Jerusalem, July 3 - Watchdog groups are condemning an attack last weekend on several journalists by plainclothes Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces in the West Bank.
"Palestinian journalists have a right and a duty to document demonstrations," said Committee to Project Journalists Executive Director Joel Simon. "Authorities are responsible for ensuring that journalists can carry out their work without the threat of assault."
Palestinian freelance reporter Muhammed Jaradat was beaten, arrested, and had his camera confiscated by four plainclothes security officials while covering Saturday's protest by Palestinians demonstrating against a planned meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz in Ramallah. The meeting ultimately was canceled.
A plainclothes officer beat and choked Saed al-Hawari, a photographer for Reuters, on Sunday. Another photographer, Ahmad Mesleh, was hit in the back by police, who also attempted to break his camera.
A third photographer’s camera was also confiscated on Sunday.
The Palestinian journalists union on Sunday condemned the attack on Jaradat.
Amid the revolutions sweeping the Arab world, small-scale assaults on journalists in the Palestinian territories, and especially the Palestinian Authority-run West Bank, are common but rarely covered in the mainstream press.
Concerns about the limits of free speech in the West Bank have been amplified by a number of incidents this spring, including attempts by the Palestinian attorney general to block access to certain websites critical of Abbas and the imprisonment of anti-government blogger Jamal Abu Raihan.