'Deal of the Century’ sparks protests, journalists at the frontline face continuous attacks

Peaceful Assembly

On 28th January 2020 the Middle East Peace Plan, known as the ‘Deal of the Century’, was presented by US President Donald Trump in Washington DC. The plan, which was built unilaterally, considers the Israeli occupation government as the exclusive partner. The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) issued a statement following the announcement of the plan, calling upon the international community to condemn the unilateral ‘peace’ plan.

Amnesty International also issued a statement over the plan, calling it a violation of international humanitarian law.

“During more than half a century of occupation Israel has imposed a system of institutionalised discrimination against Palestinians under its rule, denying them basic rights and access to effective remedies for violations. The deal amounts to endorsement of these brutal, unlawful policies,” - Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.

Protests were organised in several regions condemning the plan.

Protests were also organised in the West Bank. However, as documented by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), journalists remained at the front line of these protests. RSF noted that 16 cases were registered of reporters being obstructed during their coverage. Five journalists were injured, three through rubber bullets and two from tear gas grenades.

“The West Bank protests against the ‘deal of the century’ put Palestinian journalists on the front line. The current tension makes them more vulnerable although they are just doing their job as reporters and should under no circumstances be put in the same category as protesters. Special care must be taken to allow them to do their reporting in relative safety,” - Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.

In addition, Israeli security forces also detained two journalists for several hours in the north of the Jordan Valley. There are also reports that Israeli soldiers made verbal threats towards journalists and prevented others from taking pictures.

Similarly, the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) documented violations against journalists. It notes "a remarkable increase" in the number of violations against media freedom in Palestine in comparison to January 2020. In total 39 violations were documented during February 2020. Accordingly, during the reporting period the cases documented by MADA include but are not limited to:

  • Al-Hurriya Media Network page was closed by Facebook
  • Cameraman Mutasim Saqf Al-Hait was attacked by an Israeli officer who approached him for no reason and sprayed pepper spray in his face
  • Injury to Palestine TV cameraman Mohammad Inaya when a military bulldozer attacked a gathering of demonstrators and journalists
  • Media student at Khadouri University, IhabIssa Al-Alama, was detained and his filmed footage was removed
  • Journalist Faten Aref Abdullah Alwan and her co-worker, cameraman Nidal Mohammad Ramadan Hassan suffocated due to several gas bombs fired at them while they were broadcasting live from the field
  • Prevention of access to two staff of Palestine TV to Deir Nitham village to prepare a report and present their programme.

Violations against journalists took place in other protests as well. The Palestinian Journalist Syndicate (PJS) reported that the Israeli forces fired bullets and threw tear gas at reporters while they were covering the assault of Palestinian citizens by Israeli soldiers in the city of Beita. Journalist Baker Abdulhaq, a Palestinian TV correspondent in the region was hit in the leg by a bullet. 

"The complete responsibility for such crimes falls on the leaders of the occupation’s government and army who should be held accountable according to the UN Security Council resolution 2222, which requires the legal prosecution of the perpetrators of crimes against journalists,” - The PJS.
Teenager killed by Israeli forces during protest

On 11th March 2020 a 15-year-old Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Hamayel, was shot dead with live ammunition during a protest about intruding Israeli settlers on the occupied West Bank. In addition, over 100 protesters were injured, including 18 who were injured with rubber-coated metal rounds fired by Israeli armed forces.

Journalist assaulted during COVID-19 protest

On 15th March 2020, during a protest around the Corona virus (COVID-19) a camera operator for the Kan’an News Agency website was assaulted by Hamas-controlled security forces in Rafah, the city on the southern Gaza Strip. The incident took place during a peaceful sit-in against converting two schools into quarantine facilities. The camera operator was assaulted and his cell phone was confiscated even after he identified himself as a member of the media. 

Expression

On 26th February 2020 Israeli police arrested Palestinian journalist Mujahed Muflih, a reporter and editor for the news website Ultra Palestine, at the Za’tara checkpoint, south of the West Bank city of Nablus. Police proceeded to interrogate Muflih and placed him under investigation for incitement over his Facebook posts. Muflih is being represented by the Palestinian Prisoners Club. There is yet to be an outcome in his case.

In a statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for Muflih’s release:

“Israeli police must allow Palestinian journalists to do their jobs and to share news and opinions, including on social media. Israeli authorities should not charge journalist Mujahed Muflih over his Facebook posts, and should release him immediately” - CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado.