Palestinian journalists targeted to prevent them speaking truth about Israeli occupation

By Steve Sweeney
Palestinian journalist Yasser Mortaja was killed by Israeli troops in Gaza while working in April 2018

PALESTINIAN journalists have warned that their rights are being abused to stop them speaking out against the Israeli occupation, with the latest figures revealing hundreds of violations, including two shot dead in the occupied territories last year.

A report from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) said Israeli forces had committed 760 violations and crimes against Palestinian journalists in 2019.

This included 12 journalists suffering critical injuries after being fired on with live ammunition, 62 injuries with rubber-coated steel bullets, 58 injuries in which tear-gas canisters and stun grenades were directly fired towards journalists, and 78 cases of tear gas suffocation.

PJS spokesman Mohammed al-Laham explained that Palestinian media has come under increased pressure in recent years with Israeli authorities moving to shut down media outlets in Jerusalem, including the Palestine TV office.

Women have been subjected to sexual harassment, he said, with no action taken against the perpetrators, leaving female journalists feeling unable to work freely in Palestine.

The attacks on press freedom have extended to social media, with 250 journalists having their accounts closed down to prevent their news being seen by an international audience.

Many Palestinian journalists are blocked at checkpoints and prevented from entering areas including the West Bank.

Israel has taken extreme measures to block reporting of the violations and crimes committed by its security services in the occupied territories.

In 2018, the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party proposed legislation that could have seen journalists face 10 years in prison for documenting abuses by soldiers in the occupied territories. Palestine fell three places to 137th on the World Press Freedom Index in 2019.

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Mr Laham explained that two journalists had been shot dead by the Israeli army in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip last year.

“We documented over 750 Israeli violations: 90 journalists were hospitalised during the year 2019, 80 of them were shot by bullets, and two of them lost limbs, most recently Muath Amarneh, who lost his eye,” he said.

Mr Amarneh is alleged to have been shot by an Israeli soldier while he was photographing an anti-occupation demonstration in a village north of Hebron in November, losing his left eye.

“Israel doesn’t see the journalists or care about them; the Israeli government doesn’t even care about the treaties it signed regarding human rights and freedoms,” Mr Amarneh told the Media Line news website.

He said that Israeli soldiers often use journalists as human shields and that he had been targeted by them many times with his camera and equipment being deliberately destroyed.

“When they targeted me the last time, I was keeping a proper distance from soldiers. I lost my eye and the bullet is still in my head near my brain.”

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