LONDON: A top Sky News Arabia editor has branded as “unacceptable” the harassment of his colleagues covering a weekend of violence around Al-Aqsa.
Video footage shows reporters being shoved out of the way by Israeli security forces during clashes with Palestinians.
Clashes erupted in East Jerusalem’s Old City after Israel closed Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the first time since 1969, following a gunbattle on July 14 that ended with the deaths of two Israeli police officers and three Palestinians.
The site was closed for Friday prayers and reopened the following week with new security measures, including metal detectors and additional cameras.
Sky News Arabia television crews trying to cover the story say they were verbally and physically abused by security forces in different locations in East Jerusalem.
“Reporters are susceptible to this kind of treatment, but things definitely got out of hand,” said Omar Al-Issawi, chief editor for newsgathering at Sky News Arabia. “We’re not strangers to this kind of treatment as journalists, but it’s unacceptable.”
Israel says the cameras installed at the site outside Lions’ Gate are a necessary security measure, but Palestinians fear an attempt to increase control of the Muslim-administered site. They have launched mass prayer protests in response.
A spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) referred questions to the police. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Arab News that due to security measures, some areas around the site were closed to the public and journalists. “People were asked to move, and if they didn’t move they were removed,” he said.
Sky News Arabia reporter Nidal Kanaaneh was among journalists covering Lions’ Gate, and was allegedly verbally and physically abused by security forces and forced away from the area during a live broadcast.
His colleague Shireen Younes was reporting from Makassed Hospital, where the body of a Palestinian who had been shot was taken, when Israeli special forces allegedly arrived and assaulted people in an emergency room, including Younes and three other crew members.
“Journalists aren’t fair game,” said Al-Issawi, a veteran reporter and producer who has covered conflicts from Bosnia to Lebanon.
“They are there to perform their duties, and they should be afforded the due respect and protection of security forces when they’re out there doing their jobs.”
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also hit out at the treatment of reporters covering the weekend clashes in East Jerusalem.
“The IFJ had repeatedly criticized the Israeli government, army and police forces for their failure to respect the rights of Palestinian journalists to travel and cover news in occupied Palestine without fearing for their safety and liberty,” said Monir Zaarour, IFJ director of policy and programs for the Arab world and the Middle East.
“In the past they have been mistreated, beaten, equipment confiscated and even targeted by rubber bullets and stun grenades by Israeli security forces. Their treatment of the journalists covering the Palestinian civil demonstrations in Jerusalem and other cities in the West Bank last week was not different.”
He said the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) reported over 15 incidents in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Ramallah in which journalists had either been assaulted or prevented from covering the news, including those working for Palestine TV, Sky News Arabia, Wafa and Maan.