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FPA Statements 2013

December 2. 2013
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The FPA replies to the IDF response from last night:

The Foreign Press Association feels the IDF statement regarding the Nov. 29 incident at the Qalandiya crossing to be misleading and unsatisfactory.

During the incident, troops fired rubber bullets and threw stun grenades directly at a group of working journalists. The IDF’s statement does not explain why troops fired rubber bullets at eye-level, rather than at the lower body, which in this incident could have resulted in a fatality. It also gives no answer or explanation as to why someone threw a stun grenade at the back of a group of photographers who had made clear to them that they were walking away from the scene. 

Once again, we urge the IDF to investigate the very real concerns that we raised. The photojournalists were clearly identified and there can be no excuses made for the way in which they were treated. By turning a blind eye to clear breaches of protocol, and repeatedly failing to properly investigate similar incidents in the past, we fear the IDF is creating a culture of impunity within its ranks that only serves to perpetuate an already dangerous situation.

The FPA also urges the IDF to communicate clearly to soldiers working in the field that they must not target the press.

IDF response: On the 29th of November, 2013, an illegal and violent protest took place at the Qalandia Crossing, during which fire bombs were thrown and rocks hurled towards security forces, who responded accordingly with riot dispersal means. Throughout the provocation, photojournalists were sighted adjacent and in the midst of the rioters, putting themselves at risk. In the initial IDF review of the incident the IDF concluded that the rubber bullet which hit the photojournalist’s camera, who was in the vicinity of violent protesters, was not intentionally fired towards him, but part of the riot dispersal means which were aimed at disbanding the protest.

The European Media Desk (IDF)

December 1, 2013
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

On Friday afternoon, Israeli forces threw stun grenades at FPA photojournalists (among them representatives of AFP and other freelancers) as they were leaving Qalandia. The FPA members had put their hands in the air, indicating to the forces that they were leaving at which point the grenades were thrown from close quarters directly at their backs. 

Earlier, at the same demonstration, an Italian freelance photographer was almost shot in the face by troops firing at eye level. Fortunately the photographer was taking pictures at the time and the rubber bullet shattered the camera instead of his head. All the photographers in question wore clearly-marked jackets and helmets. There is no question that the forces were directly targeting the journalists. 

In February, the FPA issued a statement noting that the army and military police have a dismal track record for investigating such incidents. Over the past two years, the FPA has demanded investigations into some 10 incidents in which journalists appear to have been abused by Israeli security forces. As far as we know, just two investigations have been launched, WITH NO RESULTS. The others have been ignored.

The Turkel Commission has stated that the military’s investigative processes suffer from “structural problems.” A proper investigation into violence against the media and holding soldiers accountable for their actions would be a very practical first step towards rectifying these problems.

July 27, 2013
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

Several months later and the offices in Gaza are still closed – from July 27th 2013. 

The Foreign Press Association deplores the Hamas government’s decision to close down media operations in the Gaza Strip including the offices of Al Arabiyeh. Hamas is not only acting in contradiction to the freedom of press and freedom of speech, it is hurting itself by not allowing press coverage of the territory it governs. The Hamas government’s crackdown on the media organizations is cause for grave concern.

The FPA calls on the Hamas to allow Al Arabiyeh and other media organizations immediate access to their offices, equipment and to resume their news assignments without impediment.

July 4, 2013
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The Foreign Press Association is shocked and appalled that the prime minister’s security detail strip-searched an al-Hurra cameraman who was providing pool coverage of the July 4 party at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Herzliya. We believe that he was targeted because he is Arab.

Samer Jallad, who has covered the prime minister many times before, says he had registered with the prime minister’s office ahead of time and arrived several hours before the celebration to ensure a smooth entry. Although he holds a GPO press card, he nonetheless was subjected to more than 15 minutes of hostile questioning, ordered to take off his shoes and sit in the sun for more than half an hour, and then taken to a closed room where he was forced to remove his pants for a body inspection. In all, it took nearly 90 minutes before he was permitted to enter the event. His Israeli colleagues entered without incident.

This is the latest in a series of cases of unnecessary harassment of accredited Arab journalists in Israel. We find it especially shameful that a staffer of a U.S.-funded network would be the victim of racial profiling at an official U.S. event celebrating American Independence Day. Such treatment goes against the core values of freedom and equality that the U.S. seeks to uphold.

We urge the U.S. government to condemn this in the strongest terms.

July 4, 2013
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The Foreign Press Association strongly protests the behaviour of the border policemen who were present during a demonstration against the barrier in the Ramallah outskirts on Wednesday. Security men used unnecessary and unjustified force against the journalists from AP, Xinhua and Reuters. In one case they fired a tear gas canister that was aimed between the legs of a female journalist covering the protest. She suffered burns to her leg.

We would like to point out that the journalists were located some 300 meters away from the protesters when they were harassed by the forces.

After a period of relative calm, and few incidents, the FPA calls on the border police to deal with this promptly to avoid escalation.

February 10, 2013
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

On Saturday March 30th, Israeli forces threw stun grenades at photographers and cameramen covering unrest at the Qalandia checkpoint outside Jerusalem. The journalists were working for a number of major international news organizations, including The Associated Press, Reuters, AFP and Xinhua, and were hundreds of meters away from clashes with Palestinian protesters had taken place. This was the latest in a string of similar attacks on journalists in recent weeks.

Given the distance of these attacks from the broader clashes, this incident raises troubling questions over whether Israeli forces are intentionally targeting journalists – a practice that is usually associated with some of the neighboring countries in the region. We condemn this behavior in the strongest terms and renew our calls to the Israeli border police and other forces to do their utmost to guarantee the safety of journalists. We also hope that the border police will follow up on previous pledges to work with the international media to avoid similar violence in the future. Video:

On Saturday, an AP photographer covering disturbances in the West Bank village of Yatta was detained by Israeli forces and forced to sit, with his hands bound behind his back, for five hours before he was released without charge. The photographer says that at no time did soldiers tell him or provide documentation saying the area had been declared a closed military zone. In addition, he says that throughout the incident he followed soldiers’ orders as to where to stand. During his detention, he was not given food or water, and soldiers refused a request to get up to relieve himself. 

This is the latest in a string of incidents involving heavy-handed tactics against journalists who were merely trying to do their jobs. The FPA condemns this violence and once against calls on the army to thoroughly investigate this incident. 

It also would like to remind the army and military police that the record on investigating these incidents has been dismal. The FPA has demanded investigations into some ten incidents in which journalists appear to have been abused by Israeli security forces in the course over 2012 and 2013. As far as we know, just two investigations have been launched, and the others remain open. 

As the Turkel Commission noted last week, the military’s investigative processes suffer from “structural problems.” Properly investigating violence against the media and holding soldiers accountable for their actions would be a good way to begin rectifying these problems

February 6, 2013
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

Israeli border police forces verbally and physically assaulted an unarmed, female AP TV producer during last weekend’s protests in the West Bank village of Burin, pushing her onto a pile of rocks and insulting her. When colleagues tried to help her off the ground, forces prevented them from reaching her and then blocked them from taking her to an ambulance. It is important to note that the incident occurred before the military declared the area a closed zone. While the producer did not suffer any broken bones, she is in great pain and has been unable to work since the incident. 

Also in Burin, an officer threatened AFP photographer Jaafar Ashtiye as he documented the events, warning him he would be arrested at his home, in front of his children, during the night if he did not stop taking pictures. A military spokesman has agreed that the soldier’s remarks were inappropriate and promised the incident would be investigated, but AFP has heard nothing further on this. 

The FPA condemns the security force’s behavior in both incidents the strongest terms and urges prompt investigations. 

It should be noted that both the military and the military police have poor records when it comes to investigating such incidents. 

In the past year alone, Israeli authorities have promised to investigate at least five FPA complaints of inappropriate violence against journalists, some of which were captured on film. As far as we know, all of these investigations remain open, and authorities have never provided any update on the status of any of them.

This lack of transparency questions about the military authority’s stated commitment to protecting freedom of the press. With this in mind, we appeal to the Military Advocate General and the Justice Ministry’s internal police investigation unit to take over the investigations, promptly complete them and take all appropriate disciplinary action.

In order to assist the government with this task, we are attaching three photos of the incident involving the AP producer, as well as a fourth picture of the same border policeman spraying pepper spray on protesters. We have also attached two videos: The first shows parts of the incident in which the producer was beaten. The second shows whom we believe to be the same border policeman hitting a protester with his rifle.

We hope that the relevant authorities will consider our request and take incidents like these more seriously than the security forces.

March 11, 2013
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

In what seems to be becoming a regular pattern, Israeli security forces have again assaulted FPA journalists covering unrest in the West Bank.

On Saturday, border police tossed stun grenades toward photographers from the AP, Reuters, SIPA and other agencies who were covering a demonstration at the Hizme checkpoint near Jerusalem. The journalists say the grenades were tossed multiple times, and in at least one instance, landed on the feet of a photographer.

There is strong evidence the photographers were deliberately targeted. They were not participating in the protest, and had moved to the side of the road, away from demonstrators, at the instruction of the border police before they were attacked. When the journalists attempted to complain, the border police commander at the scene refused to speak to them.

We condemn this unprofessional conduct in the strongest terms, and call for a thorough investigation.  After receiving promises days ago from both the border police and the IDF for better working relations, we have yet to see a real investigation with real results.  All the incidents below remain open for 2012 and 2013

January 16, 2013
Statement by the Foreign Press Association

The Foreign Press Association begins 2013 as it ended 2012, dealing with the brutality of Israeli security services who consistently assault legitimate journalists who are members of our organisation as they try to cover media worthy events, this time in the E1 area. 

The Foreign Press Association is growing increasingly frustrated as its journalists are consistently unable to cover media events. Complaints are ignored, promised investigations are not completed in a reasonable period of time, or they are never completed at all.

Yesterday, photographers posing no threat to soldiers or activists were assaulted by security officials, their equipment damaged and causing them bodily harm. Earlier this week, journalists were obstructed in doing their job by security officials flashing spotlights into the cameras. And in a final step that appears to be further aimed at discouraging media coverage, all the press cars at the E1 site yesterday were issued parking tickets, despite one of them being told where to park by the officials themselves.

This continued situation raises some serious questions regarding freedom of access and Israel’s adherence to freedom of the press. The FPA calls on Israeli authorities to take the appropriate steps against those who continue to obstruct the press, to issue appropriate rules and regulations and properly brief security men and women before they are sent out to deal with events that will be covered by media.

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