‘Shameful’: Journalists file petition over ‘violent’ Israeli treatment



The Foreign Press Association (FPA) has submitted a petition to Israel's High Court of Justice, claiming authorities used violent tactics against journalists trying to cover unrest in Jerusalem. 

It called the government "shameful" for "standing by silently."

The petition, filed Wednesday, demands that police cease their blocking of local and foreign journalists from the Temple Mount, the site of recent unrest following Israel's decision to install security cameras there last month.

It goes on to claim that barring reporters from the site was done without any legal authority, and that journalists were often targeted with verbal and sometimes physical abuse by Israeli forces, the Times of Israel reported.

The document references a specific case in which a Reuters cameraman was hospitalized with a concussion after allegedly being assaulted by an Israeli officer.

It also says the FPA is seeking police guarantees that journalists will not be hindered in their future work and will be able to cover events "freely, safely, and security," the Jerusalem Post reported.

The FPA's decision to file the petition was made "after years of empty promises, smashed equipment, and injured journalists," according to a statement which accompanied the filing, as quoted by the Times of Israel.

“The Israeli government has stood by silently — a shameful performance for a country that boasts that it is the Middle East’s only democracy and claims to be committed to freedom of the press,” the statement says, adding that the organization was “left with no choice” but to pursue legal action.

In late July, the FPA issued a separate statement on its website to protest the "deplorable situation created by Israeli security authorities."

"While tourists were given access to the Old City, journalists were held for questioning and relegated to distant positions totally useless for reporting or taking relevant photos," the earlier statement said.

It went on to state that journalists had been "pushed and shoved into areas where their safety is at risk, and where they bear the brunt of the Israeli security response to rioting crowds including tear gas, stun grenades, and beatings resulting in several serious injuries."

However, Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevi said last week that the restrictions were in place to protect reporters from violent clashes taking place around the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Ḥaram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Unrest broke out at the holy site after Israel installed security devices there, following the fatal shootings of two Israeli border police officers. 

The move prompted Palestinians to accuse Israel of trying to disrupt the status quo at the site, and called the move a "violation of the sanctity of the Al Aqsa mosque."

The clashes in and around East Jerusalem and the West Bank led to the deaths of five Palestinians.

Israel eventually agreed to remove the security devices at the site, but vowed to instead implement a security inspection based on "advanced technologies."

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, as it is home to destroyed biblical temples. 

It is the third holiest site of Islam, housing the Dome of the Rock shrine and Al-Aqsa mosque.

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