Freedom of the Press

Israeli-Occupied Territories and Palestinian Authority *

Israeli-Occupied Territories and Palestinian Authority *

Freedom of the Press 2003

2003 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

86

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

38

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

18

Amidst the ongoing Palestinian intifada (uprising), international press freedom groups criticized Israel for barring journalists from certain areas of the West Bank, especially where troops of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were engaged in combat. Journalists were caught in crossfire or shot at directly while reporting from conflict zones at various times during the year. In March, Italian freelance journalist Raffaele Ciriello was shot and killed by Israeli tank fire during a firefight with Palestinian militants in Ramallah; the Committee to Protect Journalists reported in September that more than 40 journalists had been hit by gunfire since the beginning of the uprising in September 2000. The IDF destroyed radio and television stations operated by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Official Palestinian media outlets often carry inflammatory broadcasts that encourage attacks against Israel. The IDF also arrested several Palestinian journalists on terrorism charges. Israel's Government Press Office, citing security concerns, did not renew the credentials of several Palestinian journalists in 2002. Western news organizations rely heavily on Palestinian crews, and press freedom organizations demanded that accreditations be reinstated. Press freedom groups also called upon the PA to cease harassment of journalists.

Journalists covering the intifada faced harassment during the year. Palestinian security officials reportedly threatened journalists who filed stories deemed unfavorable to the PA and the Chairman Yasser Arafat. PA-affiliated militias warned Israeli journalists to stay out of Palestinian areas. In August, the Palestinian Journalists' Union and the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate imposed a ban on the use of photographs depicting armed children and masked men. The ban was extended to foreign photographers. Under a 1995 Palestinian press law, journalists may be fined and jailed and newspapers closed for publishing "secret information" on Palestinian security forces, or news that might harm national unity or incite violence. However, another press law, also signed in 1995, stipulates that Palestinian intelligence services do not reserve the right to interrogate, detain, or arrest journalists on the basis of their work. Still, several small media outlets are pressured by the authorities to provide favorable coverage of Arafat and the PA. Arbitrary arrests, threats, and the physical abuse of journalists critical of the PA are routine. Official Palestinian radio and television are government mouthpieces.