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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Journalists, press groups condemn ‘shameful’ Israeli arrest of Al Jazeera reporter

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Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem correspondent was severely assaulted during her arrest while covering a demonstration in the Sheikh Jarrah.

An Al Jazeera journalist has been released from custody after being brutally arrested for several hours, the network announced.

Givara Budeiri and her crew members were covering a peaceful sit-in in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah when Israeli forces attacked them and arrested the reporters.

Occupation forces accused the Jerusalem correspondent of “attacking officers” while reporting at the sit-in marking the 54th anniversary of the Naksa, on Saturday.

Videos that emerged online showed several Israeli forces destroying equipment belonging to Al Jazeera cameraman Nabil Mazzawi, a clear violation of press freedom.

Budeiri was also seen pinned to the wall as Israeli forces attempted to arrest her. She was heard screaming “don’t touch me.”

 

At the time of her arrest, Budeiri was clearly wearing a “press vest” and held an Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) card, Al Jazeera said. However, that did not stop occupation forces from assaulting her.

“They came from everywhere, I don’t know why, they kicked me to the wall,” Budeiri told Al Jazeera, moments after her release late on Saturday.

“They kicked me inside the car in a very bad way … they were kicking me from everywhere,” she said.

The journalist added that she was “treated as a criminal” when she was taken to the police station after her arrest. Police forces later accused her of kicking a female soldier – an accusation she vehemently denied.

Read also: How football pitches became a global stage for the Palestinian cause.

She was later released from custody with a 15-day restraining order barring her from the neighbourhood.

Al Jazeera reporter Hoda Abdel Hamid told the media network that Budeiri’s arrest happened for “no apparent reason”. She added that Budeiri tried to retrieve and show her Israeli-issued press card following a request by police.

“She was being pushed, that continued as she was trying to get her press card. And then as the cameraman was trying to reach her his camera was smashed,” Abdel Hamid said.

“We spoke to several witnesses and they all said there was no reason for that kind of tension and that it was not clear why they decided to specifically go [after] Givara while there were other journalists doing exactly what she was doing.”

“Absolutely not acceptable.”

The Qatari-owned network strongly condemned the arrest calling it “shameful behaviour and a new chapter in a series of Israeli attacks.”

Dr. Mostefa Souag, Acting Director-General, said the targeting of journalists is a clear violation of all international conventions and a total disregard for the fundamental human rights of journalists.

“The silencing of journalists by terrorising them has become a routine activity for the Israeli authorities as witnessed in recent weeks in Gaza and occupied Jerusalem. These actions cannot be viewed in isolation,” he added.

“Today’s arrests come just two weeks after the bombing and destruction of the Al Jalaa building, which housed Al Jazeera and other media organisations offices in Gaza. Such attempts to prevent journalists from carrying out their professional duty to inform the world and report events on the ground is a crime against the journalistic profession.”

Several press freedom advocates and media watchdogs strongly condemned the arrest on Saturday, noting it was not an isolated case but rather a continuation of a series targeting journalists by Israeli forces.

“It is absolutely appalling,” Barbara Trionfi, of the International Press Institute, told Al Jazeera.

“We have seen a lot of targeted attacks against journalists by the Israeli forces throughout the past weeks and months and this is, unfortunately, not an isolated case[….]This type of behaviour by the Israeli forces is absolutely not acceptable,” Trionfi added.

Sabrina Bennoui, spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), described the arrest as ‘shocking’ and ‘unacceptable.’

“This is a clear violation of press freedom, because this journalist was clearly recognisable as she was wearing a press vest, and there is a clear will from the Israeli authorities to prevent journalists from doing their job and from reporting on the ground,” she told the media network.

Palestine’s ministry of information also condemned the arrest, stating that such action “indicates what level of brutality the occupation has reached, which has waged at the same time a fierce war against journalists, especially in occupied Jerusalem,” WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency reported.

#TweetLikeItsFree: Palestinians imagine life without Israeli occupation

Targeting of journalists

According to Reporters Without Borders, over 14 Palestinian journalists have been detained by Israeli forces in recent weeks and placed in administrative detention— a legal procedure that allows Israel to imprison Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories without charge or trial. The arrest can go up to six months, without any solid evidence.

Occupation authorities have used this procedure, basing it on “secret evidence” for decades to silence journalists and place them in detention. Those who are arrested are usually unaware of the accusations against them and are not allowed to defend themselves in court.

Just last week, Palestinian journalists Zeina Halawani and Wahbe Mikkieh were assaulted and detained by Israeli forces in Sheikh Jarrah. They were later released on bail and placed under house arrest for a month after being held for five days.

Israeli police have also banned several Palestinian journalists with media cards from entering Sheikh Jarrah, who claim they require a GPO card.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported 98 attacks by Israeli forces against journalists in the occupied Palestinian territories in a report published last year.

The report stated that at least 40 were injured with different bullets, including two who “lost sight in one of their eyes.” Meanwhile, 14 others were reportedly assaulted with “evidence of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”

Qatar and Egypt-brokered ceasefire

Earlier in May, Qatar and Egypt-brokered ceasefire in Gaza was implemented, a crucial move that ended an 11-day Israeli bombardment that killed 248 Palestinians including 66 children.

As of May 14th this year, over 38,000 Palestinians in Gaza became internally displaced following the deadly Israeli bombardment.

Qatar has been among the most active nations in responding to Palestinians facing Israeli aggression, with accelerated efforts since the flare-up last month

Among the initiatives was a QAR 60 million QRCS fundraising campaign for Palestine under the title ‘We Are All Palestine’. The campaign aims to benefit more than 593,000 Palestinians in Gaza, Jerusalem and several cities in the West Bank.


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