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Journalists facing harsh sentences and deportations in the name of "security"

An Israeli court sentenced Anat Kamm, a former soldier, to four and a half years in prison for leaking classified military documents to a newspaper
An Israeli court sentenced Anat Kamm, a former soldier, to four and a half years in prison for leaking classified military documents to a newspaper

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Both international and Israeli journalists and free expression advocates attempting to expose the Israeli military's actions in the Palestinian territories and economic blockade of Gaza have been brutally suppressed in recent weeks under the guise of security, IFEX members report.

Five journalists reporting on board from two flotilla vessels attempting to ship medical supplies to the blockaded Gaza strip were arrested on 4 November, report RSF and CPJ. Lina Attalah, who writes for Egyptian daily "Al-Masry Al-Youm", Jihan Hafiz of U.S.-based broadcaster Democracy Now!, and Casey Kauffman and Ayman Al-Zubair, who report for Al-Jazeera, were deported and have been barred from returning to Israel for the next 10 years.

Hassan Ghani of Iran's Press TV meanwhile remains in prison, presumably because it was the second time he was reporting on a solidarity flotilla trip, CPJ reports. Ghani was immediately separated from the other journalists and little information has been provided regarding his whereabouts, according to RSF and CPJ.

Most of the other passengers on board the ships that were funded by groups in Canada and Ireland have also been detained, according to Democracy Now! CPJ reports the passengers refused to sign a document saying that they entered Israel illegally and agreeing to a 10-year travel ban to the country.

On 30 October, meanwhile, online journalist Anat Kam, a former Israel Defence Forces clerk, was sentenced to four and a half years in jail because she leaked classified documents detailing the unlawful killings of Palestinian militants and subsequent lies to the public, report the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The journalist who reported on the documents, Uri Blau, a reporter with Israel daily "Haaretz," could himself face seven years for possession of the documents, according to RSF. In a letter to attorney general Yehuda Weinstein demanding that Blau's charges be dropped, RSF argued that so long as the secret documents are a matter of public interest then "media freedom takes precedence."

The Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) reports that attacks on Palestinian journalists meanwhile continue unabated, with frequent arrests by security forces as well as assaults by both rock-throwing settlers and Hamas fighters. "MADA demands the immediate intervention of international organisations and bodies to protect Palestinian journalists and lobby on behalf of those held in detention," MADA said in a statement.

In yet another threat to journalists in Israel, a private member's bill has been introduced calling for a six-fold increase in the amount of libel damages that can be awarded even in the absence of evidence of damage, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reports.

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