Al Mezan Center for Human Rights seizes the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd, to congratulate journalists and all the people who are concerned with free expression on this occasion.
The Center issued a special report on the violations of free expression and media work in Gaza, in which it stresses on the importance of the role of the press and journalists in the promotion of the cause of human rights.
Al Mezan believes that restrictions on the freedom of the press will only have a counter effect, or even transform the press into platforms for fuelling conflict in society.
On 3 May 2008, Al Mezan issued a report on the deterioration of the situation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of journalistic work.
The report, which is entitled with 'Against the Silence', presents the violations of the freedom of opinion and expression in the Gaza Strip during 2007 and first quarter of 2008.
It covers the violations which were committed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) or Palestinian non-state actors and other formations.
The report provides an account of the IOF violations and highlights the impact of the blockade on the work of journalists and media firms.
The report also accounts for the deliberate targeting by IOF of journalists while reporting on IOF attacks and violations against the civilians their property in Gaza.
recently, and as the report was under final editing, the IOF deliberately killed cameraman Fadel Shana'a as he was reporting on IOF incursion east of Gaza city.
The report also accounts for violations of freedom of opinion and expression by Palestinian actors, which actually exceed in their number those committed by the IOF.
According to the report, various forms of violations have been committed against journalists and the press in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
They included killing and maiming of journalists, beating and humiliating them, detention, confiscation of equipment, and threat and manipulation.
The report provides that Palestinian actors carried out 56 attacks against journalists in Gaza during the reported period.
These attacks claimed the lives of four people and injured 27 others.
Also, dozens of media firms were attacked.
Al Mezan asserts in its report that the targeting journalists and their institutions by IOF constitutes a clear violation of the norms of international law; and so do the restrictions on their movement.
Journalists' vehicles were frequently attacked by IOF despite that they were clearly marked.
That reflects that they were intentionally targeted; especially since the IOF could easily recognize them using the highly sophisticated surveillance equipment available to it.
Journalists were also subjected to beating and humiliation, arrest and interrogation, and their cameras and materials were confiscated or broken.
This adds to preventing them from access areas to cover events in Gaza, and the effects of blockade on their work, as they do not have access to materials and supplies necessary for their work.
Moreover, the report reviews the legal parameters of freedom of the press under Palestinian as well as international law.
The report covers the Gaza Strip only because it is the area that Al Mezan covers in its work.
The report, however, claims that similar, if not worse, violations occurred in the West Bank.
The Report calls on the international community to take effective measures that would stop the violations against the freedom of the press, and for providing protection for journalists while they perform their work.
The report also calls for pursuit and prosecution of those who ordered and committed crimes that claimed the lives of Palestinian and foreign journalists in Gaza.
It also calls for solidarity, both at the national and international levels, to expose and prevent Israeli violations against journalists in Gaza.
The report calls on all the Palestinian authorities, both governmental and non-governmental, to refrain from targeting journalists and from taking any actions that limit freed expression and journalists work in Gaza in compliance with the law.
Al Mezan also calls for respect of diversity and tolerance which are key to the progress of the Palestinian community towards the consolidation of democracy and rule of law.