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The Israeli justice system sent a strong signal to Israel journalists and their sources on 30 October by sentencing journalist Anat Kam to a prison term of four-and-a-half years accompanied by a suspended sentence of 18 months for espionage and disclosing military documents to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, while she was doing military service between 2005 and 2007.
The journalist Uri Blau, to whom she gave the documents, is being prosecuted for holding classified information without authorisation and without intention of harming the security of the state. He could face up to seven years in prison under the criminal code.
However, the articles he wrote based on the documents were approved by military censors in accordance with Israeli law.
Journalists of Israeli nationality have been barred from the Palestinian Territories for almost five years. Only Amira Hass of Haaretz has defied the ban by living in Ramallah.
The Israeli military is responsible for numerous abuses against media workers in the Palestinian Territories.
During the military offensive in Gaza, in December 2008 and January 2009, code-named “Operation Cast Lead”, Israeli authorities banned foreign journalists from the Gaza Strip for “security reasons”. This lock-down constituted a serious violation of press freedom.
Six journalists were killed during the conflict, two in the course of their work, and some 15 were wounded.
As a result of the Qatari authorities’ closure of Israel’s trade office in Doha, the Israeli authorities retaliated in February 2009 by halting the issue of, or refusing to renew, the visas and accreditation of journalists working in Israel for the Qatari television station Al-Jazeera.
Two of the station’s journalists who boarded the aid boat Spirit of Humanity to report on the humanitarian mission by the Free Gaza organization in June 2009 were arrested by the Israeli authorities and expelled a few days later.
In May 2010, the so-called Gaza Freedom Flotilla, aimed at breaking the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed after the Hamas takeover of the territory in 2006, was the target of a violent assault by Israeli troops, in which 9 of those on board were killed and 36 wounded.
The Israeli authorities temporarily banned the publication of any information about the casualties, who were transported to hospitals inside Israel. More than 60 journalists were arrested or expelled. Many are still waiting for the return of equipment seized at the time.
In June this year, the head of the government press office ruled that any journalists boarding Gaza-bound flotillas would be considered to have broken Israeli law and would be banned from entering Israeli for 10 years. The ensuing outcry was such that the Israeli prime minister reversed the decision the next day.
Palestinian journalists are among the main targets of the Israeli military.
The photojournalist Mohamed Othman was shot and seriously wounded by an Israel soldier near the Erez border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on 15 May this year. He was covering clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers during Nakba, the day when Palestinians commemorate the displacement that followed the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948. Wounded in the chest, he is handicapped for life.
Samir Allawi, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin who heads the Al-Jazeera bureau in Kabul, was arrested in August as he was leaving Jericho to return to the Afghan capital via Jordan. He was released at the end of September.
Updated 1 November 2011
Israel - 14 November 2013