Palestinian journalists blackmailed with travel bans: report

Palestinian journalists told to quit job or face travel bans by Israel: report
4 min read
West Bank
01 December, 2021
Many Palestinian journalists threatened with or given travel bans dare not speak about them for fear it might damage their career, says the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
Journalism is an 'unsafe' and 'unprotected' profession for Palestinians, say Palestinian journalists [Getty]

Journalism is an "unsafe" profession in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, according to Palestinian media professionals featured in a report published on Monday by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.

Palestinian journalists are reportedly victims of "extortion" practices, as Israeli authorities attempt to silence them or pressure them to collaborate in exchange for their right to travel. According to the report, "the Israeli authorities force these individuals [journalists] to give up their right to freedom of expression in exchange for allowing them to enjoy their other rights".

Based on personal interviews, the report concluded that Israeli authorities use the right to travel as a means of pressuring journalists into self-censorship, quitting their job or even collaborating with them. The report found that journalists often discover that they are banned from traveling when they reach border crossings, when they are called to interview the Israeli intelligence, or when they are arrested.

One of the journalists featured in the report, 32-year-old Majdoleen Hassouneh, told The New Arab that she had been banned from traveling since 2019.

"Israeli authorities informed me that I was banned from traveling on my way back from Turkey, where I was visiting family members. They told me that I couldn’t leave the West Bank anymore. Without giving any explanation," Hassouneh said.

Hassouneh said that she had hired a lawyer to try to get her travel ban lifted. "They have always said the ban was based on secret information by the Israeli intelligence." She added that in 2014, however, upon her return from abroad, the Israeli authorities interrogated her about her journalistic work. “I used to work as a freelance then, and I focused on the question of Palestinian prisoners. They asked me about my sources and about specific articles I had written. It lasted for several hours”.

Another case featured in the report is that of 31-year-old Thaer Fakhouri, who runs his own media production business. He told The New Arab that he had been banned from travel before working as a journalist.

“My brother was killed during the Intifada while I was a teenager. Later I was myself detained by the Israeli occupation and released in 2009, and those both things got me a travel ban”, he explained, “however, in 2019 I learned from my lawyer that the ban was still active,” Fakhouri said.

Fakhouri added: "That same year I was summoned by the Israeli intelligence, who told me that in order to remove my travel ban, I must either quit my job at al-Quds TV station, or collaborate with them and provide them information”.

The director and co-founder of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, Ramy Abdu, told The New Arab that “we were surprised to discover how widespread these cases are. We had no difficulty in conducting interviews with 16 journalists in only four days”.

Abdu affirmed that “we can’t know how many journalists go through these experiences, because some of them refuse to talk about it, because it might damage their career opportunities with international outlets”.

Monir Zaarour, Middle East and Arab World Policy and Programme Director at the International Federation of Journalists, told The New Arab that “the IFJ has followed up some cases of travel bans against Palestinian journalists, but we did not know it was such a widespread phenomenon”.

The head of the Palestinian journalists’ union, Nasser Abu Baker, explained to The New Arab that “these types of violations are part of a wider range of violations against Palestinian journalists by the Israeli authorities”.

Abu Baker highlighted that since the year 2000, at least 6,200 attacks have been reported on journalists, including arrests, assaults, raids, confiscation of material, travel bans, and even the killing of no less than 53 journalists.

“Journalism is an unprotected profession for Palestinians”, he added.