Harm to journalists and freedom of the press in recent events in Jerusalem

Illustration. Photo by Mirah Curzer, ACRIIllustration. Photo by Mirah Curzer, ACRI

In two urgent letters sent to the Police on 23.7.2017 and 26.7.2017, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel urged the Police to allow full freedom of movement to journalists covering recent events in and around  Jerusalem’s Old City, and to immediately stop any policy and practice that harms journalists or prevents them from preforming their duties. ACRI stated in the letter that if the Police continue, it will take the matter to the High Court.

 

Scores of journalists and photojournalists have been covering the escalation in Jerusalem following the deadly shooting attack in the Temple Mount/ Al-Harem a-Sharif, which took place 14.7.2017.

 

Over the past two weeks, several journalists were wounded by riot-control gear and physically assaulted by policemen, including:  Afif Amira from WAFA agency who suffered a sponge bullet hit to his abdominal; A Sky News crew that was attacked while filming in Al-Maqased Hospital in East Jerusalem; and reporter Fatma al-Bakri who suffered a direct hit by a stun grenade.

 

In addition, Palestinian, Israeli and foreign journalists were prevented on multiple occasions from entering the Old City – while tourists and Israeli-Jews who are not journalists were allowed into the Old City. Journalists reported that Police used violence against them to prevent their entry, and in some cases demanded to see the footage they had obtained. A Police spokesperson told journalists on 23.7.2017 that the Police expects them to report from a designated area where their safety could be guaranteed, and not from where events are taking place.

 

ACRI attorneys Nisreen Alyan and Roni Pelli stressed in the letters to the Police that such limitations on the work of journalists is an unprecedented and illegal measure, which gravely harms freedom of press and freedom of expression. “The public interest requires free access for journalists in the Old City … The Police has an obligation to enable freedom of press, not to limit or suppress it.”

 

The fact that tourists and Israeli-Jews freely entered the Old City while journalists were barred from doing so raises concern that the Police’s intention was to prevent the free flow of information through the media on the events taking place and on the Police’s handling of those events.

 

ACRI demanded from the Chief Legal Advisor of the Israeli Police to immediately instruct the police forces to stop causing any harm to journalists and to their vital work, and to open investigation into cases where policemen treated journalists in a violent or unlawful manner.

 

“The police’s mission to safeguard security and public order cannot be carried out in the dark, hidden away from the public eye. The police may not abuse the powers given to it in order to act violently and to prevent journalists from reporting about its actions,” Alyan and Pelli concluded.

 

To read the letters in Hebrew, click here and here

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Categories: East Jerusalem, Freedom of Expression, Police and Security Guards

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