Israel's latest crackdown on journalists has been condemned by the Foreign Press Association (FPA) following a number of high-profile arrests over the weekend. The international body, whose members include major news outlets including Reuters and the New York Times, called on Israel to stop its threat and intimidation of journalists.
"We call upon the Israeli government to allow free and independent coverage of the operation in Palestinian Authority areas," the FPA said after Israel declared Ramallah City a "closed military zone" and threatened to forcibly remove foreigners. The comment followed Saturday's arrest of Givara Budeiri, an Al Jazeera correspondent.
FPA pointed out that eyewitnesses and video footage show that Budeiri was arrested without provocation. Although the reporter was wearing a protective vest identifying her as a press officer, Israeli Police refused to allow the Al Jazeera correspondent to return to her car to show them an Israeli-issued press credential.
The treatment of Budeiri was "the latest in a long line of heavy-handed tactics by Israeli police" against the media in recent weeks, FPA added denouncing Israel's ongoing aggression against journalists. It claimed that journalists have been hit by stun grenades, tear gas, sponge-tipped metal bullets, and putrid-smelling water.
Israel has given no indication that it is willing to listen to the FPA, which represents hundreds of journalists working for international news organisations. On 26 May, the FPA sent a letter to the Israeli authorities requesting respect for journalists. This request, however, is said to have been completely ignored.
"We call on police to punish the officers who needlessly injured an experienced journalist and broke professional equipment. And once again, we urge police to uphold Israel's pledges to respect freedom of the press and to allow journalists to do their jobs freely and without fear of injury and intimidation," the FPA said.
Al Jazeera denounced Israel's assault of Budeiri and said that the reporter had to be treated in hospital for a broken hand and bruises caused by occupation officers who were captured on camera assaulting her.
FPA's condemnation of Israel follows a weekend of high-tension in occupied East Jerusalem, which not only saw crackdown against journalists but also the arrest of prominent Palestinian activists.
The latest crackdown is part of what many say is a concerted campaign by Israel to silence critics and journalists from exposing the brutality of its decades-old military occupation. During Israel's 11-day bombardment of Gaza last month, at least 170 Palestinian journalists were injured, and 33 media organisations bombed.
It was also during Israel's latest aggression on the besieged population of Gaza that the occupation state carried out one of the most shameful attacks on journalists by decimating the 13-story Al-Jalaa tower which housed foreign media including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press.
The Washington Post published a report following the bombing of Al-Jalaa Tower arguing that Israel's attacks on journalists are "not new" and that it had previously "launched a campaign to intimidate Western reporters."