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Palestinians facing wave of detentions, attacks

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, February 20, 2012 - The International Press Institute (IPI) is concerned over a recent wave of press-freedom violations against Palestinian journalists at the hands of both Israeli forces and Palestinian security services.

Since the beginning of 2012, at least five journalists working in the Palestinian Territories have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and a further two have seen their detention periods extended, according to media reports.

Three of the recently arrested journalists were allegedly interrogated for several hours about their writing before being released, while the remaining pair continues to be held without charges.

IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: "We are concerned that the arbitrary detention of journalists in the Palestinian Territories reflects a desire to control information and silence criticism - neither of which is acceptable in a democratic society.

The pattern of interrogating journalists for what they write and then later releasing them appears to be a method of encouraging self-censorship, something that is ultimately most harmful to the people of Palestine."

Moreover, in a series of incidents in the West Bank, Israeli forces have allegedly targeted journalists covering protests with rubber-coated steel bullets and tear-gas canisters.

Bethel McKenzie said IPI was "troubled" by reports that journalists were being targeted for doing their job.

She emphasised: "Journalists are there to collect facts, not to take sides."

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), which tracks press-freedom violations in Gaza and the West Bank, said in its most recent monthly report that "the New Year did not begin well" for Palestinian journalists.

The group spoke of an "extensive campaign of violence and harassment" against journalists by Israeli forces, and assailed Palestinian authorities for failing to improve the Territories' poor record on press freedom.

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Click here to read the full report
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