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Israel's War on Press Freedom

by Stephen Lendman Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014 at 6:21 AM


Israel's War on Press Freedom

by Stephen Lendman

In its 2013 report, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Israel 112th in world press freedom.

On the one hand, Israeli journalists largely enjoy free expression. On the other, major structural barriers exist.

Relating to military control. So-called security issues. Marginalizing press freedom. RSF saying:

"Continuing confrontations in the Palestinian Territories and many cities in Israel are marked by Israeli authorities flouting of basic rights, including freedom of information."

"Many journalists have been targeted by the Israeli army. Others have been arrested arbitrarily. And security forces have been conducting raids on media offices."

"The strongest pressure comes from Israel and its army, which doesn't hesitate to arrest, even to kill, news professionals."

Repressive Knesset legislation targets speech. Assembly. Association. The right to dissent.

Military censorship prohibits information published about its high crimes against peace.

Willfully suppressing what Israelis need to know. About lawless government policies.

Claiming national security priorities. Gagging correspondents. Forcing them to observe Censorship Agreement terms.

Prohibiting publication or broadcast of what's called security related information.

Discussion of whatever Israel considers classified. Authorities have broad discretion. Final say on what requires approval.

Interpretations are crucial. Israel's hardline government wants things its way. Free expression is eroding.

Protests are prohibited for political reasons. Patriotism is stressed over truth. Nonviolent resistance is suppressed. Academic freedom is endangered.

During Operation Protective Edge (OPE), RSF highlighted "journalists' lives on the line in Gaza." Israel targeted anyone reporting accurately.

Palestinian journalists most affected. RSF saying Gaza's conflict "set off a new information (and disinformation) war."

Especially on social media. Journalists reporting hard truths accused of biased. Targeted for doing their job.

Israel breached international law, said RSF. Forced journalists covering OPE to register with the government press office.

Made to sign a waiver. Declaring full knowledge of dangers they faced. Stating "I am aware that neither the MOD nor the IDF shall be bear any liability whatsoever for damage resulting from military operations…"

"Furthermore, I hereby undertake that no suit, claim or demand of any kind shall be filed for damage or injury…"

CNN transferred correspondent Diana Magnay to Moscow. After tweeting:

"Israelis on hill above Sderot cheer as bombs land on Gaza; threaten to 'destroy our car if I say a word wrong.' Scum."

US journalists critical of Israel risk dismissal. Magnay was lucky to keep her job.

On December 19, an Israeli court extended the detention of seven Palestinians. For legtimate Facebook postings.

Containing alleged "incitement" to violence messages. Israel targets Palestinian journalists ruthlessly.

Omar al-Shalabi, Uday Sunuqrut, Tareq al-Kurd, Sami Ideis, Ibrahim Abdeen, Nasser al-Hidmi, and Fouad Ruweidi were detained days earlier.

Others are targeted ruthlessly. For critical comments on Israel. Palestinians held to a much higher standard than Jews.

According to the Palestinian Center for Development & Media Freedoms (MADA):

"(V)iolations on media freedoms in Palestine have continued unabated during the month of November 2014…"

MADA monitored 24 cases. Largely involving physical assaults. A new Israeli policy represses press freedom.

Involving "harassment of journalists, civilians and activists on the background of their writings on social media platforms," said MADA.

Israeli authorities arrested Palestinian journalist Suhaib Zahde. Accused of incitement. For reporting hard truths.

Mahmou Abdul Raziq was arrested. For Facebook comments. Israeli police wrongfully accused him of incitement.

Israeli forces use Palestinian journalists as human shields, said MADA. A Flagrant international law violation. Putting their lives at risk.

These "new phenomena add to the already numerous violations suffered nearly every day" in Palestine. "(A)t the hands of the Israeli occupation authorities," MADA stressed.

Including harassment. Physical assaults. Arrests. Detentions. It bears repeating. Targeted for reporting hard truths.

Ones Israel wants suppressed. Operating extrajudicially to assure it. In November, nine Palestinian journalists experienced "serious physical assaults," said MADA.

Haitham Al-Khatib was injured by four tear gas canisters. Fired deliberately at him. While covering a peaceful Bil'in protest.

Israeli forces used live fire against Chinese news agency photographer Ma'moun Wazwaz. While covering Israeli repression in Hebron.

Rubber-coated steel bullets were used against EPA news agency photographer Abdul Hafiz Al-Hashlamoon. Covering Hebron events.

Israeli forces used journalists Abdul Rahman Qousini and Ala' Badarne as human shields.

Journalist Mahmoud Osaili was arrested for Facebook comments. Israeli soldiers assaulted Huna Al-Quds.

While covering Israel's Al-Aqsa Mosque closure. Reuters cameraman Adel Adu Ne'meh was assaulted.

While covering house demolitions in Jericho. Palestine Public TV staff cameraman Mohammad Inaya was detained.

So were correspondent Ahmad Shawer and driver Ayman Nazzal. While heading to cover Israeli destruction of facilities near Qalqilya.

Huna Al-Quds chief editor Mazen Awwad was detained. His car inspected and damaged.

Israeli police threatened Panet and Good Morning Jerusalem cameraman Aameer Abd Rabbo. Banned from covering a Jerusalem sit-in. correspondent Diala Jwehan received an anonymous Facebook threat. Telling her to close her account.

PLO police serve as Israeli enforcers. Repressing their own people. Targeting journalists for doing their job.

Harassing, intimidating, assaulting and arresting them. Incidents occur with disturbing regularity.

MADA condemns all media freedoms violations in Palestine. Demands they cease. Wants culpable parties held accountable.

Expressed concern for increasing Israeli abuses. Especially using journalists as human shields.

Targeting them for social media comments. "(A)rresting citizens for expressing their opinion has no justification whatsoever since the law gives anyone the right to litigate in case of defamation," said MADA.

Monthly it reports numerous Israeli security forces abuses. Targeting Palestinian journalists. Including harassment. Assaults.

Use of live ammunition. Rubber-coated steel bullets. Tear gas grenades. Blocked coverage. Expulsions. Detentions. Confiscating and/or damaging equipment.

It bears repeating what other articles stressed. Israel is a rogue terror state. Operation Protective Edge is Exhibit A.

So are multiple daily incursions. Targeting Palestinian communities. Terrorizing them. Arresting innocent victims. Brutalizing them.

Cracking down hard on journalists telling hard truths. Ones Israel wants suppressed. Press freedom on the line.

Democracy's soul. Prohibited in Palestine. Is Israel next?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

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