The country’s journalists enjoy a freedom not found elsewhere in the region, but though 2006 was one of the safest years for them since the start of the second Intifada in 2000, many problems remain.
Only 17 media workers were hurt during Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian Territories in 2006 and none killed. Reporters Without Borders went to Israel in December however to publicise the lack of openness in the Israeli army’s enquiries into these incidents. A senior military spokesperson said most of them had been investigated but that evidence gathered was “insufficient to bring charges.”
Several journalists were wounded while covering events in the Palestinian Territories and the fighting in Lebanon. Photographer Hamid al-Khur, of the Turkish news agency Ihlas, was shot three times by Israeli soldiers as he took pictures of clashes between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, on 7 July.
A few days later, about 20 media workers were caught in gunfire when reporting on an Israeli incursion in the Gaza Strip. Cameraman Ibrahim Atla, of the Palestinian public TV station, was hit by shell fragments and suffered chest wounds, even though he was wearing a jacket marked “Media.” His assistant was also wounded along with a Japanese journalist, and a Reuters news agency vehicle was damaged.
Palestinian journalists faced many restrictions by the Israeli authorities, who considered them primarily as Palestinian citizens, and they were banned from travelling between Gaza and the West Bank for supposed security reasons. Israeli soldiers freely entered media offices and the homes of journalists in the Palestinian Territories looking for weapons and “illegal material.”
Journalists of the pan-Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera were prevented several times from reporting on the war in Lebanon in mid-2006. Walid al-Omari, the station’s Jerusalem bureau chief, was arrested on 17 and 18 July while reporting in the north of the country. An Israeli military vehicle opened fire on another Al-Jazeera crew, led by journalist Jevara al-Budeiri, during live coverage of an Israeli incursion into Nablus and a technician, Wael Tantous, was hit on the foot by rubber bullets.