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Reporters unable to cover West Bank protests against “deal of the century”

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the many cases of journalists being injured or otherwise prevented from covering protests in the West Bank against US President Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan, and calls on the authorities to ensure that the media are able to cover developments despite the surge in tension.

RSF has registered 16 cases of reporters being obstructed in the course of their coverage of the protests since President Trump’s proposed peace deal for Israel and Palestine was unveiled on 28 February.

According to RSF’s information, five of these journalists were injured during clashes between Israeli security forces and protesters. Three of the five were injured by rubber bullets: freelancer Abdul Mohsen Shalaldeh, who was hit in the head in Hebron, Reuters reporter Mohammed Abu Ghanieh, who was hit in the stomach in Bethlehem, and Jmedia photographer Tarek Youssef, who was hit in the foot in Qalqilya.

The other two, Alaraby cameraman Mounir Rabih and Al Jazeera cameraman Raji Asfour, were the victims of teargas grenades, losing consciousness after extensive exposure to the gas in the city of Al-Bireh.

“The West Bank protests against the ‘deal of the century’ put Palestinian journalists on the front line,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The current tension makes them more vulnerable although they are just doing their job as reporters and should under no circumstances be put in the same category as protesters. Special care must be taken to allow them to do their reporting in relative safety.”

Israeli security forces also detained two journalists for several hours in the north of the Jordan Valley. One was Al Arabiya cameraman Osama Nasrallah and the other was a freelance photographer who did not want to give his name.

Other forms of obstruction by Israeli soldiers were reported to RSF by journalists. They said Israeli soldiers threatened them verbally, pushed them violently, or ordered them not to film or take photographs

Israel is ranked 88th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index while Palestine is ranked 137th.