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MADA report on violations of media freedoms in 2010

(MADA/IFEX) - 21 February 2011 - The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has issued its annual report on violations of media freedom in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2010. MADA monitored an increase in the number of attacks on journalists as a result of the continued Israeli occupation and internal Palestinian disputes.

The continued and amplified tensions took their toll on the freedom of expression of Palestinian journalists and media outlets in 2010, with a total of 218 reported violations, averaging 18 violations per month.

This is a marked increase of 45 violations or 26% over the previous year, which saw 173 violations. The majority of reported violations were perpetrated by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) and settlers, with a total of 139 violations in 2010, an increase of 54% compared to 2009. The Palestinian security services in the West Bank and Gaza committed 79 violations, compared to 76 in 2009.

The types of violations committed are divided into 12 categories. The highest numbers reported are for: physical attacks, with 89 IOF and 10 Palestinian Security Force attacks on journalists in 2010; detentions, with a total of 36 (19 IOF and 17 Palestinian forces violations); arrests, with a total of 32 (18 IOF and 14 Palestinian forces violations), and 20 summonses for investigation (3 IOF and 17 from Palestinian forces). Other violations include blocking of coverage, restrictions on travel, threats, raids, frequency disruptions, property damage and the forced closure of media outlets.

Of the areas most affected by violations of journalists' rights, Hebron had the highest number of reported incidents, with a total of 53, 45 of which were perpetrated by Israeli forces. The high density of soldiers in this region - an estimated 2000 deployed to protect approximately 500 ideological settlers - often leads to the harsh implementation of Israel's unofficial but nevertheless institutionalized blackout of media reportage in the region. Ramallah was the second most affected region with 28 IOF and 10 Palestinian Authority violations, with most occurring at the checkpoints of Qalandia and Al-Atara and the surrounding villages of Bili'in and Ni'lin, hosts to some of the most popular and renowned of the weekly demonstrations. Thirty-one violations occurred in Jerusalem, the majority of which took place while journalists were covering the clashes sparked by Palestinian house demolitions and evictions.

MADA wishes to express its deep concern at the growing number of violations against Palestinian journalists, in particular the high rate of those perpetrated by the IOF and Israeli settlers. MADA also expresses astonishment at the international official line of silence in the face of ongoing Israeli violations against journalists in the Palestinian territories, which clearly contravenes Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

MADA wishes to pay tribute to all local, Arab and international organizations that have in the past year spoken out for the rights of Palestinian journalists

MADA also expresses its concern for the lack of answerability of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza, where the perpetrators continue to evade accountability for their actions and disregard Palestinian basic law - in particular Article 19, which guarantees freedom of opinion and expression, and Article 11, which guarantees the personal freedom of citizens.

MADA wishes also to commend Palestinian journalists for their determination, hard work and their ongoing contribution in highlighting the systematic offences of the Israeli occupiers in the Palestinian territories that contravene all international conventions and laws. As such, MADA calls for:

1. Respect for freedom of expression in the occupied Palestinian territories.
2. The immediate intervention of the international community and human rights organizations to facilitate an end to Israeli violations of the rights of journalists and to hold the parties responsible for the violations publicly accountable.
3. Pressure on Israeli occupation authorities to abide by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
4. All media outlets to be allowed to work freely and safely in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
5. Pressure on the Palestinian security services to abide by Palestinian basic law, in particular Articles 11 and 19, with violators being held accountable for their actions.
6. The immediate release of all detained journalists in Israeli and Palestinian prisons.

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