As of December 31, 1998

Physical assaults and shootings by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and police against journalists continue to occur with shocking regularity. Throughout the year, numerous reporters – mostly Palestinians covering political violence in the West Bank – were beaten and subjected to other forms of physical harassment. Israeli soldiers shot several reporters, some of whom had been wounded before by IDF gunfire. The circumstances of the attacks, including the distance of journalists from the political unrest and their conspicuous camera equipment, led many to believe that the IDF singled them out.

In one shocking incident, soldiers using rubber-coated metal bullets shot nine Palestinian journalists who were covering clashes in Hebron between Jewish settlers and Palestinian protesters on March 13. Video footage of the incident showed two bullets hitting one of the wounded journalists, Nael Shiyoukhi of Reuters, as he lay on the ground, bleeding profusely from his head.

As disturbing as the attacks themselves was the seeming impunity enjoyed by the soldiers involved. To date, CPJ is unaware of a single case in which members of the IDF or police have been prosecuted or severely disciplined for attacks against members of the press.

Israeli journalists were not immune to IDF reprisals. Avichai Nudel, an Israeli reporter with the daily Maariv, was wounded by IDF gunfire in May in Hebron. Yaacov Erez, Maariv's editor, said, "This is not the first time IDF soldiers have hurt journalists. Until now, these were Palestinian journalists, and the official word was that they mingled with the rioters and could not be singled out from among them."

When not contending with IDF or police, journalists were often fending off attacks by militant Jewish settlers in the West Bank. In some instances, journalists complained about physical assaults occurring in the presence of Israeli police who made no effort to intervene.

Restrictions on their freedom of movement continued to hamper Palestinian journalists. Citing security concerns, Israeli authorities tightly control most West Bank Palestinian journalists' access to East Jerusalem and Israel. Those wishing to travel to these destinations must obtain Israeli press cards and official permission, both of which are distributed arbitrarily and sparingly to the Palestinian press. As a result, most West Bank journalists are forced to avoid military checkpoints, and many enter Jerusalem illegally. Even with the proper certification, journalists are denied entry into Israel during the closures of the territories in the aftermath of suicide bombings or other violent incidents. For Palestinian journalists in Gaza, access to Jerusalem and the West Bank is almost impossible, except for a handful of reporters who possess the required paperwork. According to journalists, it is slightly easier to obtain permission to go to Gaza than to East or West Jerusalem.

In a case emblematic of these arbitrary strictures, authorities continued to prohibit Taher Shriteh, a Palestinian journalist from the Gaza Strip, from entering Jerusalem and the West Bank. Shriteh, a free-lance reporter who works for The New York Times, CBS, Reuters, and the British Broadcasting Corporation, has been denied permission to enter Jerusalem without explanation since March 1995. The apparent justification for the ban is his reporting about the activities of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Gaza.

Print and broadcast media operating in Israel remain subject to military censorship, which requires editors to submit news on topics related to national security for review. In one notable instance in February, censors banned reporting of the details of a failed operation in Switzerland by the Israeli spy agency Mossad, in which the Swiss arrested a Mossad agent for espionage. Most news outlets are able to circumvent the restrictions by attributing sensitive reports to foreign media.

Authorities continued their harassment of former navy captain, author, and free-lance journalist Michael Eldar, whose book Dakar – about an Israeli submarine that disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea in 1968 – was banned last year by court order. Eldar was arrested on July 21 after he set up a website dedicated to his banned works which featured a secret document relating to his research of the Dakar case. During his detention, which lasted for several hours, police confiscated documents and computer disks from his home and instructed him to shut down the site or face imprisonment. He was released after he agreed to take down the website and posted 60,000 NIS (US$15,000) bail.

Attacks on the Press in Israel in 1998

10/24/98Muhammad Abdel Nabi al-Lahham, Al-Roa' TVAttacked
10/24/98Shadi Ubeid, Al-Roa' TVAttacked
09/30/98Nasser Shiyoukhi, Associated PressAttacked
09/30/98Imad al-Said, Associated PressAttacked
09/30/98Mazen Dana, ReutersAttacked
09/30/98Nayef Hashlaman, ReutersAttacked
09/30/98Nael Shiyoukhi, ReutersAttacked
09/28/98Imad al-Said, Associated PressAttacked
08/24/98Amer Jabari, ABCAttacked
08/24/98Tareq al-Kayal, ARDAttacked
08/24/98Muwafaq al-Kayal, ARDAttacked
08/07/98Joseph Al-Ghazi, Ha'aretzAttacked
05/15/98Avichai Nudel, MaarivAttacked
05/14/98Eddo Rosenthal, NOSAttacked
03/13/98Nael Shiyoukhi, ReutersAttacked
03/13/98Mazen Dana, ReutersAttacked
03/13/98Bilal al-Joneidi, ReutersAttacked
03/13/98Majdi al-Tamimi, ABCAttacked
03/13/98Amer Jabari, ABCAttacked
03/13/98Hazem Bader, Associated PressAttacked
03/13/98Imad al-Said, Associated PressAttacked
03/13/98Weal Shiyoukhi, Amal TVAttacked
03/13/98Ayman al-Kurd, Amal TVAttacked

This 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.