Israeli occupation forces committed at least 18 press violations against Palestinian media workers in May, including shooting a journalist with live ammunition, according to a Palestinian rights group.
The Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Media Freedoms and Development (MADA) documented several cases of Palestinian journalists being targeted by Israeli forces with both rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Last year was the deadliest year ever for Palestinian journalists, according to the Gaza Centre for Media Freedom, which called it ”a black year for freedom of the press in Palestine.” At least 16 Palestinian press workers were killed during Israel’s 51-day war on Gaza last summer.
Israel was the second most lethal country in the world for journalists after Syria, according to Reporters Without Borders data for 2014.
Israeli forces continue to target journalists and other media workers.
Journalist Muhammad al-Hatab was shot in his thigh with a live bullet on 15 May while covering a Gaza protest marking Nakba Day – the annual commemoration of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.
As he was filming Israeli soldiers firing on Palestinian protesters throwing stones, al-Hatab says he “suddenly fell to the ground because of a gunshot [that] penetrated my right leg in the thigh area,” according to testimony given to MADA.
Nidal Eshtayeh, a West Bank-based photojournalist who works for the Chinese Xinhua news agency, was shot in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet fired by Israeli forces while covering a protest at a Nablus-area checkpoint on 16 May.
Eshtayeh was transferred to a nearby hospital for treatment after the bullet entered his left eye. During the same protest, Italian freelance reporter Samantha Comizzoli was struck in the chest by two rubber-coated steel bullets.
“As soon as the demonstration began, Israeli soldiers started firing sound bombs at demonstrators in order to disperse them, and then they started firing rubber bullets targeting press crew[s],” Eshtayeh told MADA.
“The march was peaceful and no stones were thrown, no photographers were taking any pictures,” Eshtayeh said. “I raised my camera to my right eye to take a picture, but a soldier shot me in my left eye with his rifle, and the rubber bullet went through my gas mask’s glass eye cover and into my eye.”
Because Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank require Israeli-issued entry permits to travel to Jerusalem, Eshtayeh applied for permission through both his lawyer and the Red Cross. His application was rejected both times.
On 22 May, Israeli forces attacked a Palestine TV press crew with gas bombs and stun grenades during a weekly protest in Silwad, a Palestinian village in the Ramallah area of the West Bank, MADA reported.
On 3 May, PA security forces summoned, interrogated and detained Iman Mustafa, who works for the Jerusalem News Network and Siraj Media Network, for comments she wrote on her Facebook page. She was released and will appear in court next week.
Struck on the head
The PA has in the past closely monitored criticisms of its policies made by journalists and activists on Facebook and other social media outlets, often interrogating or arresting those who speak out.
Zeid Abu Arra from the Tubas area of the West Bank was also interrogated last month for comments he wrote on Facebook. PA security forces summoned him after he blasted the intelligence apparatus’ arrest of his father in a Facebook post.
Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, Hamas authorities also cracked down on journalists.
Saeed Kilani, a 31-year-old sports photographer, was attacked by Gaza police officers after photographing them while they beat sports fans during a soccer match on 1 May. “Six policemen took part in my assault,” he told MADA, adding that he sustained injuries on his legs and shoulder.
The following morning, “about 15 policemen … came to my home without bringing an official summon or arrest warrant, as I was told by my neighbors,” said Kilani, who wasn’t home at the time.
Later that day, a police spokesperson gave a televised apology. But another five officers returned that afternoon to arrest him, Kilani said. The officers raided his home, but he “refused to go to the police center without any official summoning.”
Another journalist, Muhammad Fayyad, who works for Al Jazeera Arabic, was beaten by Gaza police while covering a visit by a Turkish minister. Upon arriving at a Gaza ministry building, a security guard pushed Fayyad, he told the Ma’an News Agency.
“When Fayyad asked the plain clothes security guard why he had shoved him, he says that he was pushed again before being assaulted by a number of police officers who then forced him from the building,” Ma’an reported.
After being struck on the head by a police officer, Fayyad went to file a complaint at the local police station, only to find out that a warrant for his arrest had already been issued. He was arrested and later released on bail.