Freedom of the Press 2005

Journalists are generally able to cover events in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; however, international press freedom groups regularly criticize Israel for sometimes preventing journalists from accessing conflict zones, harming and sometimes killing them during armed battles, and harassing Palestinian journalists. Israel has long denied that it deliberately targets journalists and maintains that reporters covering armed conflict in the West Bank and Gaza risk placing themselves in danger. Early in 2004, British photojournalist Tom Hurndall died weeks after being shot by Israeli troops as they battled gunmen in the West Bank. In March, Israeli soldiers operating in the West Bank town of Jenin shot a Palestinian photographer covering clashes there. In May, an Agence France-Presse photographer was shot in the leg while covering confrontations between Palestinians and troops in Gaza. The nongovernmental organization Reporters sans frontieres lodged a complaint in June with Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz regarding an alleged pattern of harassment of journalists by Israeli troops, including being detained, threatened, and exposed to tear gas. Also in June, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a Gaza City building housing local and international media offices, causing some injuries. Israel said the building was used by Hamas to communicate with terrorists and distribute incitement material.

There are approximately three Palestinian dailies in addition to several Palestinian weekly newspapers and monthly magazines. There are roughly 30 independently owned television stations and 9 radio stations, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) operates 2 television stations and 1 radio station. Official Palestinian radio and television are government mouthpieces. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, approximately 33 percent of Palestinians have Internet access.

Under a 1995 Palestinian press law, Palestinian intelligence services cannot interrogate, detain, or arrest journalists on the basis of their work. However, under another law, journalists may be fined and jailed, and newspapers closed, for publishing "secret information" on Palestinian security forces or news that might harm national unity or incite violence. Media outlets are often pressured by authorities to provide favorable coverage of the PA. In January, the PA ordered all journalists in the West Bank and Gaza working for Arab satellite TV networks to refer to Palestinians killed by Israeli forces as "martyrs." In July, the PA-affiliated Palestinian Journalists Syndicate issued an edict threatening Palestinian journalists with severe punishment if they reported on clashes among rival Palestinian groups and other forms of internal strife. Some journalists reported receiving death threats, and others admitted that they stopped covering the internecine Palestinian struggle.

Arbitrary arrests, threats, and the physical abuse of journalists critical of the PA have been routine. Journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Palestinian political affairs face harassment by the PA; officials reportedly threaten journalists who file stories deemed unfavorable. In addition, militias affiliated with the PA have warned Israeli journalists to stay out of Palestinian areas. Fatah activists also attacked Seif al-Din Shahin, a correspondent for the Al-Arabiya network, after he reported that several people were injured during a public rally where Fatah members fired their weapons in the air. Fatah went on to issue statements threatening journalists who had voiced criticism of the attack on Shahin. In February, masked gunmen stormed the Ramallah office of Al-Quds Educational TV, demanding videotapes and beating up employees; the same month, gunmen opened fire on the office of the Gaza weekly Al-Daar, a paper that had been outspoken on corruption in the PA. In May, gunmen in Gaza failed in their attempt to abduct New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief James Bennett. International press freedom groups have called on the PA to cease harassment of journalists.


2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score

(0 = best, 100 = worst)
(0 = best, 40 = worst)
(0 = best, 30 = worst)