Israeli violations of press freedom: Third update

In the third update of the IPI Intifada Report since 2000, the percentages stayed roughly the same, while the casualty toll continued to rise. Israelis were responsible for 82.9 per cent of the 310 press freedom violations recorded by IPI from 28 September 2000 to 20 May 2003, Palestinians for 12.5 per cent. In 4.5 per cent of the incidents, the perpetrators remain unknown. Ten journalists have been killed in the uprising and there have been a further 116 incidents in which journalists were injured by gunfire or shelling. During 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.

The overwhelming majority of targeted journalists have been of Palestinian origin, including eight of the ten who were killed. In 2001, 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 at that point concerned the shootings of the Palestinian journalists, six of whom were killed by Israeli soldiers. Another Palestinian journalist was assassinated by Palestinian militants, one died under disputed circumstances. One Italian and one British journalist were also killed by the Israeli army.

The Israeli authorities – in particular the IDF, but also the Israeli government, the Government Press Office, and the Israeli police – committed at least 240 press freedom violations during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, including at least eight killings. These attacks on press freedom make up at least 77.4 per cent of the total number of examined press freedom violations committed since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The remaining abuses perpetrated by Israelis were carried out by settlers and civilians.

The perhaps most worrying aspect of this conflict is that the Israeli authorities have implicitly condoned the attacks on the media by effectively promising soldiers immunity for such crimes, or even by ordering them to carry out the violations. Another unacceptable development is that the media are being used as tools for belligerent ends and propaganda purposes. Following the large-scale invasion and incursions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the IDF since September 2000, Western news coverage has intensified as Israel sought to exclude the press from areas subject to IDF incursions. 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 access the full report click here.