I'lam Condemns Targetting of Journalists and Freedom of Expression
Israeli Police Targets Journalists and Freedom of Expression
The Israeli police have been targeting journalists and free speech by attacking journalists, and monitoring and policing thoughts in online media. This comes in the wake of the Palestinian protests in response to the repeated attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque, in which 45 Palestinians have been killed and 5,700 have been injured as of the 19th of October, 2015. Eight Israelis have been killed and 201 have been injured in that same timeframe.
The testimonies that I’lam has gathered clearly indicate that the police are deliberately targeting press and freedom of expression. During the last series of protests and clashes Israel jailed 46 journalists from within Israel, including those in Jerusalem. During these protests they are repeating this pattern.
Journalist Saher al-Haj of the Jaffra Newspaper said in his testimony that he was attacked during the protest held in Nazareth on the 8th of October, 2015. He stated that the police targeted journalists rather than protesters. They shot them with rubber bullets and broke the leg of one of the female journalists.
Journalist Hana Mahameed of Al Mayadeen TV suffered burns to her face. She stated that the police deliberately threw gas bombs at the journalists despite their protective press jackets being in clear view.
Police have employed a number of tactics to harm and intimidate journalists. They have beaten them, shot them with rubber bullets, and thrown gas bombs and tear gas at them. These actions violate international law which protects journalists while they are covering protests or armed conflicts.
I’lam in its letter to the Commander in Chief of the Police and the Prosecutor General of the Army stated that according to international conventions and treaties, the journalists in areas of conflict are protected by Article 79 of the Geneva Convention of 1949. The Convention states that the civilian journalists who perform their missions in areas of armed conflict must be respected and treated as civilians, and protected from all forms of deliberate attack, provided that they do not act contrary to their civilian status.
These violations also constitute a flagrant violation of United Nations Security Council resolution No. 2222, released in May, which calls for the protection of journalists. This resolution was a continuation of resolution 1738 initiated by France in 2006, which defends freedom of expression, even over the internet, in situations of armed conflict and or protest.
In this context I’lam also condemns the police unit created to monitor and police statements made by Arabs on social and other online media platforms. This unit has been used to make preventative arrests of Arab citizens solely on suspicion that they are involved in illegal activity. They monitor social media of Arab citizens and arrest activists under the pretext that their publications through social networks indicate that they may have the “intention” to carry out “terrorist attacks”. Many have been arrested for making statements of solidarity with their Palestinian brethren, which did not exceed a moral statement of unity.
At least eight arrests have been made based upon statuses created on Facebook. These arrests include journalist Mifhqal Zidane and football player Hamama Jarban. Mifhqal Zidane, editor of the Baladna website, was arrested and then released after a night in jail. Hamama Jarban, who plays for both the Palestinian national team and Hapoel Hadera in Israel, was similarly arrested for a status update she made on Facebook.
The Israeli government invests substantial resources in its international propaganda. This is evidenced by a recent photograph of Ahmad Manasra receiving good care in the hospital. Manasra, thirteen, had been run over by a vehicle. Photographs of child patients being treated in the hospital are forbidden to be published by Israeli law. However, the right wing Israeli government seeks to rewrite and erase facts that do not serve its narrative. This is also why they target journalists at protests to prevent alternative narratives from coming to light. I’lam argues that this policy cannot succeed in the age of new media where anyone can publish videos which document the facts. The police cannot arrest thousands of innocent citizens only for expressing their views against the suppressive policies of the police forces.
In the face of these clear and consistent violations I’lam intends to continue and increase its advocacy measures to create respect under law for freedom of expression and for independent media. Additionally, I’lam’s legal department will go to court to address violations of journalist’s rights and ensure their protection in the future.