Israeli-Occupied Territories and Palestinian Authority * | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Israeli-Occupied Territories and Palestinian Authority *

Israeli-Occupied Territories and Palestinian Authority *

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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

86

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

36

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

22

The West Bank and Gaza Strip remain two of the areas most covered by the media, but Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) severely restrict press freedom and often impede journalists' ability to report safely and accurately. The Palestinian Basic Law provides for freedom of the press, and although a 1995 Press Law calls for free and independent media, it also stipulates that journalists may be punished and newspapers closed for publishing material deemed harmful to national unity or that might incite violence. In May, the Palestinian Legislative Council began deliberations on a draft law on access to information that if passed could increase transparency and accountability.

Israel's army and security services continued to commit a range of press abuses in 2005. Journalists can face gunfire, physical abuse, and arrest in addition to sharp limits on their freedom of movement. Israel denies that it deliberately targets journalists and maintains that reporters covering the conflict risk placing themselves in danger. In January, Majdi al Arabid, a Palestinian cameraman for Israeli television, was shot while filming an Israeli incursion in the Gaza Strip. An Al-Jazeera cameraman was beaten and detained by Israeli soldiers in November while filming a demonstration near Ramallah. In December, a Palestinian journalist working for Al-Jazeera was arrested by Israeli authorities, though they claimed that the arrest was not related to his work. The Israeli army also announced that it would not press criminal charges against a soldier for the 2003 shooting death of British filmmaker James Miller in Gaza. International press groups criticized the decision as one that promoted impunity.

The Palestinian media also face pressure from the PA to provide positive coverage or forgo reporting on certain stories. Journalists who file stories considered unfavorable often are harassed by the PA. Threats, arrests, and abuse of journalists deemed critical of the PA and/or Fatah have become routine. Palestinian reporting of the presidential elections carried disproportionate coverage of Fatah's candidate, Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, a group affiliated with the PA, reportedly directed journalists not to report on clashes among Palestinian factions following the Gaza withdrawal, and in August the Ministry of the Interior issued a directive requiring journalists to inform the ministry of any stories relating to security forces. The PA also refused to invite Palestinian journalists to cover the Abbas-Sharon summit held in February in Egypt.

Increased political instability followed the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Lack of security in combination with renegade political factions created dangerous conditions for journalists. In August, gunmen held a cameraman for France 3 TV for nine days. An Italian journalist was abducted in Gaza in September, and two Knight Ridder journalists were kidnapped in October; all were released unhurt after several hours. Some foreign news crews have left Gaza in the wake of these abductions, which are believed to have been carried out by groups linked to Fatah and upset with the PA. International organizations have criticized the PA for failing to provide the security that would prevent such lawlessness. Also during the Gaza withdrawal, the Israeli military permitted select journalists to be embedded with military units and strictly limited press access to certain areas. Journalists reporting from the Israeli-Occupied Territories (IOT) are required to carry Israeli-issued press cards, which are extremely difficult for Palestinian journalists to obtain, and many Palestinian journalists were prevented from traveling to Gaza to cover the story. The Israeli military continues to restrict media access, denying entry visas to at least two foreign journalists in 2005.

There are three Palestinian dailies in addition to several weekly and monthly periodicals. There are roughly 30 independently owned television stations and 9 radio stations. The two television stations and one radio station run by the PA function as government mouthpieces. Most independent media outlets exercise cautious self-censorship, particularly on the issue of internal Palestinian politics. Israeli checkpoints often prevent newspaper distribution in the IOT. Access to satellite television is increasing, and unrestricted internet access is available to about one-third of the population.