RSF has urged the Palestine Journalists Syndicate (PJS) to drop its ban on journalists reporting on disputes between Palestinians. On 20 July 2004, the union announced that journalists would face “penalties” if they “dealt with or carried statements or publications dealing with internal events and inclined to slander, libel or harm others.”
Demonstrations and clashes have taken place in recent days following the 17 July appointment of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s cousin Musa Arafat as the Palestinian Authority’s top security chief. The appointment has since been revoked.
The PJS said the media should not report on, photograph or film armed demonstrations and stressed the need to “publish and cover all activities that support national unity and protect the internal front.”
RSF said it was concerned over such pressure on journalists and called on the PJS to reverse the ban, as it had done in 2002 when a similar ban was issued on the photographing of Palestinian children carrying weapons.
The organisation also noted that “the priority of a journalists’ union is to protect journalists against obstructions and abuses of power that they encounter in their work.” RSF said that rather than “trying to promote the national interest by helping to curb press freedom, which it is supposed to defend, the PJS should lobby the Palestinian authorities to seriously investigate numerous unresolved cases of physical attacks on journalists.”
RSF has recorded many such attacks since September 2003. They include a dozen journalists targeted by armed groups or security officials, the ransacking of the offices of the satellite television station Al-Arabiya and the Gaza weekly “Al-Dar” and the 2 March 2004 murder of Khalil al-Zebin, editor of the twice-monthly “An-Nashra” in Gaza.