‘Shut down news’: Palestinian journalists on the front line | Freedom of the Press News

East Jerusalem occupied More than a dozen Palestinian journalists were recently arrested by Israeli authorities after trying to cover the news under often “extremely stressful and dangerous” circumstances.

Two Palestinians – journalist Zeina Halawani and cameraman Wahbe Mikkieh – were released under house arrest late Monday after being detained by Israeli security forces in occupied East Jerusalem last week. Sheikh Jarrah Area.

They tried to cover protests across the country pending the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes to make way for Israeli settlers.

After five days in prison, the judge in the central court in Jerusalem released them on bail of 4,000 shekels ($ 1,230) each and ordered them to be under house arrest for a month and prohibit them from communicating with each other for 15 days.

“The police have accused the two of assault, obstruction of police work and threats,” their lawyer Jad Qadamani told Al Jazeera.

However, video footage of the day’s events and the arrest were shown to the judge, which contradicts the police’s testimony.

“The police wanted to keep them locked up for further investigation, but they did not have enough evidence,” Qadamani said.

“However, the dossier on this has not been closed either, but I believe there is no case for the district attorney to lodge complaints.”

Zeina Halawani leaves the infamous Maskubieh police station in the Russian compound in occupied East Jerusalem [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

Mikkieh told Al Jazeera the message the Israeli police were trying to send was meant to scare journalists.

“The occupying forces claim that I tried to prevent the arrest of my colleague Zeina and that I assaulted the occupying army. That did not happen, “said Mikkieh, who was hit on the head with the butt of a rifle and caused to bleed. He describes the five-day prison sentence as the most difficult in his life.

Halawani said she was accused of assault, raising the Palestinian flag and inciting young men to attack the police.

‘None of that is true. “I have bruises on my body where I was beaten by two policewomen,” she told Al Jazeera, describing the horrific conditions in the prison where she could hear children crying through the night.

Despite their ordeal, both journalists remained defiant, while Halawani promised to ‘publish the truth and face the occupation’.

While their experience was traumatic, they sustained only minor injuries.

Wahbeh Mikkieh leaves police station in Russian compound in East Jerusalem [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

Raj’ee al-Khatib, a Palestinian journalist who works for Jordanian and Italian TV and has been covering the news in Jerusalem for many years, said he had lost the number of times he was attacked by Israeli forces.

‘I have been injured many times in the past, but in the past month during the coverage of the pending evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and the invasion of Al-Aqsa Mosque, “the behavior and attitude of the Israeli forces deteriorated,” he said.

“My leg was broken a few weeks ago by a rubber bullet near the Old City in Jerusalem and I had to go to hospital.

“On another occasion, my camera was smashed and I was also beaten from behind by Israeli police in Sheikh Jarrah.

“The police are getting personal and their actions look like retaliation against journalists because of the negative media coverage they are receiving internationally,” al-Khatib told Al Jazeera.

‘Extremely stressful’

Many Palestinian journalists, with various media cards, were blocked by Israeli police from entering Sheikh Jarrah, claiming to need an Israeli Government Office (GPO) card, but al-Khatib said his GPO card could not protect him. not.

“Being a journalist here is extremely stressful and also dangerous, and my family is constantly worried about me.”

Reporters Without Borders reported on May 28 that 13 Palestinian journalists was detained in Israeli “administrative detention”, or without trial.

Alaze al-Rimawi, 43, of Al Jazeera, was arrested by Israeli soldiers in Ramallah in April. He then went on a hunger strike which resulted in his administrative detention being shortened from three months to 45 days.

On May 21, an Israeli judge ordered that the administrative detention of another Palestinian journalist, Al Ghad TV cameraman Hazem Nasser, be extended by 11 days. back from the filming of a repression of Israeli soldiers against Palestinian protesters in Nablus, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) report.

According to the CPJ’s World Press Freedom Index for 2021, Israel ranked 86 out of 180 countries, accusing the Israeli authorities of ‘hunting Palestinian reporters’.

“Israeli authorities must stop arresting and attacking journalists, who play a key role in reporting the news and bringing clarity amid chaos,” said Ignacio Miguel Delgado, representative of the CPJ Middle East and North Africa, said.

Palestinian journalists face an uphill battle through the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

During the year 2020, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA) monitored and documented 408 media violations in the occupied West Bank – including East Jerusalem – and the Gaza Strip.

MADA reported that “215 offenses were committed by the Israeli authorities, while various Palestinian authorities committed a total of 96 offenses in the West Bank and Gaza”.

A media correspondent gestures as he is led by an Israeli soldier on the occupied West Bank in March [Raneen Sawafta/Reuters]

“Close news coverage”

Dozens of Palestinian activists have also been compounded by Palestinian intelligence in the West Bank over the past few weeks over their criticism of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“Several websites considered by the PA as opposition media have been inaccessible since 2017,” CPJ said.

CPJ’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index placed the PA at 132 on the world freedom scale.

However, the worst offenses against the media were committed during Israel’s recent attack on Gaza after rockets were fired from the coast onto Israel, which in turn followed violent events in East Jerusalem.

Palestinian journalist Yousef Abu Hussein was in Gaza killed when his house was bombed by the Israelites.

A separate Israeli airstrike also wounded at least two Palestinian journalists working for the Turkish Anadolu news agency.

CPJ said at least 18 local and international media in Gaza City, including Al Jazeera and The Associated Press, was bombed during Israeli military attacks.

Israeli officials say the Al Jazeera and AP office building was infiltrated by Hamas members, but yet to provide evidence to confirm the allegation.

“In less than a week, Israel has bombed the offices of at least 18 media outlets, and it is difficult to come to any conclusion other than that the Israeli army wants to suspend news coverage of the suffering in Gaza,” Delgado said.

A poster in Sheikh Jarrah says ‘here we will stay’ [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

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