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Intl. rights organizations denounce Israeli travel bans on Palestinian journalists

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file picture, Israeli forces detain a Palestinian journalist during a demonstration by the controversial separation barrier in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. (Photo by AFP)

International rights groups have censured Israeli travel bans on Palestinian journalists, saying the restrictive measures prevent members of the press from leaving the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med Monitor) pointed to the travel ban placed on Palestinian journalist Majdoleen Hassona, saying that she has been unable to depart the West Bank for her base in Istanbul, where she works for the Turkish public broadcaster TRT.

Israeli authorities have also prevented the journalist from collecting her RSF award.

The RSF and Euro-Med highlighted that Hassona is not the only Palestinian journalist subject to such a ban.

According to a report published by Euro-Med Monitor on November 29, “several” Palestinian journalists are subjected to similar bans that prevent them from traveling abroad and working freely.

The RSF said that at least 21 Palestinian journalists were currently banned from traveling abroad. In many cases, no reason is given for the prohibition. 

Victims have waged an exhausting battle to get the bans lifted before eventually becoming resigned to the restrictions. 

Sami Abu Salem, who works for the official Palestinian Wafa news agency and has been blocked in the Gaza Strip since 2016, told the RSF that he had repeatedly tried to travel to the West Bank to participate in the media outlet’s board meetings, but without success.

In many cases, the travel bans have remained in place for years. Nawaf al-Amer, who is the public programming director for al-Quds al-Arabi TV, has for instance been forced to remain in the West Bank for “security reasons” since 1983.

“The bans on leaving the Palestinian territories that the Israeli authorities impose on Palestinian journalists clearly violate their freedom of movement,” Sabrina Bennoui, head of the Middle East desk at Reporters Without Borders, said.

She added, “The Israeli intelligence agencies and courts use ‘case confidentiality’ as a pretext for giving no reason and for maintaining these restrictions indefinitely in a completely arbitrary manner.”

Moreover, Euro-Med chief media officer Nour Olwan said, “Journalists are not a party to the conflict and their coverage of current events is not a crime that they should be punished for.”

“The Israeli authorities' pursuit of such policies against Palestinian journalists is a setback for freedoms of expression and journalistic work,” she said.

Israel is ranked 86th out of 180 countries in the RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.


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