BBC protests after crew caught in violence

The BBC lodged a protest with the Israeli government yesterday after its Middle East correspondent, Orla Guerin, was pinned down by Israeli fire while filming a demonstration in the West Bank.

She is among several journalists who have either been involved in shooting incidents or been manhandled during the Israeli occupation of Ramallah and Bethlehem.

News organisations, including the Guardian, have also protested about lack of freedom of movement for journalists after the Israeli army declared Ramallah, the Palestinian capital in the West Bank, a closed military zone.

A BBC spokesman said Guerin and the rest of a BBC crew had been filming in Bethlehem on Monday. “They made the point that they had been on legitimate business, on press business. They were filming a peaceful demonstration.”

The spokesman said that when the shooting began, the BBC crew put their hands in the air. “People were shooting very close, on either side. She was pinned by the car before they let them go.” The incident was shown on the BBC news on Monday.

The spate of incidents in recent days contrasts with the previous 18 months in which the number of journalistic casualties has been relatively low: one dead and about 30 injured.

A Boston Globe reporter, Anthony Shadid, was shot and wounded in the shoulder on Sunday in Ramallah. Shadid has been moved from a Ramallah hospital to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, where he was recovering from his injuries.

The Foreign Press Association in Israel protested yesterday over the expulsion from Ramallah of a television crew working for the US network CBS on Monday. It also complained about the Israeli army attempt to close off Ramallah to the media.

In a further move towards a media clampdown, the director of the Israeli government press office, Daniel Seaman, yesterday took the unusual step of revoking the press cards of the Abu Dhabi television correspondent, Leila Awdeh, and the network’s visiting correspondent, Jasim al-Azzawi, claiming they had been “engaged in crude anti-Israeli propaganda”.

He also issued a warning to the US networks CNN and NBC, whose correspondents have continued to broadcast from Ramallah, which he said was a violation of Israeli law because it was a closed area. He added that while Israel was a democratic country “in which journalists have complete freedom, democracy is not anarchy”.