Another journalist beaten in Ramallah

Does this man, who was accosted on a sunny Saturday afternoon in a nearly-empty street in central Ramallah — near his office — look armed and dangerous?

No?  Then why was he stopped by plainclothes men in broad daylight in downtown Ramallah on the fringes of a protest on Saturday, beaten, and arrested by uniformed police — then beaten again while in custody?

He was covering the demonstration and, yes, he probably was somehow involved in preparations for a protest on Saturday, held nearby, against the policies of the Palestinian leadership — yes, the same Palestinian leadership which has said that peaceful protests are allowed under the Palestinian Authority [PA].

He is also a known and recognized journalist, familiar to those in downtown Ramallah, including the Palestinian security forces.

This compilation of photos, which was posted on Twitter yesterday [Sunday] by Maath Musleh [@MaathMusleh] here. The Tweet said: PHOTO: from yesterday’s [Saturday 30 June] beating and arrest of Journalist Mohammed Jaradat #Ramallah

Compilation of photos of beating of Palestinian journalist Mohamed Jaradat on Saturday 30 June 2012

These photos were taken on Saturday.

“Youth” protests in Ramallah continued a second night, on Sunday night, with more beatings and injuries and arrests. The privately-owned Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency reported here that “Journalists were also attacked for the second day in a row, the correspondent reported … Reuters photographer Saed al-Hawari was attacked and photographer Ahmad Musleh was arrested. A camera belonging to journalist Ahmad Ouda was confiscated”.

There is an account by Electronic Intifada blogger Jalal Abukhater — who says he was “forced to delete photos he took of Palestinian Authority (PA) police violently attacking a protestor in Ramallah on Sunday” — posted here:

    Abukhater [a 17-year-old student who just graduated from high school and a Jerusalem resident, whose father is a Palestinian journalist working with an international media organization] recounts on Electronic Intifada that: “After the police started pushing and beating protestors with sticks and batons, I managed to slip behind their line to be met with another line of police only a few meters behind. There, I was alone with my camera, I saw a guy lying on the ground being beaten by the police behind their line, I tried to take a picture but my camera was then confiscated. I was forced to delete all the pictures on my camera by the police, then my camera’s SD card was destroyed to pieces. The guy who was being beaten by the police managed to stand up – he was visibly bleeding – he was then slapped and dragged to the nearby police vehicle”.

The Electonic Intifada article also provides a link to other photos of Saturday’s protest on the Facebook page, showing the action and the results, including some impressive welts and other injuries here.

UPDATE: The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, MADA, said the assault on reporter Mohamed Jaradat “who was simply doing his job is an abuse of human rights and is a serious backward step in freedom of opinion and expression”, according to a report published by Ma’an News Agency, published here today. MADA reported: “After visiting Jaradat in a Ramallah hospital, where he is still receiving treatment, MADA said the reporter noted that he was beaten at the demonstration within sight of police, by four people in civilian clothing who belong to a police unit. Jaradat said he was then taken to a police station after his camera was confiscated, where one of his attackers said: “‘He is a journalist. Take care of him'”. ‘After that they brutally attacked me, despite me showing my press identification. They took me to the upper floor and continued to beat me with a stick, causing bleeding in my nose’, Jaradat told MADA. ‘Then they arrested me, with six other people. While they beat me, I asked to see the Director of Police who is a relative of mine and he came after an hour of detention and beatings. He apologized to me and I was released’.”

Whereas a year ago these “Youth” protesters were calling to an end to the division between Fateh and Hamas [including an end to media incitement and a complete release of Palestinian political prisoners being held by each side], as well as worldwide elections to a new PLO Palestine National Council, they are now demanding an end to the Palestinian Authority and the departure of Mahmoud Abbas. One Tweet on Saturday noted that Mahmoud Abbas said he would resign the moment there were two protesters in the street against him. [Mahmoud Abbas had a track record of resigning when the going got tough, particularly under the rule of the late Yasser Arafat, see our post on the upper left hand side of the page. More recently, as he has consolidated his hold on all the reins of Palestinian power, Mahmoud Abbas has much less frequently threatened to resign — but he has, once or twice, still done so, whenever donors were not coming up with the money needed to maintain the fragile ecosystem of “rule” symbolized by PA Ministries in Ramallah + security forces now permitted to operate in major West Bank cities].

Nearly a full day after the violence shown in the photo collage above, PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said that the Palestinian Authority police had violated instructions not to interfere with the Saturday protest, which was called to protest the invitation to Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz to visit Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the Muqata’a in Ramallah, which was supposed to take place on Sunday, but which was cancelled on Saturday [see our previous post].

UPDATE: The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate said in a statement issued on Sunday that “Palestinian journalist Muhammad Jaradat was beaten by non-uniformed individuals at the protest, who referred to themselves as members of the security forces … Jaradat was injured in his left eye and had bruising on his chest, back and other parts of his body … After the beating, he was taken to the Ramallah police station where he was kicked in front of police officers who did not intervene to protect him … the assault on Jaradat breaks the government’s stated commitment to freedom of expression. They called on police to urgently investigate and punish those involved in the attack”. This is reported here.

UPDATE: And, according to another report by Ma’an News Agency, “PA Minister of Interior Said Abu Ali said Monday he will form a committee to investigate clashes between police and protesters in Ramallah in the last two days … [and that] the Palestinian Authority will take all necessary legal and internal procedures in line with its commitment to freedom of expression and right to assembly. He called on all Palestinians to obey the law in order to avoid repetition of the events in Ramallah. Security forces spokesman Adnan Dmeiri had defended his forces on Sunday, saying fighting only broke out when protesters tried to reach the presidential headquarters, which police are required to stop as protesting there is forbidden. He said police were investigating who was behind the protest, saying the ‘agendas of those unknown movements are to create chaos and harm security and attack Palestinian police’. But the forceful reaction to the protests drew criticism from some Palestinian officials who said the police were under standing orders not to intervene”. So, the situation is again unclear and chaotic.

Continue reading Another journalist beaten in Ramallah

Is Julian Assange a journalist?

This will not be my opinion — so far, I’m slightly more inclined to give Julian Assange some other job title [though for now, I could accept his latest choice, which is “Editor in Chief” of WikiLeaks].

UPDATE: But, Assange is renewing his membership in the Australian journalists’ union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), according to a report here.

According to the report in the Herald Sun, “Victorian MEAA branch secretary Louise Connor said Mr Assange had contacted the Alliance in November just as the ‘cablegate’ story began to break … She said he noted at the time that his credit card had been cancelled and he might not be able to pay his union dues. It had been decided to waive his union dues, she said … ‘We’ve drawn up a new union card for him and offer him the full support of his union and professional association’.” In addition, ACTU president Ged Kearney said “Assange and WikiLeaks deserved support. ‘WikiLeaks is simply performing the same function as media organisations have for centuries in facilitating the release of information in the public interest. Mr Assange’s rights should be respected just the same as other journalists’, she said in a statement’.”

UPDATE TWO: Via Glen Greenwald on Twitter, came across this:

Bruce Sterling [author of The Hacker Crackdown] wrote on The Blast Shack that Julian Assange “is a pure-dye underground computer hacker. Julian doesn’t break into systems at the moment, but he’s not an ‘ex-hacker’, he’s the silver-plated real deal, the true avant-garde. Julian is a child of the underground hacker milieu, the digital-native as twenty-first century cypherpunk. As far as I can figure, Julian has never found any other line of work that bore any interest for him”…

Continue reading Is Julian Assange a journalist?

IDF did everything right when it shot Reuters cameraman, IDF says

Why were we so surprised that the IDF concluded, after a lengthy and thorough investigation, that it did everything right, that it went by the book, when it fired shells from a tank and killed a Palestinian cameraman working for Reuters in Gaza.

At least one of the tank shells the IDF used were specifically anti-personnel weapons, filled with sharp arrows (flechettes) that shot out in all directions when the shells exploded in the air above its targets. These weapons differ from cluster bombs only in that the arrows do not explode, but merely cut up and slice through anything in their vicinity.

Reuters yesterday published this response — which it called a factbox — to the IDF investigation report:
“Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana was killed by Israeli troops four months ago, while filming in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli army investigation, which was concluded this week, found that the troops’ actions were justified.
Following are key facts established by Reuters:
— Fadel Shana, 24, was killed by several darts, known as flechettes, which burst from a shell fired by an Israeli tank on April 16 about 5:30 p.m. The tank firing and shell bursting were the final images on tape before Shana’s camera was destroyed.
— Eight other civilians aged between 12 and 20 were killed, six of them aged under 16. At least seven other bystanders aged from 10 to 18 were also hit. None was armed or was a militant. Reuters soundman Wafa Abu Mizyed, 25, was wounded in the wrist.
— Shana and Abu Mizyed were wearing blue body armour marked ‘PRESS‘ and stood next to a car bearing ‘TV‘ and ‘PRESS‘ signs in the middle of a country road some 100 metres southeast of Gaza’s main highway. Two Merkava-4 main battle tanks stood on a ridge about 1.5 km (a mile) to the southeast, facing northwest.
— In the preceding half hour, the Reuters crew had driven past a point 700 metres from the tanks, filmed the aftermath of an Israeli air strike that killed several children and returned by the same route. Shana stopped, set up his tripod and filmed a panorama of the area, including the tanks, for several minutes.
— Twenty or more children, some on bicycles, were present between Shana and the main Gaza highway 100 metres behind him.
— An Israeli observation drone was circling over the area.
— A tank fired a flechette shell, typically containing 5,000 1.5-inch (3.75-mm) metal darts. Their purpose is to kill over an area 300 metres wide. In 2003, Israel’s Supreme Court said that under IDF rules ‘use of the flechette is restricted to areas in which the danger to innocent civilians is not actual’.
— Soundman Abu Mizyed recalls being hit by flechettes from two separate shells and then heard a third shell destroy the Reuters car. Another witness also said he thought three shells were fired. Two ambulance drivers heard only two blasts. The Israeli army said it fired only one flechette shell followed by a shell of a different type that destroyed the Reuters car.
— Journalists who arrived filmed that explosion at 5:40 p.m. It set Shana’s car on fire and it later burnt out.
On August 12, Military Advocate General Brigadier-General Avihai Mendelblit wrote to Reuters saying the decision to kill Shana was ‘sound’ because it was reasonable for the tank crew and the superiors with whom they consulted by radio to assume Shana was hostile on the following grounds:
— Three Israeli soldiers had been killed in Gaza that day.
— An Israeli tank had been damaged by a rocket-propelled grenade in the Gaza Strip at 11:40 a.m. that day.
— Shana put a ‘black object’ on a tripod pointing at the tank
— Shana and Abu Mizyed were wearing body armour, which he said was a practice ‘common to Palestinian terrorists’.
— There were ‘intelligence warnings’, which he did not specify.
Mendelblit said: ‘The crew was unable to determine the nature of the object mounted on the tripod and positively identify it as an anti-tank missile, a mortar, or a television camera’.
Reuters believes the soldiers did not have reasonable grounds to use lethal force without warning. It believes the army, despite assertions to the contrary, was in clear breach of its duty under international law to avoid harm to civilians.
Reuters and media rights groups believe the army action and its apparent policy curbs media freedom by rendering it too dangerous to use a camera in the presence of Israeli troops.
Reuters is examining options for legal action and is seeking urgent consultations in Israel to address journalists safety
A report conducted for Reuters by independent security advisers concluded: ‘(Shana) had a professional attitude to safety and had taken all reasonable precautions … He complied with Reuters’ own safety policy and his actions can not be interpreted as irresponsible or negligent in any way’.”
This Reuters Factbox can be found here .

The Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International both called for an Israeli government investigation into the IDF investigation. Amnesty International said that it was “scandalous” for the Israeli Army to have said that firing at Fadel Shana was a “sound decision”: “The army’s so-called investigation lacked any semblance of impartiality and Amnesty International called for an independent and impartial investigation into the killing. The organization said that the army’s conclusion can only reinforce the culture of impunity that has led to so many reckless and disproportionate killings of children and other unarmed civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza … Independent investigations into killings of unarmed civilians by Israeli forces are virtually never carried out. Even in cases where international outcry forces the Military Advocate General’s office to look into the cases, the process is limited and lacks any independence and impartiality. In this case, as in virtually all such cases, witnesses were not interviewed. No proper investigation was carried out into the cases of the 13 other unarmed civilians, including eight children, killed that day after Palestinians had ambushed and killed three Israeli soldiers. The failure to investigate and to hold accountable those responsible for unlawful killings denies justice to victims and encourages further abuses. It ultimately also impedes prospects for a peaceful solution to the conflict, as it gives a message to Palestinians that there is no justice for them”.

The full Amnesty International statement can be read here .

Gaza journalist forcibly undergoes stripping and full body cavity search by Israelis at Allenby Bridge

My friend and colleague Robert J. Parsons, a journalist in Geneva, sent me the news item below– a report from the Inter Press Service (IPS) about what happened to one of its correspondents.

Angry Arab also has a link to the Gaza Today blog here which picked up the same story as it was reported by the Palestinian news agency Ramattan (but I can’t find the story on Ramattan because their archives appear to be unsearchable…)

And, Reuters has picked up the story and added some more sickening details in a report that has been published by Haaretz, as follows:

“Mohammed Omer, who writes for the pro-Palestinian Washington Report, said he was strip-searched and detained for nearly four hours at the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge when he crossed from Jordan into the West Bank, en route to the Gaza Strip, on June 26.

‘They wanted to humiliate me. I collapsed in tears … I had to throw up twice and I fainted twice’, Omer said. ‘They asked silly questions about everything I had done during my trip to London and Europe and they made fun of me’.

An Israeli government spokesman declined immediate comment and said he would look into the incident.

Omer said that at the Allenby Bridge, he was forced to strip to his underwear by an Israeli officer who then ‘snatched it down off me’.

He said two officers dragged him by his legs, his head sweeping the floor, in front of other passengers.

After he vomited and fainted, Israeli security personnel summoned a Palestinian ambulance to take him to hospital.

At a hospital in nearby Jericho, he contacted Dutch diplomats who had facilitated his trip to Europe, and they drove him to an Israeli border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

Back in the Hamas-controlled territory, he was admitted to hospital where doctors said he had suffered a nervous breakdown and that several of his ribs had been broken”…

The full Haaretz report can be read here .

Photo of Mohammed Omer - IPS

Here are excerpts from the earlier IPS story:
“Mohammed Omer, the Gaza correspondent of IPS, and joint winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, was strip-searched at gunpoint, assaulted and abused by Israeli security officials at the Allenby border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank on Thursday as he tried to return home to Gaza.

Omer’s trip was sponsored by The Washington Report, and the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv was responsible for coordinating Omer’s travel plans and his security permit to leave Gaza with Israeli officials.

While waiting in Amman on his way back, Omer eventually received the requisite coordination and security clearance from the Israelis to return to Gaza after this had initially been delayed by several days, he told IPS.

Accompanied by Dutch diplomats, Omer passed through the Jordanian side of the border without incident. However, after arrival on the Israeli side, trouble began. He informed a female soldier that he was returning home to Gaza. He was repeatedly asked where Gaza was, and told that he had neither a permit nor any coordination to cross.

Omer explained that he did indeed have permission and coordination but was nevertheless taken to a room by Israel’s domestic intelligence agency the Shin Bet, where he was isolated for an hour and a half without explanation.

‘Eventually I was asked whether I had a knife or gun on me even though I had already passed through the x-ray machine, had my luggage searched, and was in the company of Dutch diplomats’, Omer said.

His luggage was again searched, and security then proceeded to go through every document and paper he had on him, taking down the names and numbers of the European parliamentary officials he had met.

The Shin Bet officials then started to make fun of the European parliamentarians, and mocked Omer for being ‘the prize-winning journalist’.

The Gazan journalist was repeatedly asked why he was returning to ‘the hell of Gaza after we allowed you to leave’. To this he responded that he wanted to be a voice for the voiceless. He was told he was a ‘trouble-maker’.

The security men also demanded he show all the money he had on him, and particular attention was paid to the British pounds he was carrying. His Gellhorn prize money had been awarded in British pounds but he was not carrying the entire sum on him bodily, something the investigators refused to believe.

After being unable to produce the prize money, he was ordered to strip naked.

‘At first I refused but then I had an M16 (gun) pointed in my face and my clothes were forcibly removed, even my underwear’, Omer said.

At this point Omer broke down and pleaded for an end to such treatment. He said he was told, ‘you haven’t seen anything yet’. Every cavity of his body was searched as one of the investigators pinned him

When he came round his eyelids were being forcibly opened and his eardrums probed by an Israeli military doctor, who was also armed. He was then dragged along the floor by his feet by the Shin Bet officials, with his head repeatedly banging on the floor, to a Palestinian ambulance which had been called.

‘I eventually woke up in a Palestinian hospital with the doctors trying to reassure me’, Omer told IPS”

This report was published by IPS online here .