Two prominent international rights groups yesterday condemned travel bans imposed by Israel on Palestinian journalists, which mean they are unable to leave the Gaza Strip or the West Bank.
In a joint statement, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med Monitor) called for an immediate end to the unjustified Israeli practice.
Female Palestinian journalist Majdoleen Hassona, who won this year's RSF Press Freedom Prize for Independence, has had a travel ban issued against her for two years. She is a senior producer at the Turkish TRT network. The restrictions mean she is unable to leave the occupied West Bank.
RSF said that it is aware of at least 21 Palestinian journalists who are currently banned from travelling abroad. In many cases, the RSF said, no reason is given for the prohibition.
When RSF asked the Israeli authorities why Hassona is banned from travelling, they simply responded, "security reasons" and provided no further information.
In many cases, the travel bans have remained in place for years, the organisations said, giving examples, including Nawaf Al Amer, who is Al-Quds Al-Arabi TV's public programming director. He has been forced to remain in the West Bank for "security reasons" since 1983.
Sami Abu Salem is another example, the organisations said, noting that he works for WAFA news agency and has been unable to leave the Gaza Strip since 2016.
"The bans on leaving the Palestinian territories that the Israeli authorities impose on Palestinian journalists clearly violate their freedom of movement," said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF's Middle East desk.
She added: "The Israeli intelligence agencies and courts use 'case confidentiality' as a pretext for giving no reason and for maintaining these restrictions indefinitely in a completely arbitrary manner."
Euro-Med chief media officer Nour Olwan said: "Journalists are not a party to the conflict and their coverage of current events is not a crime that they should be punished for."
RSF and Euro-Med Monitor said that victims have waged an exhausting battle to get the bans lifted before eventually becoming resigned to them.
RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index ranked Israel as 86th out of 180 countries.