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Israeli gag order prevents press coverage of bomb attack

(I'lAM/IFEX) - Aug 26th, 2012 - I'lam - Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel - is concerned following recent gag orders placed on journalists in Israel. These gag orders show interference from the Israel Security Agency - the Shabak - in journalists' work, especially that of journalists who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, hampering freedom of the press, the public's right to know, and free expression.

I'lam received several complaints from Palestinian journalists in Israel following their coverage of a firebomb attack on a Palestinian family in the Occupied West Bank on August 16. The journalists informed I'lam that they were contacted by Shabak representatives, who forbade them from publishing the details of the attackers. The prohibition was against publishing that the attackers were 'Israeli settlers' illegally residing in the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territory), and not on the actual names of specific individuals involved, as this was undetermined at the time. The gag order was superfluous as the identities of those involved, and the fact that they were Israeli settlers, had already been published by the Palestinian media in the West Bank and by the foreign media.

One Palestinian journalist from Israel said that she was approached by the police and asked to delete the details of the attackers involved, as this information might lead to clashes.

The journalist informed I'lam that she had published a news report which had reached her through a formal press release issued by the office the President of the Palestinian Authority. The press release was also sent to the international press. It addressed the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister's envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, and called for an apology as it detailed the incident's specifics and the involvement of Israeli settlers.

The journalist told I'lam that she had tried to explain to the police representative that withholding identities would be an insult to the readers, since the report was already published by newspapers worldwide, but the police representative concluded by saying, “We have warned you, and you'll have to bear the consequences.”

According to information acquired by I'lam, Israeli police and security forces have placed gag orders on three 'security issues' in the month of August, making it harder for journalists to report on such news. The Shabak and the police have interfered, on several occasions, in the content of articles published by the media. Gag orders are removed gradually and in such cases journalists are only allowed to publish details passed on by the police and the security forces.

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