According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Palestine is the world’s “worst place to be a journalist.” It ranked ahead of other dangerous locations, including Afghanistan, Burma, Colombia, and Zimbabwe.
CPJ’s finding is not surprising. Since the start of the al-Asqa intifada, Israeli occupation forces have increasingly isolated the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) to conceal violations of international humanitarian law by abusing international journalists working in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000, Israeli authorities have been responsible for over 400 cases of harassment and attacks on journalists. Israeli forces have either deliberately singled out journalists for harassment and intimidation, or injured media personnel in their disproportionate use of force in responding to the intifada.
The Israeli harassment is not only against Palestinian journalists but also against international press reporting from Palestine. It includes the closure of news organizations and independent media outlets, occupying foreign media offices, shelling and destroying media institutions. In their abuse of personnel, Israeli authorities have threatened, interrogated, detained, beaten and shot journalists and other media personnel. PCHR data shows that between March 31, 2002 and June 30, 2002, Israeli authorities wounded over a dozen journalists, detained over 70 journalists, and shelled over ten media institutions.
This violence can change or even end journalists’ lives. One Palestinian journalist, Emad Ghanem was covering El Burej camp for (El Aqsa TV) when Israeli occupation forces fired from heavy machine guns directly toward him, resulting in the loss of his legs, transforming a vital man into a photograph, and revealing the brutality of the occupation.
There are many examples of such violence. One of the worst cases, for me, is the death of Fadel Shanaa. Fadel went to the scene of the Israeli bombing as a Reuters cameraman and was killed while filming firing tanks. A barrage of metal shrapnel pierced his body as a tank missile landed close to him.
In attempts to combat this violence, journalists around the world should work together to shed light on the violations against Palestinian media institutions and journalists.
*How can the international media community best support Palestinian journalists?