Saturday, October 4, 2008

U.N. Report Castigates Israel for Harassing Journalists

By Thalif Deen

"UNITED NATIONS, Oct 3 (IPS) - A new United Nations report on the human rights situation in Palestinian territories blasts the Israeli government for its heavy-handed treatment of journalists reporting on the military occupation.

The 20-page report, which will go before the 63rd sessions of the General Assembly currently underway, singles out the mistreatment of award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer who was stripped, interrogated, kicked and beaten up when he returned from Europe to his home town in the occupied territory of Gaza last June.

A stringer for Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, Omer, 24, was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism for "displaying courage and ability in covering war zones".

The U.N. report, by Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, says that Omer was convinced the brutal assault on his person was carried out by personnel from Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency.....

Nadia Hijab, senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Palestine Studies, told IPS: "Richard Falk is absolutely right." She said other journalists have been killed or injured by Israeli security forces, even though they and their vehicles were clearly marked as "press".

But there are several particularly chilling aspects to Israel's assault against Mohammed Omer, she added. "He had just been on a successful European speaking tour and received a prestigious award, and he was being met by European diplomats on his return home," she noted. Through its actions, said Hijab, Israel was sending a message that no Palestinian, journalist or otherwise, is safe and that even European diplomats are no match for Israel......"

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