Reporters Without Borders recently announced its annual list of 40 most dangerous violators of the principles of a free press: 40 Predators of Press Freedom. There were the usual suspects: Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Robert Mugabe, the Somali Shabab. The list also included the Fatah police for their repression of Hamas journalists on the West Bank (it should be noted that Hamas itself has not had a spotless record).
But one representative gracing the list might (or might not) surprise you: the IDF. Here is the RSF citation:
The IDF was again responsible for abuses of authority and acts of violence against journalists in the Palestinian Territories in 2009. The Israeli authorities denied the international media access to the Gaza Strip “for safety reasons” during Operation Cast Lead, the military offensive that ran from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. This was a serious press freedom violation. The Israeli forces targeted several buildings housing news media during the offensive. In all, six journalists were killed during Operation Cast Lead, two of them while working, and around 15 others were wounded.
Two Palestinian journalists based in Jerusalem, Khodr Shaheen, the correspondent of the Iranian Arabic-language TV station Al-Alam, and his assistant, Mohammed Sarhan, were charged during Operation Cast Lead with “divulging secret information” and “transmitting information to the enemy in wartime.” Their two-month jail sentences and additional suspended sentences of six months in prison were eventually quashed by the Israeli supreme court. The Israeli security forces tend to behave arbitrarily towards Palestinian journalists and media workers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At least 33 Palestinian journalists were physically attacked and injured by Israeli soldiers during 2009 and another 25 have been since the start of 2010. Israeli soldiers implicated in these abuses are rarely prosecuted.
The RSF listing also notes the Kamm-Blau case as an example of repression of press freedom. Last month, eight Palestinian journalists were injured by live fire from the IDF at marches. The group also noted the “lack of transparency” shown in the deportation of Maan News Agency journalist, Jared Malsin. The citation didn’t note the carte blanche given to the military and intelligence services in pursuit of national security cases and the accompanying trampling of press freedom that often ensues; particularly through the rampant abuse of secret gag orders and other such hocus pocus manuevers.