Jerusalem24 – An international human rights monitor said today, Monday, that the Israeli authorities are illegally preventing dozens of Palestinian journalists from traveling in what they called “a policy that appears to be practiced in a punitive manner against the background of their journalistic work or expression of their opinions.”
A report published by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor stated that the Israeli authorities are “deliberately blackmailing and compromising Palestinian journalists over their right to freedom of movement.”
The observatory’s report, entitled “Punishing Journalists: Israel’s Restrictions on Freedom of Movement,” quoted Palestinian journalists as saying that Israeli officers told them that the travel ban could be removed from them in only one case. It is to cooperate with them in providing security information about the Palestinians or to work for Israel.
According to the report, in other cases, Israeli officers promised journalists to grant them the right to travel and move if they gave up their journalistic work or stopped working for certain media and press organizations.
The testimonies showed that if they refused the offers, the journalists would be subjected to physical and psychological attacks, through beatings, detention, home invasions and threats of continuous prosecution.
The report was based on dozens of interviews conducted by the Euro-Mediterranean Monitor’s field team with Palestinian journalists who are banned from traveling in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
According to the testimonies, the processes of issuing travel and movement bans are carried out in accordance with administrative decisions issued by the Israeli authorities without following legal or judicial procedures, and without informing journalists of the decision at the time of its issuance.
In many cases they do not know of the authority that issued the decision and the reasons that prompted it. The journalists are also not informed of how to remove the decision or object to it.
According to data collected by Euro-Med Monitor, the vast majority of journalists learned of the ban in five main ways: when submitting travel and movement permit requests, when heading to the crossings, when heading to the Civil Administration, when returning from abroad, or during an interview with the Israeli General Security Service (Shin Bet ).
Nour Alwan, the Euro-Mediterranean media official, said that “for decades, the Israeli authorities have severely restricted freedom of the press and expression of opinion in the Palestinian territories.”
Alwan explained that these restrictions represented in direct targeting, arrest and intimidation of journalists, destruction of equipment and others, but in recent years another form of violations against them has escalated unannounced through the travel bans.
She added, “The Israeli authorities’ pursuit of such arbitrary policies against Palestinian journalists to silence them is a setback for freedoms of expression and journalistic work in the Palestinian territories; and an undermining of people’s right to know the truth.”
The report indicated that “in some cases, international law allows for the imposition of limited restrictions on freedom of movement and movement only in cases of extreme necessity, while these restrictions must be proportionate and not entail discriminatory measures.”
The report considered that “the cases in which the Israeli authorities imposed restrictions on the Palestinians were in the vast majority of them disproportionate and discriminatory.”
The Euro-Med Monitor stressed that Israel is obligated to grant Palestinian journalists their right of movement within and outside the Palestinian territories without hindrance or restrictions under international human rights and humanitarian law.
He urged the Israeli authorities to abide by their responsibilities as the occupying power and to remove travel bans issued against Palestinian journalists on the grounds of their work or exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
He also demanded that it stop chasing, arresting and threatening Palestinian journalists, and interrogating them randomly at military crossings and checkpoints because of their journalistic activities.
Official Palestinian statistics document the detention by the Israeli authorities of more than 20 Palestinian journalists out of a total of more than four thousand prisoners they have been holding in their prisons for different periods.