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From the field

Israeli Military Must Permit Video Documentation in Occupied Territories and Conduct Investigation of Attack on Photographers

B’Tselem wrote to OC Central Command Major General Nitzan Alon requesting that he issue an immediate notice to Israeli security forces in Hebron, reminding them that B’Tselem employers and volunteers as well as any other photographers must be permitted to document events in the city. B’Tselem also requested that the Israeli military take action against the soldiers who attacked the photographers and disrupted media documentation.

B’Tselem’s letter was written in light of an incident in which Israeli soldiers attacked Reuters’ photographers in Hebron, stripped them and threw tear gas canisters at them. Media accounts report that the soldiers “accused” the journalists of working for B’Tselem. On the same evening in which the press photographers were reportedly attacked, Israeli soldiers assaulted a B’Tselem volunteer videographer, who was detained on the pretext of attacking soldiers. He was taken to the Hebron police station and released in the early morning hours. He required medical attention, and upon his release was taken by ambulance to a Hebron hospital.

In the letter, B’Tselem Executive Director Jessica Montell wrote that such incidents are not uncommon and that B’Tselem’s volunteers and fieldworkers continue to report instances in which Israeli security forces prevent them from filming, detain them for hours and confiscate cameras. These actions blatantly disregard both the law and the assurances that B’Tselem has received from the Israeli military and Border Police. Israeli security forces have asserted that there is nothing to hinder B’Tselem employees and volunteers from photographing and filming incidents in the Occupied Territories as long as they do not interfere with security forces operations.

In recent years, video documentation of human rights violations in the territories has become one of the most effective tools for safeguarding human rights. Video documentation lends corroboration to Palestinians’ claims of rights breached, provides evidence for criminal investigations and illustrates the harsh reality of life under occupation. Finally, since the launching of the B’Tselem camera project, which distributes video cameras to Palestinians living in high-friction areas, especially in Hebron city Center, experience shows that the presence of cameras often helps to defuse situations and prevents needless violence.