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Statements

August 24, 2021                      

 

STATEMENT BY THE FOREIGN PRESS ASSOCIATION ON TREATMENT OF TWO WASHINGTON POST JOURNALISTS BY PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY SECURITY FORCES

 

 

 

On Saturday, August 21ST, Palestinian security forces in the West Bank harassed, abused and threatened a pair of Washington Post journalists, Salwan Georgos and Sufian Taha, covering a protest in Ramallah’s Manara Square.

 

The demonstrators had gathered to protest the Palestinian Authority’s handling of the death of Nizar Banat, a government critic who died in the custody of Palestinian police on June 24.

 

As police broke up the gathering, a Palestinian policeman grabbed the Washington Post photographer as he was taking pictures of the arrests. The officer seized the camera, held the photographer’s neck and tore his press badge.

 

Georges explained that he was with the international media and tried to hold onto his camera. But additional security men surrounded him, taking away the camera and telling him: “Here it’s different. We don’t care.”

 

The police held on to the camera for over an hour, deleting seven photos and preventing him from doing his job. When the camera was returned, both journalists were ordered to leave and told there would be a “big problem” if photos of one of the officers were published.

 

The Foreign Press Association condemns this egregious behavior in the strongest terms. We call on the Palestinian Authority to sanction the officers who were involved in this incident and to stand behind its past promises to respect the freedom of the press.

 

 

Statement by the Foreign Press Association regarding IDF action towards APphotographer

 

July 4, 2021

 

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) is extremely concerned by an incident involving an Associated Press (AP) photographer in the West Bank on Sunday 27th June, 2021.

 

According to the AP, photographer Majdi Mohammed was held by Israeli soldiers against his will for about an hour during a protest near the Palestinian village of Beita. The AP says he was at risk of serious bodily harm during the detention because stones were falling all around him throughout his detention. Majdi Mohammed himself said he felt he was being used as a human shield.

 

The FPA notes there has been a response from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), in which the IDF asserts that before detaining him soldiers asked Majdi Mohammed to move because he was interfering with their use of heavy machinery. The FPA also notes an IDF admission that the photographer should not have been asked to refrain from taking photos of soldiers.

 

Even so, this remains a very troubling incident of a photographer being prevented from doing his job and being improperly detained in a dangerous place. Photojournalism can involve personal risk, but this does not permit the holding of somebody against their will in a place where they could be hit by rocks.

 

The FPA reminds the IDF that the greatest test of demonstrating respect for press freedom lies in its actions in the field and urges it to ensure that all serving personnel are instructed to treat members of the press in a professional manner.

 

 

Statement by the Foreign Press Association regarding violence towards Al Jazeera journalists

June 6, 2021

On Saturday, June 5, Israeli police forcefully grabbed an Al Jazeera correspondent covering a protest in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and detained her for 4 hours before finally releasing her. According to Al Jazeera, she was then taken to Hadassah hospital to be treated for a broken hand and bruises to her body caused by police. Her cameraman was also beaten and his camera heavily damaged.

According to accounts from colleagues at the scene as well as videos captured by bystanders, she was arrested without provocation. The reporter was clearly identified as a journalist and wore protective equipment, including a vest that said “press,” and police refused to allow her to return to her car to show them her Israeli-issued press card.

This is the latest in a long line of heavy-handed tactics by Israeli police in recent weeks against clearly identified journalists – including the use of stun grenades, tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets and the spraying of skunk water.

Unfortunately, our previous letter to police on May 26 asking them to show restraint and respect for the media was ignored.

We call on police to punish the officers who needlessly injured an experienced journalist and broke professional equipment. And once again, we urge police to uphold Israel’s pledges to respect freedom of the press and to allow journalists to do their jobs freely and without fear of injury and intimidation.

 

May 25, 2021

To Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai/Doron Turjeman:

 

As chairman of the Foreign Press Association, I would like to express my deepest concerns about the conduct of Jerusalem police during the recent unrest in east Jerusalem and in the Al Aqsa/Temple Mount compound.

 

Our organization represents some 400 journalists – foreign, Israeli and Palestinian – who work for major international news organizations around the world. They are experienced and respectful of the challenges that police face in maintaining law and order in this complicated city.

 

Even so, we received numerous reports of journalists being hit by stun grenades, water cannons and tear gas during the unrest. While some of these instances may have been luck, we are confident that in several cases at least, journalists were intentionally attacked by security forces. (We have attached some videos of journalists being beaten by police.)

 

We respectfully urge you to take proper disciplinary action over any misconduct within your ranks. We also urge you to remind police that a free press is a foundation of democracy, and that officers should be doing everything in their power to protect journalists and allow them to do their essential work.

 

As always, we would be happy to set up a meeting to further discuss our concerns and ensure that these types of incidents do not occur in the future.

Statement by the Foreign Press Association regarding the IDF strike on a Gaza building containing international

news media bureaus

 

15th May 2021 

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) expresses its grave concern and dismay at a decision by the Israel Defense Forces to target a building housing the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

Knowingly causing the destruction of the offices of some of the world’s largest and most influential news organizations raises deeply worrying questions about Israel’s willingness to interfere with the freedom of the press to operate.

The safety of other news bureaus in Gaza is now in question. At a time when Israel’s border crossing with Gaza is closed, those companies with a bureau in Gaza are more important than ever in reporting events to the world.

We note that Israel has not presented any evidence to support its claim the building was used by Hamas. We further note that at no point did Israel AP the very real prospect that its Gaza operation could one day become an Israeli military target.

We call on parties on both sides of the conflict to re-state their commitment to ensuring that foreign news bureaus and operations be allowed to go about their work without being targeted, compromised, or endangered.

We further call on Israel to open the crossing into Gaza at the earliest opportunity to allow the foreign press to do its work and to support our colleagues at the AP and Al Jazeera in particular.

We request an urgent meeting with Israeli officials to discuss this incident, as well as other concerns arising from recent communications between foreign media and the Israeli military.

FOREIGN PRESS ASSOCIATION REJECTS ISRAEL POLICE MEDIA RESTRICTIONS

(Foreign Press Association Statement, October 29, 2018)
 
The Foreign Press Association expresses its concern at new procedures proposed by the Israel Police to restrict media coverage of events in public spaces.
 
The procedures were presented by the police as part of a Supreme Court case where representatives of Israeli and foreign journalists, together with human rights groups, have appealed against police procedures that allow authorities to prevent reporters and photographers from covering events of public interest.
 
The court challenge against police treatment of the media comes after several incidents in which FPA members were banned by police officers from photographing incidents in and around Jerusalem and in some cases were physically assaulted and their equipment damaged by police officers.
 
It also follows a period of about 18 months in which reporters have frequently been denied permission to film on the Temple Mount / Haram Al-Sharif.
 
“While we respect the court-ordered dialogue with police, these proposed procedures remain far too vague and open the door for excessive and arbitrary restrictions,” said FPA Chairman Josef Federman. 

“Access to the Temple Mount has been heavily restricted over the past 18 months, thereby imposing a frequent media blackout on the most important site in the region,” Federman said. “It makes no sense to ban the media when the everyday public and tourists still have access.”

The FPA is also concerned that police officers in the field often ignore official press accreditation when preventing media photographers from doing their job.

“From our experience the police rarely look at the official GPO credentials cards or understand what they are,” he said.

“The FPA’s attorneys will shortly submit to the Supreme Court our response to the police proposal,” he said.

Asked by the court to present their rules of conduct for dealing with the media, the police submitted a detailed paper titled “Regulating the Israel Police's Conduct vis-à-vis the Media at Operational Events.” The police said the proposal strikes “a proper balance between the freedom of press coverage by the Media and the Police's obligation to maintain public order, preventing harm to human lives and bodily integrity.”
 
The FPA objects to several clauses in the proposed police rules, including the right claimed by the police to restrict reporters’ access when “the entry of the media personnel shall lead to a severe infringement of a person's privacy,” or “there is real concern for severe harm to the bodily integrity of the media personnel if access shall be permitted,” or “there is real concern that the entry of the media personnel will escalate a violent atmosphere to a level which could endanger human lives.”

The FPA also objects to the proposal that media access can be denied where there are “special circumstances that justify preventing the media personnel from entering the Scene of Event” – wording that is so vague it could cover anything.

The FPA rejects the suggestion that access could be allowed with “Police accompaniment of the journalists at the scene” which it says is

reminiscent of government media “minders” in totalitarian regimes.

For a full (unofficial) English translation of the Israel Police proposals, or for further comment/information, please contact:

GLENYS SUGARMAN, Executive Secretary, Foreign Press Association

  Email: fpa1@netvision.net.il

...

Early today, June 26, the AP’s chief TV producer was barred from covering the prime

minister’s meeting with Prince William at the prime minister’s official residence following a blatant case of ethnic profiling.

 

The producer, an Albanian national and accredited international journalist based in Israel for three years, was repeatedly asked by security guards about his “extraction,”  while other AP staffers were asked about his religion and whether he was a "Muslim".

 

It should be noted that the producer had registered for the event ahead of time and been assured by the prime minister’s office that he would be allowed to enter. He also was meant to be the pool reporter for international media. The producer and an AP cameraman appeared at the prime minister’s residence two and a half hours ahead of the scheduled event to allow time for security checks.

 

The Foreign Press Association condemns this disgraceful and indefensible behavior by the prime minister’s security staff in the strongest terms.

 

Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long line of offensive and unprecedented behavior by security staff, including inappropriate personal questions and strip searches of journalists trying to cover the news.

 

We call on the prime minister’s office to apologize immediately, and urge the Duke of Cambridge’s office to speak out against this offensive behavior, which has marred a historic visit. Enough is enough 

The FPA deplores the Palestinian Authority security forces' treatment of journalists covering the protests in Ramallah on Wednesday, June 13. 

 

At least one journalist reported being punched, kicked, and assaulted with a baton by members of the security forces. Several journalists were detained without cause and forced to delete photographs from phones and cameras. 

 

This behaviour is completely unacceptable. Covering peaceful demonstrations is one of the most basic jobs of the media and journalists should be able to do so without fear of attack or censorship. 

The FPA urges the Palestinian Authority to investigate this incident and to apologize. June 14

2018

FPA expresses its deep sympathy over the death of Gaza journalist Yasser Murtaja, who was fatally shot while covering a border demonstration in Gaza yesterday. 

We urge the army to show restraint in areas where journalists are operating and to conduct a fast and open investigation into this incident.

 We also remind our members to exercise utmost caution when covering these events.  April 7, 2018

 

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