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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Israeli media ban brings protests
Israeli army grenade hits AP armoured car
Journalists have been targeted in media clampdown
By BBC Monitoring's Morand Fachot

Protests are growing against the severe restrictions imposed by Israel on journalists covering its military crackdown on the West Bank.

Media organisations believe the lack of international observers could allow any abuses by the Israel army to go largely unreported.

Barring journalists from conflict areas is censorship

CPJ Director Ann Cooper
The problems were highlighted in Ramallah on Friday when journalists trying to cover the meeting between US envoy Anthony Zinni and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were turned back by tear gas and stun grenades.

International media bodies, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF), have protested against the Israeli declaration that certain West Bank towns and areas are "closed military areas".

International protests

"Barring journalists from conflict areas constitutes censorship," said CPJ director Ann Cooper.

A statement from RSF said: "At least 11 journalists have come under gunfire and three of them have been hit since the Israeli army declared Ramallah a closed military zone."

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 soldier orders reporters to turn back
No pictures! Israeli forces have kept journalists at bay

Israeli authorities have also revoked the accreditation of two Abu Dhabi TV journalists and threatened legal action against the US CNN and NBC TV networks for ignoring military orders and broadcasting from Ramallah.

Television channels throughout the world have aired footage of Israeli soldiers manhandling journalists and of reporters coming under fire.

The absence of foreign reporters is also viewed with great concern by civilians.

Father Ibrahim, the priest in charge of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, asked the six Italian TV journalists who were trapped in his church not to leave.

"It would have been useful if they had stayed with us, for our voice to reach the whole world," he told Italian TV.

No pictures, no witnesses, no story

Israeli army spokesman
"But they wanted to leave and of course we could not prevent them from doing so... we are afraid that at any moment it could be a massacre here."

Fuelling the controversy, an Israeli military spokesman was quoted by a French TV correspondent in Bethlehem as saying: "No pictures, no witnesses, no story."

However, as RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said: "Allowing the Israeli occupation of Ramallah to take place without media witnesses is to foment rumours and disinformation."

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel ignores Bush pullout call
04 Apr 02 | Middle East
Bush intervenes in Mid-East crisis
12 Aug 01 | Media reports
Reporting the Intifada
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