IPI Intifada Report Says Press Freedom Deteriorating: Heavy Media Casualties, Perpetrators Go Unpunished

Vienna, October 19, 2004 — Journalists have featured heavily as victims since the beginning of the violent conflict in Israel and Palestine on September 28, 2000, with 12 journalists killed and scores injured, some for life.

The International Press Institute (IPI) today published the IPI Intifada Report, a chronicle and statistical analysis of 562 press freedom violations during the first four years of the Palestinian Uprising.

At least 478 press freedom violations were carried out by the Israeli state, including the government, the judiciary, and even the legislators. Sixteen violations were committed by Israeli settlers and civilians. Three were perpetrated jointly by Israeli soldiers and settlers.

As a result, at least 497 abuses, or 88.4 per cent of all violations, were perpetrated by Israelis. Another 29 violations were carried out by the Palestinian authorities, 15 by Palestinian militants, 7 by Palestinian civilians, and one jointly by Palestinian authorities and civilians. This makes Palestinians responsible for at least 52 violations, 9.3 per cent of the overall number of abuses of press freedom. In 13 cases, or 2.3 per cent of the total number of incidents, the perpetrators are unknown.

The overwhelming majority of victimised journalists were of Palestinian origin. In 91 incidents non-Palestinian journalists were targeted; in 16 cases both Palestinians and non-Palestinians were victimised. Palestinian journalists were the sole targets in 455 incidents. Similarly, 10 of the 12 journalists killed were Palestinian. The other two were Italian and British. Nine were killed by Israelis, and two Palestinian journalists were assassinated by Palestinian paramilitaries. The remaining killing is disputed.

Out of the 213 violations, which involved shootings, shellings, bombings, and missile attacks, 204 were carried out by Israelis, four by Palestinians, and five by unknown assailants. Many Palestinian broadcasting stations were effectively censored due to closure by order of the authorities (both Israeli and Palestinian) or because of (Israeli) missile or bombing attacks. A number of journalists were jailed without being charged and all Palestinian journalists were denied Israeli press cards by Israel’s Government Press Office and therefore severely hampered in their attempts to work.

In all but a handful of cases, the perpetrators have gone unpunished. No one has been punished for any of the journalist killings. This has encouraged a climate of impunity in which Israeli soldiers, police officers and settlers, as well as Palestinian police and militants, are given implicit, or even explicit, authority to commit press freedom violations. There were nine attacks on Palestinian media outlets targeted for destruction by the Israeli army. Another seven such attacks may have been for the same purpose.

In 43 cases, journalistic records - i.e. videotape, film, digital cameras, computer hard drives, notes, and documents - were reportedly confiscated and/or selectively destroyed: eight times by Palestinians and 37 times by Israelis.
Commenting on the IPI Intifada Report, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said: “The focus of Middle East reporting has moved further east, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Iraq. In the process, gross violations of press freedom in Israel and Palestine are now being underreported. This is only in the interest of those who oppose freedom of expression and the free flow of information. It is time for a renewed demand from the international community for both sides in this conflict to respect press freedom as a basic human right. Otherwise, the situation in Israel and Palestine is likely to deteriorate further.”

Related Links

  • IPI Intifada Report