Since 2000, 55 Journalists killed in Occupied Territories

Attacks against journalists and press freedoms are a routine policy in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli occupation has for decades been killing and maiming journalists.

Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper on Wednesday as she arrived to cover a dawn raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, is the latest in a long list of Palestinian reporters killed by Israeli forces.

Last year, Al Jazeera journalist Givara Budeiri was violently detained and held in Israeli police custody while covering a demonstration in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah while wearing a “press” vest. Video of the arrest sparked international condemnation.

In April, a formal complaint was filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC), alleging that Israel’s “systematic targeting” of Palestinian journalists and its failure to investigate their killings amounted to war crimes.

Israeli authorities have led an unprecedented crackdown on local journalists attempting to cover violent developments on the ground since the outbreak of Palestinian protests in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and across Israel in May 2021.

Police and armed forces have beaten and fired live ammunition on journalists covering the unfolding of events, particularly following attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s deadly bombardment of Gaza.

In the West Bank, photojournalists were targeted with steel bullets while doing their job at the northern entrance to the city of al-Bireh, near the settlement of Beit El, Middle East Eye reported last year.

Israeli police were also seen intimidating members of the press covering the events, as well as disrupting reports and footage coming from the ground.

Additionally, Israeli airstrikes on Gaza destroyed al-Jalaa Tower last year, which housed a number of media offices used by outlets including Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, the Associated Press, and other local media organisations.

The Israeli airforce also destroyed al-Shorouk Tower, which housed seven media outlets; and al-Jawhara tower, which houses the offices of over a dozen media organisations, including the Palestine Newspaper, Al Kufiya Channel, Bawaba 24, and the Palestinian Media Forum.

Palestinian news agency Wafa has a list of dozens of journalists killed since 1972, with the tally increasing significantly since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000.

Palestinian journalists were targeted while covering the Israeli assaults on the West Bank cities in 2002, while during the summer of 2014, Israeli killed 17 Palestinian journalists during its war on Gaza Strip.

Both the UN and the Committee to Protect Journalists have documented 17 Palestinian journalists being killed since 2000. This does not include Abu Akleh or several journalists killed from other countries: two Italians, one Turk, and one Welshman.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, however, says the number is far higher. In 2020, the group said that Israeli forces had killed more than 46 Palestinian journalists since the Second Intifada in 2000.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate counts annually between 500 and 700 Israeli occupation attacks and crimes against Palestinian journalists.

It’s time for these crimes to stop and to hold accountable those who committed them and those who issued the orders,” said a member of Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Omar Nazzal.

He added that Israel’s “aim [is] to silence and prevent the factual press image from being conveyed to the world.”

The Israeli authorities are currently holding a total of at least 16 Palestinian journalists. They include Mahmoud Issa who has been held since 1993.

The only Palestinian woman journalist currently detained, Bushra Al-Taweel, has been held since 8 November 2020, when she was arrested on the road from Ramallah to Nablus. Although no charge has been brought against her, her administrative detention was extended for another four months on 7 March. She was previously held without any charge for a total of 230 days, from December 2019 to July 2020.

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