On Friday 24th August 2018 Inminds human rights group will hold a vigil outside the headquarters of the National Union of Journalist (NUJ) in London to protest the NUJ's silence at Israel's targeting of Palestinian journalists, in particular the case of Lama Khater will be raised.
Inminds chair Abbas Ali said "When we look at the NUJ's recent record we see it has overwhelmingly stayed silent when Palestinian journalists are targeted by Israel, their media outlets closed down, draconian laws passed stopping them from performing their duty, journalists arrested and tortured for their reporting, and even being targeted by Israeli snipers and killed. This is in sharp contrast to NUJ actions elsewhere - this month the NUJ is campaigning for the release of a journalist in Bangladesh, and last month for the release of a journalist in Egypt, and it has launched a huge poster campaign on behalf of BBC Persian Service after it was criticised by one media outlet in Iran of acting against the interests of Iran.. but not one word for Palestinian journalists like Lama Khater who has been caged by Israel since 24th July for her journalism, and is currently being tortured to extract a false confession from her. We are here to ask the NUJ, why the double standards? Its time for the NUJ to defend the rights of Palestinian journalists, starting with a condemnation of the abduction, caging and torture of Lama Khater."
The only recent exception to NUJ's silence has been their rightful condemnation of Israel's targetted killing of Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja, who was shot dead in cold blood by Israeli snipers on 6th April 2018 whilst covering the March of Return protests in Gaza. But a few days later when a second Palestinian journalist, Ahmad Abu Hussein, was shot dead and his murder condemned by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and other journalist bodies worldwide, there was silence from the NUJ.
Similarly when the shooting spree intensified with 13 journalists being shot by Israel on a single day on May 14th, with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) , the Federation of Arab Journalists (FAJ), and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) all strongly condemning it, the NUJ was again silent.
And again when on 24th May 2018 the Israeli Knesset drafted a bill criminalizing journalists from filming Israel soldiers committing war crimes the NUJ was silent. In contrast the IFJ condemned it saying "It constitutes a serious breach of the freedom of the press, as it precisely criminalises the work of journalists.". The bill was passed by the Knesset in June 2018. The new law allows the army to abduct and imprison journalists who film their crimes for up to five years. If they are Palestinian then they can be imprisoned for 10 years. Again the NUJ was silent.
Social media is the leading platform for Palestinian citizen journalists to report what is happening in Palestine. On 17th July 2018 the Israeli Knesset passed the first reading of its so-called Facebook Bill which will allow the authorities to order Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google search and other internet platforms to remove content which could in anyway harm the state of Israel, including citizen reporting and economic harm like espousing a boycott of Israel. Again the NUJ was silent.
Over 500 Palestinians, including women and children, have been arrested, since Sept 2015, simply because Israel didn't approve of their social media posts. Again the NUJ has been silent.
Three weeks ago, on Tuesday 31st July 2018 Israel sentenced 36 years old Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour to five months imprisonment and a further six months suspended sentence for her poem titled "Resist, my people resist them" which she posted on social media. She has already served nearly three years under house arrest after police raided her home in October 2015 and dragged her away. She was banned from publishing her works and banned from accessing the internet altogether. The writer's association PEN condemned the verdict as "an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression.. a poem is not a crime". The group's international president, Jennifer Clement said "Dareen Tatour has been convicted for doing what writers do every day - we use our words to peacefully challenge injustice". But again the NUJ has been silent.
Palestinian journalist Lama Khater was abducted from her home in a pre-dawn raid on 24th July. Today on 23rd August 2018 she has had her detention without charge extended for a 7th time under the pretext that further interrogation needs to be conducted. The 42 years old mother of five has said she is being tortured by Israeli interrogators who are trying to get baseless confessions from her. She spends all the time in an interrogation cell sitting on a small chair, handcuffed and with her legs-chained. She is deprived of sleep and they continue to curse and shout at her. She is subjected to harsh and continuous interrogation, with interrogation sessions lasting more that 20 hours. This is happening today, right now, but the NUJ is again silent.
This year Israel has shot 9 Palestinian journalists, killing two of them. Figures for August show 32 Palestinian journalists are currently imprisoned by Israel for their journalism, that includes five women. Many of them are held indefinitely, without charge or trial under Israel's illegal use of administrative detention. This number does not include Palestinian writers and poets like Dareen Tatour who was sentenced to five months imprisonment simply for writing a poem.
On 19th August 2018 imprisoned Palestinian journalist and director of Al-Quds TV Alaa Rimawi called for international solidarity to protect Palestinian journalists under occupation. He said the attacks and arrests carried out by the occupation forces against Palestinian media and journalists reflect a clear strategy to keep the situation in Palestine from being covered in the media.
Both Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch have condemned Israel's deliberate attacks on Palestinian journalists as amounting to "war crimes".
In March 2018 around 60 film-makers including Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and Peter Kosminsky, in an open letter, condemned Israel's targeting of Palestinian journalists. The letter read:
"On April 6, Palestinian cameraman Yaser Murtaja was killed by an Israeli sniper as he filmed the “Great March of Return” in Gaza. On the same day six other photojournalists wearing press jackets were injured by the Israeli military. Since then photographer Ahmed Abu Hussein has been shot dead. This is not an anomaly. Last year Israeli forces assaulted 139 journalists and detained a further 33. In 27 cases they destroyed or sabotaged equipment. They closed down 17 media outlets. Palestinian journalists and film-makers are thus victims of systematic persecution based on their ethnicity."
Isn't it time for the NUJ to break its silence and heed the call from Palestinian journalists for solidarity?
BACKGROUND - LAMA KHATER
One of these imprisoned journalists is Lama Khater, a mother of five children. Her articles have been critical of both the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority which under its security agreement with Israel helps enforce the occupation. This has resulted in both the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority threatening her, demanding she stop her journalism.
A week before her arrest, her husband Hazem al-Fakhouri, a fellow journalist, was summoned by the Israeli forces. They warned him that his wife would be arrested if she didnt stop her critical writing. He was asked what was the age of their youngest son Yahya, and if his wife was still breast-feeding him. Israeli law allows a child under 2 years old who is still being breast fed to accompany his mother to prison when she is arrested. Yahya was a couple of month older than 2 years.
Three days later, on 20th July, Lama's latest article was published on the subject of Israel trying to starve the people of Gaza in retaliation for the Great Return protests by partially closing the Karam Abu Shalem border crossing - the only entry point for food into Gaza.
Four days later, at 2am in the morning of 24th July 2018, Israeli soldiers raided Lama's home in occupied Al-Khalil - Hebron. Before they dragged her away in their military transport, Lama insisted on hugging her son Yahya goodbye. Lama's daughter Beesan recalls "My mother kissed each one of us goodbye, and advised us to take care of each other".
The Israeli soldiers took her to the illegal settlement of Kiryat Araba and brutally interrogated her for 5 hours till 7am when she was moved to Ashkelon interrogation centre where her interrogation continued. She was shackled to a chair the whole time, denied sleep and constantly cursed and shouted at by Israeli interrogators non stop for 10 hours at a time, day after day. When she wouldn't break, the interrogators asked for her detention to be extended, which the military judge agreed to at her hearing on 26th July.
Her lawyer, finally being able to see her briefly, filed an appeal against the extension - she was still being held without any charge. That appeal was rejected by Ofer military court on 30th July.
Lama was still denied family visits. Her 2 years old son Yahya, missing his mother, came to the appeal hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but the soldiers spitefully refused him entry. He went home without being allowed to see his mother.
Today on 23rd August 2018 Lama has had her detention without charge extended for a 7th time under the pretext that further interrogation needs to be conducted. The 42 years old mother of five has said she is being tortured by Israeli interrogators who are trying to get baseless confessions from her. She spends all the time in an interrogation cell sitting on a small chair, handcuffed and with her legs-chained. She is deprived of sleep and they continue to curse and shout at her. She is subjected to harsh and continuous interrogation, with interrogation sessions lasting more that 20 hours.
More Info: http://inminds.co.uk/article.php?id=10812
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Inminds Human Rights Group