, thousands of Palestinian civilians came out of their houses throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and began a peaceful march expressing their solidarity with President Arafat, who was currently under an Israeli military siege.  Israeli forces soon opened fire on them, without resorting to the less lethal crowd control equipment available to them.  Four Palestinian civilians, including a journalist, were killed by the Israeli gunfire. 

According to information available to the PCHR, hundreds of Palestinian civilians came out of their houses in Ramallah and al-Bireh.  They marched towards al-Manara square in the center of Ramallah.  Immediately, Israeli forces opened fire on them.  A Palestinian civilian and a journalist of Sawt Falastin (Voice of Palestine) radio station, ‘Essam Mithqal Hamza al-Talawi, 30, from Bitounia, were shot dead.


Journalist Detained for Hours

On 28th September 2002, Israeli forces detained Nabil Abu Dayeh, 24, form Gaza, a cameraman of Palestine Television, while he was filming a peaceful march that was organized on the second anniversary of al-Aqsa Intifada in the northern Gaza Strip.    

 

PCHR’s Notes

 

1.PCHR considers these practices against journalists as part of the ongoing Israeli abuses against Palestinian civilians.  PCHR also considers it evidence of Israeli disregard for international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

2.Most attacks by the Israeli forces against the local and international press agencies were willful and intentional, especially since members of the press wear clearly marked attire.  The attacks are designed to prevent the objective coverage of incidents in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 

3.These attacks are part of a systematic Israeli policy of isolating the Occupied Palestinian Territories so as to allow further action against Palestinian civilians.

4.PCHR calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to meet their obligations under the Convention and immediately provide international protection for the Palestinian people.

5.PCHR calls on all international media to intervene and to exert pressure on Israel to stop its forces’ attacks on journalists and to provide the proper climate for practice of their profession without restriction.  

 

 


 


[1] To get these reports, please contact PCHR.

[2] For further details, see PCHR’s Silencing the Press, 1 April – 30 June 2002.

[3] See Haaretz‘ press release on 12 August 2002.