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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Israel's news blackout criticised
Jerusalem, 27 April 2002: Media "bias" angers Israelis
Press freedom campaigners have named the West Bank as the world's worst place to be a journalist.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) attacked the Israeli Government for using extraordinary measures to thwart reporters covering its military incursion into Palestinian areas.

The Israelis imposed a number of closed areas around towns such as Ramallah, Jenin and Bethlehem were some of the fiercest fighting was seen during Israel's recent military offensive.

Recent incidents include:

  • The death of Italian freelance photographer Raffaele Ciriello, killed by Israeli gunfire in Ramallah on 13 March
  • The shooting of a Washington-based reporter and a Palestinian cameraman working for the Egyptian Nile-TV company, both of whom were seriously wounded
  • The detaining of four Turkish journalists by Israeli forces in Ramallah last week
  • Three separate incidents in which a BBC television crew, a French public television team and two Swedish public television journalists also came under Israeli gunfire.
Israeli forces have also detained a number of journalists including two cameramen for Reuters and AFP.

Reuters have called the detention a "blatant violation of international standards of conduct".

Israeli soldier orders reporters to turn back
Nothing to see - Israelis forces say they are acting to protect journalists
The problems were highlighted in Ramallah last month when journalists trying to cover the meeting between US envoy Anthony Zinni and Mr Arafat were turned back by tear gas and stun grenades.

CPJ executive director Ann Cooper said: "Incredibly, journalists still manage to report the news - even under extremely difficult circumstances and at great personal risk."

But Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Gideon Meir told BBC News Online that Israel's actions were to protect journalists, not prevent them reporting.

"We are perfectly within our rights to impose closed areas," he said.

"We want to protect the lives of journalists in a very dangerous area and journalists have every right to contest that in the courts. We are a democratic country."

He added: "We are very friendly to journalists - even though the media in general is biased against Israel."

Other black spots

Following the West Bank on the list was Colombia, where the CPJ said the press faced violent reprisals by all factions in the civil conflict.

Journalists taking cover
Some journalists have been injured in the West Bank
Next was Afghanistan where US Government actions have hindered independent reporting on the war, according to the CPJ.

Eritrea, Belarus, Burma, Zimbabwe, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Cuba completed CPJ's list of worst places to be a journalist.

Zimbabwe, where press restrictions during the presidential election came under attack earlier this year, was also singled out for criticism by the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of media organisations,

Press freedom had a rough time in 2001

Reporters Sans Frontières
The Zimbabwean authorities have just released three journalists - two from Zimbabwe and one from The Guardian.

They had been detained under a new media law by reporting false information.

The IPI said: "In Africa, the greatest press freedom challenge is the predations of President Mugabe's government against the independent media in Zimbabwe."

The reports reinforced the message of the Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) press watchdog on Friday, World Press Freedom Day.

Thirty one journalists were killed in 2001, eight of them in Afghanistan, compared with 32 in 2000 said the RSF.

"Press freedom had a rough time in 2001," said the RSF.

"On every continent, this basic right was harshly attacked, along with those who exercised it."

See also:

12 Aug 01 | Media reports
Reporting the Intifada
05 Apr 02 | Media reports
Israeli media ban brings protests
19 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel launches media offensive
02 May 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe court frees journalists
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