MADA: 206 Violations of Media Freedoms in Palestine in 2011 - With the Murder of Italian Journalist
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) released its annual media freedom violations report for the occupied Palestinian territories in 2011. The report includes documentation of all violations committed against journalists and media freedoms monitored by MADA, in addition to analysis of the most prominent and dangerous types of violations committed in 2011.
MADA identified a total of 206 violations against media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territories during 2011, showing little improvement on 2010, which witnessed a total of 218 violations. Although the numbers show a decrease in the violations compared with 2010, with twelve less violations, they cannot be considered a qualitative improvement in media freedoms considering the seriousness and brutality of a number of the violations that occurred in 2011.
MADA general director Mousa Rimawi stated that the status of media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territories remain tentative because of continued Israeli occupation forces violations against journalists and media freedoms, and ongoing Palestinian security forces violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Rimawi stressed that without an end to the occupation and the ratification of the Palestinian political reconciliation it is difficult to talk about real improvements in media freedoms.
Rimawi said that the number of Palestinian violations exceeded Israeli occupation violations - by a small margin - for the first time. Palestinian security services committed 106 violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2011, marking a significant increase on 2010 which witnessed a total of 79 Palestinian violations, and marked decrease in IOF and settler violations in 2011 with a total count of 100 violations compared with 2010, which saw a total of 139 Israeli occupation violations.
Rimawi, however, stated two important factors in this regard. Firstly, that although the total number of Israeli violations decreased, the violations committed constituted a greater threat to the health and wellbeing of the journalists, who were targeted with, for example, the excessive and inappropriate use of crowd control weaponry such as rubber coated steel bullets, tear gas, concussion grenades and the recently introduced Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), coined “The Scream”. Secondly, that in cases of non-violent abuses, such as restriction of movement, prohibition from travel or prevention from covering an event, many journalists do not report the incident. In addition, it is also important to note the different Palestinian security service trends seen in the two divided Palestinian territories, with 2011 seeing 62 violation in the Gaza Strip and 44 in the West Bank.
MADA also believes that this marked increase in Palestinian security service violations is spurred on by the continuing Palestinian political divisions. Despite the signing of a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas in 2011, no real steps towards appeasement have been made and there remains a lack in accountability for perpetrators.
The most serious and heinous violation seen in 2011 was the criminal murder of Italian journalist Vittorio Arrigoni by an armed group in Gaza. As a well known long-term solidarity activist and advocate of the Palestinian people, Arrigoni’s murder sent shockwaves through Palestinian society. Before his death, Arrigoni had spent three years living in and reporting from the Gaza Strip, writing articles and raising awareness of the terrible conditions suffered by the people of Gaza as a result of the Israeli blockade and siege. Arrigoni was known throughout the Palestinian territories as a kind man who loved helping anyone anywhere he could, a dedication for which he received Palestinian citizenship in honor of all his efforts.
2011 also witnessed the severe injury of journalist Mohamed Othman who was shot in the chest and hand by Israeli occupation forces on 15 May 2011, while covering a march commemorating the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba. The severity of Othman’s injury, which included paralysis from the waist down, necessitated his transfer to a hospital in Turkey—where he remains today—for specialist treatment. After approximately 10 months of treatment his condition has improved. Othman is now able to walk with the aid of a special device, however, his doctors estimate that it will take a further 2 years for him to be able to walk unassisted.
MADA stressed in its report that Israel’s continued violation of international conventions, particularly article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and their continued assault on freedom of expression in the occupied Palestinian territories has made journalism one of the hardest and most dangerous professions practiced by Palestinians. MADA also denounced the widespread official international silence towards Israeli violations and the lack of any tangible steps taken to reduce the danger faced by journalists in the line of duty.
MADA additionally called upon the concerned Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to respect the right of freedom of expression and abide by Palestinian Basic Law, particularly article 19, which sanctions this right. MADA also called for an end to the division’s effect on the media, the allowance for all media outlets to work freely and without hindrance, and demanded that all those responsible for attacks on journalists be held accountable.
To read the complete report, please click on the following link: