JERUSALEM (Dec. 18)
Security authorities unleashed a storm of protest from civil rights activists and the media this week by bringing charges against three Israeli journalists for failure to leave a closed area of the West Bank.
The reporters are Joel Greenberg of the Jerusalem Post, Ori Nir of Ha’aretz and Oren Cohen of Hadashot.
The military authorities say they entered Nablus on Nov. 15, 1988, the day an independent state of Palestine was proclaimed at the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers.
The IDF, expecting trouble, put the city under curfew and declared it a “closed military zone,” which is standard procedure to keep out the news media.
According to the charge sheet, the reporters stayed in Nablus even after hearing on radio that it was a closed area. They allegedly hid in a local hospital, where they were found by the IDF, detained and later released.
The journalists said they were allowed access to Nablus, unhindered by IDF roadblocks. They said they entered the hospital not to hide but to avoid violating the just-declared curfew.
The Civil Rights Association and the National Journalists Association expressed outrage that reporters would be charged for acting in their professional capacity.
Knesset member Ran Cohen of the Citizens Rights Movement called on the attorney general to suspend the proceedings.
Hadashot published a stinging editorial Monday, rebuking the military authorities for “trying in effect to dictate to the journalists their thoughts and opinions.”
The IDF is also in trouble with the Foreign Press Association.
Eight reporters for foreign news organizations accused the security services of unwarranted detention for seven hours at Bani Naim in the West Bank on Dec. 9, and the confiscation of their videotapes.
The date was the second anniversary of the start of the intifada. Bani Naim, near Hebron, was sealed off after a clash in which the IDF opened fire, killing a man and a woman.
The reporters were released after each signed a personal bond in the amount of $1,500.
An official statement by the IDF said, “The reporters were in a closed military zone, and therefore the films were taken for inspection” and returned the next day.
The reporters, representing ABC, Visnews and the Associated Press, said they were not notified the area was being sealed off and, in any event, were on their way out when they were detained.
They complained that the seizure of their videotapes made them suspect in the eyes of Arabs, who have accused foreign correspondents in the past of cooperating with the Israeli authorities.
Palestinians have charged that reporters allow the IDF to view the film to confirm the identities of intifada activists. They say all journalists are suspect, because Israeli security operatives often impersonate reporters by putting press signs on their vehicles.