|Home||Events||Public Statements||World Press Freedom Review||Newsletter & Publications||About IPI||Link Terminal||Contact Us|
World Press Freedom Review
2001 World Press Freedom Review
Within the Palestinian Territories (PA), media workers have been working under dangerous and difficult conditions. Indeed, it would appear the media have been targeted by both Israelis and Palestinians alike and a number of reporters have been seriously injured in the on-going conflict. As a consequence, the embattled media have been forced to fight very hard in order to report on the Al Aqsa Intifada which began in 2000.
On 17 January, masked gunmen in the Gaza Strip assassinated Hisham Mekki, the general head of official Palestinian radio and television stations and member of the Fatah movement, the main grouping within the ruling Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). Doctors at nearby Shifa Hospital said Mekki was shot twice in the head and once in the chest. Mekki appears to have been widely unpopular among ordinary Palestinians, who accused him of nepotism and corruption. He had also been accused of sexual harassment of employees. The militant "Palestinian Al Aqsa Brigades" later claimed responsibility for the assassination of Mekki. It was unclear whether the crime was being investigated by authorities.
Palestinian Authority Security officials arrested Palestinian television cameraman Majdi Arbid for filming the execution of Majdi Makawi in Gaza on 20 January. Arbid sold the film to Channel 2 of Israel, which broadcasted the execution, according to a Reuters report.
Palestinian security forces ordered the closure of Al-Jazeera TVís office in Ramallah on 20 March.The Palestinian security service had allegedly been offended by an image of Lebanese guerrilla soldiers holding up a picture of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat with a shoe hanging from it in a preview for a documentary on the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war.Al-Jazeeraís correspondent in Ramallah, Walid Al-Omari, said in a broadcast that members of a Palestinian security service entered the office and demanded that part of the preview for the documentary be removed.
When the change was not made, station employees "were informed... about the closure of the office". Two days later, Arafat ordered the office to reopen. Millions of Arab viewers across the Middle East tune in to Al-Jazeera's 24-hour broadcasts, considered one of the most outspoken and critical news services in the region. The station has actively covered the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
Yusef Samir, an Israeli Arab of Egyptian origin, was arrested by the Palestinian Authority while on a shopping trip with his wife in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on 4 April. Palestinian intelligence chief Tawfiq al-Tirawi later accused him of "collaborating with Israelís intelligence service". Palestinian Preventive Security chief for the West Bank Jibril al-Rajoub told the Israeli daily, Haíaretz, in early May that Samir had been released. In fact Samir managed to escape from the Palestinian prison in Bethlehem, a month later, on 6 June. Israel granted Samir political asylum in 1968 after he was released from a prison in Egypt where he had been held for participating in a student revolt and voicing criticism against then-Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasserís regime.
In Israel, Samir works as an editor and anchor at Israel Radioís Arabic service, and took up residence at the edge of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Gilo, close to the Palestinian town of Beit Jala.
Newsweek Jerusalem bureau chief Joshua Hammer and photographer Gary Knight were detained while interviewing Palestinian militants in the Gaza town of Rafah on 29 May. The militants claimed to be members of the Fatah Hawks. During the interview, the militants informed the two journalists that they were being detained "to protest unfair American and British press coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," according to Newsweek. The journalistsí driver and translator were also detained. They were all allowed to leave unharmed after four and a half hours and said they did not feel threatened during the incident.
On 11 September, small groups of Palestinians celebrated the attacks in the United States in front of cameras. In an effort to avoid bad publicity, the Palestinian authorities tried to stop the demonstrations, according to RSF. Police forces and armed gunmen also prevented journalists in Nablus from covering celebrations following the New York and Washington attacks. According to the Associated Press (AP), Palestinian security authorities summoned a free lance cameraman working for the AP that same day and warned him not to air his footage of the events. Members of the Tanzim militia, affiliated with President Arafatís Fatah organisation, also issued warnings that the AP cameraman interpreted as threatening. Later, AP quoted PA cabinet secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman as saying that the PA "[could] not guarantee the life" of the AP cameraman if the film were broadcast. In the end, the footage was not aired, apparently out of concern for the journalistís safety.
Three days later, five journalists were detained by Palestinian police. They were covering a demonstration at the Nusseirat refugee camp in memory of the perpetrator of the 9 September suicide-bomb attack in Nahariya, Israel. A Reuters photographer and editor, an Associated Press TV (APTV) cameraman, the correspondent for the Abu Dhabi satellite television station and an Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer were released an hour and a half later, after police confiscated their videotapes and film. Four of the detained journalists were Palestinians and one was Norwegian.
Although the PA returned the journalistsí camera equipment that weekend, some of their video footage had been erased. The AP reported on 16 September that its video was missing 45 seconds of footage. Another photographer told CPJ that images stored on his digital camera had been erased.
On 18 September, new restrictive regulations for Palestinian broadcasters were introduced. As a result, the media were instructed by Palestinian police not to broadcast news items concerning calls for a general strike, nationalist activities, demonstrations or security news without the permission of police or national security services.
Palestinian police and security agents descended on the offices of private television station Al-Roa TV in Bethlehem on 20 September and ordered the station to cease broadcasting immediately, according to CPJ. No reason was given for the suspension, and the officers failed to provide station staff with any official documentation to justify the raid. Station director Hamdi Faraj eventually received a document from the local police stating only that the station had been closed by order of Hadj Ismail Jaber, general director of the Palestinian military and police forces in the West Bank.
Staff at Al-Roa told CPJ they believed the closure was in reprisal for a news bulletin aired earlier that day. The bulletin announced that Al-Roa had received a statement from the Al-Aqsa Brigades, a group affiliated with Yasser Arafatís Fatah organisation, claiming responsibility for an attack on two Jewish settlers in the West Bank also on that day which resulted in the death of one settler.
The publicity apparently embarrassed the PA since Al-Roaís bulletin suggested that a group that is technically under Arafatís control might have violated the recently announced Palestinian cease-fire. Palestinian security official Nakhle Kaaber later told Agence France-Presse that Al Roa will remain closed until further notice. By Al Roaís own count, it was the 10th time PA authorities have closed it down since the station was founded in the early 1990s.
On 8 October, at least four journalists were beaten during demonstrations in Gaza, a cameraman with French television station TF 1 was briefly arrested and a BBC reporterís cassette was confiscated in the West Bank. On the same day, other journalists in Gaza were prevented from covering demonstrations protesting US bombings of Afghanistan. Access to Gaza on 9 October was forbidden to foreigners, including foreign journalists, allegedly because the Palestinian Authority was unable to guarantee their safety. This and previous attacks on media freedom by the PA prompted IPI to write a protest to the Palestinian Authority on 12 October.
Editorís note: press freedom violations perpetrated by the Israeli Defence Forces in the West Bank and the Gaza are detailed in the Israel report.
IPI provides links to other Internet sites only for the convenience of its visitors. IPI is not responsible for the availability or content of these external sites, nor does IPI endorse, guarantee or warrant the information, services or products available at these sites.