Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada on 28 September 2000, journalists have featured heavily among the victims. According to IPI’s research, six journalists have been killed and there have been another 59 incidents in which journalists were injured by gunfire or shelling. Throughout the conflict, journalists have been subject to targeted shootings, beatings, harassment, censorship, threats and obstruction in carrying out their profession. In addition, media outlets have been targeted and destroyed and broadcasting equipment seized and confiscated. The attacks have come from a number of different Israeli and Palestinian groups including soldiers, police, settlers and civilians.
At least 81 per cent of the violations against press freedom were perpetrated by Israelis and the overwhelming majority of targeted journalists have been of Palestinian origin. In December, when pressed by a range of NGOs to investigate the multiple charges of repression levelled against it, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) found only one of its soldiers guilty of violent transgressions against journalists. He was not punished, but his superior officer was reprimanded. None of the investigations conducted by the IDF concerned the shootings of the Palestinian journalists, five of whom died of their injuries.
On the basis of IPI’s research, the IDF committed at least 165 press freedom violations during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, including at least four killings. These attacks on press freedom make up at least 75 per cent of the total press freedom violations committed since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
Tellingly, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been quoted as saying that “winning the struggle is 80-90 per cent dependent on the media’s effectiveness”. Although the meaning of the media’s “effectiveness” is unclear in this context, what is clear is that the IDF has implicitly condoned the attacks on the media by effectively promising soldiers immunity for such crimes.
After the large-scale invasion of the West Bank by the IDF in March and April 2002, Western coverage has intensified as Israel sought to exclude the press from all areas subject to the incursion. In recognition of the need for information on press freedom violations during this period, IPI’s statistical report offers a detailed account of the attacks on press freedom by both sides. The report provides disturbing evidence that press freedom has become a casualty in this increasingly bloody conflict.
To read the IPI Report, please visit the IPI website at: http://www.freemedia.at/intifada.htm