The petition follows a report that Euro-Med Monitor released in November last year, entitled “Punishing Journalists: Israel's Restrictions on Freedom of Movement.”. The report documented the claims of multiple Palestinian journalists that Israeli authorities heavily restricted their freedom of movement in, out and between Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a form of punishment or bargaining chip.
The report reveals how Israeli security services have used travel bans to coerce Palestinian journalists into collaborating against fellow Palestinians or to refrain from working with certain media outlets or reporting on certain topics. Some journalists further claim that after refusing Israeli authorities' demands, they have been subject to different forms of intimidation and harassment including home raids, arbitrary detention and harsh interrogations.
The petition expressed serious concern regarding Israeli authorities’ use of arbitrary restrictions, such as travel bans, detentions, or home break-ins against Palestinian journalists. “Such measures pose a serious threat to the independence of Palestinian journalism and to freedom of speech and expression in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the petition read.
The co-signing MEPs called on Israel to lift all arbitrary travel bans against Palestinian journalists in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and “cease any other forms of harassment, intimidation, or blackmail against them.”
In addition, the petition demanded that Israel carries out “a transparent and independent investigation into the incidents in which Israeli officers threatened to deny Palestinian journalists their right to travel unless they work with the Israeli public security and intelligence services and provide security information.”
In a webinar co-organized by Euro-Med Monitor and RSF on Tuesday, Member of the European Parliament Margrete Auken said “it is very clear that journalists are being punished for doing their work. This is one of Israel's brutal violations against media and journalists, and these practices are part of the broader violations of apartheid and occupation against Palestinians in general. It is clear that the EU countries are not shouldering their responsibilities towards Israeli violations,”
“I also denounce the restrictions imposed on Palestinian journalists by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.” she added.
RSF's head of Middle East desk, Sabrina Bennoui, added: “The Israeli authorities rely on 'confidential files' in order to be exempted from giving a clear and legitimate reason behind these restrictions imposed on Palestinian journalists. This is where arbitrariness comes in, in the name of national security.”
In December, Euro-Med Monitor and RSF launched the campaign #LetMajdoleenOut on social media. The two organisations called for an immediate end to the Israeli travel bans that prevent dozens of Palestinian journalists, including Majdoleen Hassona, winner of RSF Press Freedom Prize for Independence, from leaving the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The travel ban placed on Majdoleen Hassona two years ago by the Israeli authorities, who control the external borders of the Palestinian territories, have prevented her from returning from the West Bank to her base in Istanbul, where she works for the Turkish public broadcaster TRT. They have also prevented her from collecting her RSF award.