For the first time, Israel has been added to the list of “worst jailers of journalists,” according to the annual report of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), released last Thursday.
In it, the media watchdog found that, as of December 1, seventeen Palestinian journalists were detained in Israeli prisons, placing the country in sixth position alongside states like Iran.
“Israel’s position in CPJ’s 2023 prison census is proof that a fundamental democratic norm – freedom of the press – is endangered, as Israel resorts to draconian methods to silence Palestinian journalists. This practice must stop,” said CPJ CEO Jodie Ginsberg.
According to the report, the number of Palestinian journalists detained is the highest since 1992, when these statistics first appeared.
The report draws attention to Israeli practices regarding administrative detention, which allows the military to arrest individuals solely on suspicion. Some Palestinians are locked up for long periods without charge. The number of those detained without trial has skyrocketed during the recent conflict in Gaza.
For comparison, only one Palestinian journalist was detained in an Israeli prison last year, according to the New York-based nonprofit.
China and Myanmar top the list of worst offenders. These two countries have each imprisoned more than forty journalists in 2023. They are followed by Belarus, Russia and Vietnam.
B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, raises concerns about the lack of a viable defense against such detentions.
According to the NGO, the detainees face undisclosed allegations and are therefore powerless in the face of their fate. They do not know if they will be released, charged, tried or sentenced.
Last year, CPJ reported that three hundred and twenty journalists and media workers were behind bars around the world; among them, one in five is detained without charge.
The organization maintains that prolonged pretrial detention and cruel treatment are commonplace. Some governments go so far as to persecute journalists beyond their borders.
“All over the world we have reached a critical stage. We must put an end to the militarization of laws that silence journalists and thus ensure their right to exercise their profession in complete freedom,” said Jodie Ginsberg. She adds that, in a year full of key elections – in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, India and Taiwan – the failure to guarantee these rights “undermines democracy and harms everyone.
Among the detained Palestinian journalists are Alaa al-Rimawi, director of the J-Media news agency, banned in the West Bank, and Tarek al-Charif, presenter of a radio show accused of incitement.
Other detainees include journalists from a Ramallah-based television channel, a freelance cameraman who worked for Al-Jazeera and Jordanian television, and a correspondent from a London-based news agency.
These arrests bring greater risks faced by journalists covering the war between Israel and Gaza.
According to CPJ, at least eighty-three media professionals, the majority Palestinian, were killed in Gaza. The organization has documented numerous incidents in which journalists were victims of attacks, threats, cyberattacks and censorship in Israel and Palestine.
This article is originally published on arabnews.fr