TEL AVIV (Jun. 14)
The Foreign Press Association has accused the Israeli police of physically assaulting journalists performing their duties and has demanded a stop to it.
The press association held a news conference in Jerusalem Tuesday — an unusual step for reporters — and gave details of physical assaults by police on its members. They called on Police Minister Haim Barlev to investigate and punish those responsible.
Association chairman Bob Slater of Time magazine said there were between 100 and 150 incidents of physical attacks on foreign journalists reported between last December, when the Palestinian uprising began, and early April.
Other association members complained of public hostility toward foreign correspondents. They cited bumper stickers popular with Jewish settlers in the administered territories which say “Country United Against A Hostile Press.”
One of the more serious cases of physical assault occurred in Tel Aviv on June 4, during a demonstration by Yesh Gvul, an organization of Israelis opposed to government policies in the territories.
Sven Hackstrand, a photographer for Agence France Presse, the French news agency, was ordered by plainclothes police officers not to take pictures. He said they began to beat him and tried to seize his camera.
Hackstrand said he was knocked to the ground, kicked and beaten with clubs on his body and head.
He was then taken to a police van where the beating was resumed by men he believed to be border police, the photographer said.
When the demonstration ended, Hackstrand said he saw one of his assailants drive off in a police car.
Another press photographer required stitches above his eye. An official complaint was lodged with the police but no reply has been received, according to the association.
Veteran Time magazine photographer David Rubinger said the general atmosphere of hostility in Israel toward the news media apparently contributed to the attacks.
“It’s not a question of exceptional cases,” Rubinger said.
“It is rather a disease which is spreading like rot at the lower levels of the police force the border police are among the worst offenders because of their social makeup — and the army,” Rubinger said.
The journalists also complained of restricted access to the territories and the fact that material has been confiscated from foreign correspondents arriving or leaving Ben-Gurion Airport.