On Friday, October 30th, Israeli border police officers physically assaulted several members of the Palestinian and international press, including members of the Foreign Press Association, as they attempted to cover clashes between Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli forces at Beit El, near Ramallah.
Several cameramen, a TV reporter and a photographer were hit, kicked and had pepper gas sprayed directly in their faces, causing serious injuries. In some cases journalists' gas masks were wrenched off their face so that pepper gas could be sprayed straight into their eyes. Palestinian medics who came to the scene to provide emergency assistance were also attacked with pepper spray. All of the journalists were clearly identified as members of the press and were standing away from the clashes. Footage of the incident is viewable here and here.
This sort of behaviour by the border police is both abusive and a gross violation of press freedom, and yet it has become all too common, raising serious concerns about their ability to control their actions. One of the police officers involved today is known by name to the press and has earned a reputation for his aggressive actions. Despite repeated attempts by the Foreign Press Association to meet with commanders to discuss the situation, there has been no response from the Border Police or the Defence Ministry. This ignoring of the problem cannot continue. Video footage of past incidents has shown Israel's security forces to be the protagonist in several case, suggesting a systemic problem. We once again urge the border police and military commanders in the West Bank to control and restrain the forces under their command and to take up our request to discuss this deteriorating situation.
The Foreign Press Association understands a Palestinian posing as a local news photographer and wearing a t-shirt marked PRESS stabbed an Israeli soldier in Hebron today (Oct. 16). We utterly deplore this violation of press privilege and call on local Palestinian media organizations to immediately verify all media credentials to ensure there are no violations. The FPA represents the foreign media working in Israel and the Palestinian Territories and tightly restricts the issuance of FPA credentials. This attack was carried out by someone posing as a local Palestinian journalist. All the same, it marks a worrying development that demands that all media operate with heightened caution in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This incident is also clearly of grave concern to the Israeli security forces. As the FPA, we try to work closely with the IDF and the Border Police to ensure coordination is clear and that all dangers are minimized. We urge the continuation of that cooperation and coordination to avoid any attack like this happening again in the future. 16th October 2015
Last night (October 14th ) the Jerusalem correspondent and a cameraman for France 2 were approaching the central bus station to cover the attack there, when they were warned by an IDF soldier not to film the events. The cameraman then turned to leave the site. As he was leaving, he was attacked by several border policemen, despite having informed them in Hebrew that he was an accredited journalist. He was pushed to the ground, kicked and beaten by the men, including on his face and head. See: Footage of the incident
Notwithstanding the current stress and tension in Jerusalem, the FPA finds this violent behaviour by security forces toward foreign journalists absolutely inexcusable and abhorrent. We call on them to identify any misconduct on the part of their personnel, and issue clear instructions to commanders about allowing journalists to work freely. The FPA requested a meeting with the head of the Border Police following a series of attacks in which journalists, and especially photojournalists, were subjected to unprovoked attacks. Thus far, our request has been ignored. 15th October 2015.
On Sunday, a New York Times video journalist was attacked and lightly injured by an angry mob of Palestinian youths following a demonstration in the city of Hebron. A car attempted to box in the journalist's vehicle, which was clearly marked with a "press" sign in the windshield. He also yelled in Arabic that he was a journalist. But in an unprovoked attack, the youths banged on the car and smashed the front and back windshields and threw rocks into the car, including one that struck him in the face. After the journalist managed to speed away, the car chased him for several minutes as he searched for Palestinian police. It only backed off when he turned into an Israeli military checkpoint. Although the incident occurred in Palestinian-controlled territory, Palestinian security forces were nowhere in sight. The Foreign Press Association calls on the Palestinian security forces to do their utmost to protect journalists at this sensitive time and uphold their stated commitment to freedom of the press. We also recommend that members exercise caution in unfamiliar areas and travel with a Palestinian fixer or colleague when entering Palestinian areas. 13th October 2015
The Foreign Press Association denounces in the strongest possible terms the deplorable behaviour of the IDF soldiers who set upon two AFP journalists near Nablus on Friday, harassing and beating them and smashing their equipment in an unprovoked attack. Both journalists had received permission to operate in the area and were clearly identified, wearing flak jackets marked "PRESS". Despite this, the IDF soldiers pointed their weapons at them, aggressively threw one to the ground, punched him in the ribs and held him pinned to the floor with a knee in the chest. Both had to be treated in hospital. A video camera and a photo camera were destroyed and another photo camera seized, causing several thousand euros of damage.
While it is welcome that the IDF has said it is investigating the incident "at the highest levels" our concern is that had this not been caught on camera, nothing would be done. Units of the IDF too frequently act with impunity and apparently outside of their orders in direct contradiction with the ideal of high morals Israel's military says it adheres to.
The Foreign Press Association has raised its concerns with the IDF on multiple occasions but seen no discernible change in behaviour. It is time for the IDF command to act, to show it respects the freedom of the press and that it has control over the behaviour of soldiers on the ground. September 26th 2015
FPA Denounces Israeli Border Police Violence Towards Journalists
The Foreign Press Association denounces the Israeli Border Police’s treatment of journalists covering the disturbances at al-Aqsa compound on Sept. 13-14. Members of the police repeatedly beat, hit, violently shoved and used pepper spray against photographers and cameramen, despite the journalists having clearly identified themselves and not posing any threat to the police’s security operations. This type of behavior is unacceptable and yet has become routine, with the Border Police developing a reputation for unprovoked violence. Disturbingly, Border Police units on the ground also fail to recognize the press passes issued by Israel’s Government Press Office.
We call on the Israeli Defense Ministry to identify any misconduct and issue clear instructions to commanders about respecting the right of the press to work freely. We invite the head of the Border Police to sit down and discuss the issue.
The Board of the Foreign Press Association 16th September 2015
The Foreign Press Association is surprised and alarmed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry's decision to produce a cartoon mocking the foreign media's coverage of last year's war in Gaza.
At a time when Israel has serious issues to deal with in Iran and Syria, it is disconcerting that the ministry would spend its time producing a 50-second video that attempts to ridicule journalists reporting on a conflict in which 2,100 Palestinians and 72 Israelis were killed.
Israel's diplomatic corps wants to be taken seriously in the world. Posting misleading and poorly conceived videos on YouTube is inappropriate, unhelpful and undermines the ministry, which says it respects the foreign press and its freedom to work in Gaza
The Board of the Foreign Press Association, 15th June 2015
The Foreign Press Association condemns in the strongest terms the abusive behavior of Israeli security forces toward photographers covering the weekly protest in Nebi Salah last Friday.
During the unrest, soldiers pushed, cursed and beat photographers on the scene. In one incident caught on video, a soldier threw a stone at an AFP photographer, chased him and then violently threw him to the ground -- all without any signs of provocation.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time our members have been subjected to such behavior. While the military has stated its commitment to protecting freedom of the press, too often these words are not matched by deeds, and investigations simply disappear without any findings.
The FPA urges the army to conduct a proper and thorough investigation, announce the results in a public and timely manner and deal with the perpetrators of unprovoked attacks.
The Board of the Foreign Press Association 26th April 2015