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Journalists in Palestine face huge risks

Though Israel (2nd quartile) is in the regional top five for its expression score, those at its borders – in Palestine (3rd quartile) suffer serious violations at the hands of the Israeli state – as well as by Palestine’s own leadership.

A wave of protests in Palestine began in March 2018. The ‘Palestine Great Return March’ called for Israeli authorities to lift their 11-year illegal blockade on Gaza and allow Palestinian refugees to return to their villages and towns.[1] Israeli forces opened fire on the protesters in a use of live ammunition that killed over 150 Palestinians and injured at least 10,000 others, including 1,849 children and 115 paramedics. Of those injured, 5,814 were hit by live ammunition.[2]

Among the dead and injured were a number of journalists covering the protest. An estimated 16 were hit by live rounds shot by the Israeli Defence Forces. Two – Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu-Hussein – died from their injuries, despite wearing press vests.[3] In total, more than 20 Palestinian journalists were injured in 2018.[4]

The CSO Reporters without Borders requested the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes against the Israel Defence Forces for shooting journalists during the protests, given that the forces were aware of the presence of members of the press.[5] A number of CSOs also called on the UN Human Rights Council ‘to urgently launch a “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate violence against protesters in Palestine’.[6]

Another four journalists were injured by gunfire and shrapnel – including ´butterfly bullets´, which explode on impact – when covering protests in July and August. As before, many of these journalists were clearly identifiable, as they wore press vests.[7] In July, at least seven Palestinian journalists in the West Bank were arrested and detained for journalistic work.[8]

Facebook was found to be routinely labelling Palestinian content as ‘hate speech’ in 2018, reportedly after pressure from the Israeli government.[9]

Within Palestine itself, both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza continue to carry out arbitrary arrests for peaceful dissent – from journalism and social media to public demonstration. As the feud between the two authorities has deepened, the security services of each has targeted the supporters of the other. Relying primarily on broad offences, including causing ‘sectarian strife’ or insulting ‘higher authorities’, both authorities detain in order to silence and punish those who speak out or engage in activism.[10]

 

[1] Amnesty International, Six Months On: Gaza’s Great March Of Return, 2018, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2018/10/gaza-great-march-of-return/

[2] Amnesty International, Six Months On: Gaza’s Great March Of Return, 2018, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2018/10/gaza-great-march-of-return/

[3] Committee to Protect Journalists, Palestinian Journalist Shot While Covering Gaza Protests, 8 June 2018, available at https://cpj.org/2018/06/palestinian-journalist-shot-while-covering-gaza-pr-1.php

[4] Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms, MADA Condemns the Arrest of Four Journalists from Al Quds Channel by Israeli Occupation Forces, 30 July 2018, available at http://www.madacenter.org/report.php?lang=1&id=1804&category_id=6&year=2018; see also Committee to Protect Journalists, Three Palestinian Photojournalists Injured Covering Gaza Protests Since November 19, 21 December 2018, available at https://cpj.org/2018/12/three-palestinian-photojournalists-injured-coverin.php

[5] Reporters without Borders, RSF asks ICC to Investigate Israeli Sniper Fire on Palestinian Journalists, 15 May 2018, available at https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-asks-icc-investigate-israeli-sniper-fire-palestinian-journalists

[6] Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Enough is Enough: 95 Civil Society Organizations Call on the Human Rights Council to Urgently Launch a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ to Investigate Violence Against Protesters in Palestine, 17 May 2018, available at https://cihrs.org/enough-is-enough-human-rights-organisations-call-on-the-human-rights-council-to-urgently-launch-a-commission-of-inquiry-to-investigate-violence-against-protestors-in-palestine/?lang=en

[7] Committee to Protect Journalists, Four Palestinian Journalists Injured by Gunfire and Shrapnel Covering Gaza Protests, 17 August 2018, available at https://cpj.org/2018/08/four-palestinian-journalists-injured-by-gunfire-an.php

[8] Committee to Protect Journalists, Israeli Forces Arrest at Least 7 Palestinian Journalists in West Bank, 7 August 2018, available at https://cpj.org/2018/08/israeli-forces-arrest-at-least-7-palestinian-journ.php

[9] 7amleh, Facebook and Palestinians: Biased or Neutral Content Moderation Policies?, October 2018, available at http://7amleh.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/booklet-final2-1.pdf

[10] Human Rights Watch, Israeli Forces Arrest at Least 7 Palestinian Journalists in West Bank, 23 October 2018, available at https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/10/23/two-authorities-one-way-zero-dissent/arbitrary-arrest-and-torture-under

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