29 February 2012

Violations by Palestinian security forces exceed those by Israeli forces in 2011, says MADA report

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For the first time, violations of media freedoms in Palestine at the hands of Palestinian security services outnumbered those committed in 2011 by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), but the IOF violations constituted a "greater threat," says the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) in its annual report.

According to MADA, Palestinian security services committed 106 violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, compared to 100 IOF and settler violations in 2011. Although the overall number of violations did not change much from 2010, the breakdown is significantly different, with 79 Palestinian violations and 139 IOF violations, says MADA.

MADA blames the continuing Palestinian political divisions for the marked increase in Palestinian security service violations. "Despite the signing of a reconciliation agreement between [political parties] Fatah and Hamas in 2011, no real steps towards appeasement have been made and there remains a lack of accountability for perpetrators," said MADA.

Real improvements are negligible "without an end to the occupation and the ratification of the Palestinian political reconciliation," added MADA.

But the IOF violations constituted a greater threat to journalists, who were targeted with "the excessive and inappropriate use of crowd control weaponry," such as rubber-coated steel bullets, teargas and grenades, said MADA.

Unfortunately, those attacks have continued in 2012, say MADA and other groups. According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), four journalists were targeted with tear gas and rubber bullets on 11 February while covering confrontations between the Israeli forces and protesters near Ofer Prison, west of Ramallah.

And just today, Israeli soldiers raided two Palestinian television stations, Watan TV and Alquds educational television, in the West Bank, seizing transmitters the military said were interfering with air traffic communications, reports MADA.

Plus, added MADA, in cases of non-violent abuse, such as restriction of movement, prohibition from travel or prevention from covering an event, many journalists do not report the incident.

According to the report, the most serious violation in 2011 was the murder of Italian journalist Vittorio Arrigoni by an armed group in Gaza. As a well-known solidarity activist, Arrigoni had spent three years living in and reporting from the Gaza Strip, writing articles and raising awareness of the conditions suffered by the people of Gaza as a result of the Israeli blockade and siege.

MADA's annual report records 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.

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