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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Israel and the Occupied Territories

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Israel and the Occupied Territories, February 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5653b23.html [accessed 25 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Severe restrictions on movement and violent attacks by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Jewish settlers continue to hamper Palestinian journalists in Israel and the Occupied Territories. For most West Bank Palestinian journalists, gaining access to Jerusalem remains a tedious endeavor, requiring special permits which are often withheld. Israel's closure of the West Bank in July and again in September following suicide bombings in Jerusalem, exacerbated the situation. Most West Bank journalists chose to circumvent official military checkpoints, entering the city illegally through alternate routes. From Gaza, meanwhile, access to Jerusalem and the West Bank is almost impossible except for the handful of reporters who possess the required paperwork. "There is no way for us to leave Gaza," said one Palestinian reporter. "It's impossible for us to go to Jerusalem."

The long-standing pattern of unpredictable and often-volatile behavior of IDF soldiers and Jewish settlers in the West Bank continue to pose threats for Palestinian reporters. As in previous years, they were subject to assault or the threat of violence from soldiers and settlers while trying to cover stories. In one particularly disturbing incident, four journalists were wounded by rubber bullets fired by IDF soldiers in Hebron on July 13 while covering a group of Palestinian demonstrators burning an Israeli flag. Eyewitnesses were dismayed by the incident, given the considerable distance of at least three of the four journalists from the demonstrators and their conspicuous camera equipment, clearly identifying them as members of the media.

Israeli military censorship remains in effect for print and broadcast media in Israel and the Occupied Territories, requiring editors to submit news deemed to threaten national security for review. In September, authorities restricted coverage of the Mossad's failed assassination attempt on Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal in Amman, Jordan – a move that forced editors to attribute much of their reporting to "foreign sources" in order to avoid breaking the law. In September, a Tel Aviv court cited threats to national security when it banned distribution of Israeli author and journalist Michael Eldar's latest book, Dakar, which examines the 1968 disappearance of an Israeli submarine in the Mediterranean Sea.

In south Lebanon, where Israel occupies a nine-mile swath of territory, the IDF and its proxy, the South Lebanon Army, continue to operate above the law in handling the local press. On July 3, IDF soldiers detained Roger Nahra, a cameraman for Murr Television (MTV) and correspondent for the Arabic daily newspaper Al-Liwaa, after storming his home in the town of Qlaiaa. Nahra was held incommunicado in Khiam Prison until his release on August 6. The motivation for his detention is unclear, but representatives from Al-Liwaa believe the move may be tied to an article Nahra wrote on July 2, which strongly criticized Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon.

A March 18 story in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz raised suspicion that Israel may be holding Iranian journalist Kazem Akhavan, a photographer for Iran's official news agency IRNA who had been believed killed in Lebanon in 1982. The story, written by Israeli journalist Yousef al-Ghazi and based on information provided by the Israeli prison service, reported that three Iranian nationals are currently imprisoned in Israel. Akhavan, who disappeared in Lebanon on July 4, 1982, along with two officials from the Iranian embassy in Beirut, was believed to have been kidnapped and later executed by Phalangist militiamen at a checkpoint near the northern city of Byblos. CPJ wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 15, requesting the names of the imprisoned Iranians, but received no response.

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