The report, presented by Joe Stork, HRW deputy director for Middle East and North Africa, at a press conference in Ramallah, discussed violations by the security services and general intelligence against journalists, including arbitrary detention of journalists, raiding their homes, threats, intimidations and confiscating work equipment.
The report held the PA’s security forces accountable for their actions toward journalists.
The report had several recommendations involving this matter, including calling on “donor countries that support the PA financially to look carefully at the PA’s performance and to stop funding security services and intelligence of the PA” which are responsible for these violations.
Stork said he raised these problems with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad when he met him on Tuesday. He said Fayyad assured him that the PA does not have a policy to violate rights of or mistreat journalists.
“We found no evidence showing directives from the president or prime minister to harass journalists. But when violations are not properly addressed by the authorities, then we can talk about general policy,” said Stork.
The report called on the PA to investigate and prosecute officials responsible for the violations as well as to provide compensations to journalists.
It also addressed violations of the Hamas authorities against journalists in the Gaza Strip and referred to two cases of violations by Hamas forces.
Stork said the situation was equally bad in the West Bank and Gaza Strip even though HRW was not able to investigate abuses in Gaza because of difficulty to enter Gaza.
He said he could only enter Gaza through Rafah crossing with Egypt, which is time consuming, since Israel would not allow them to cross through its territory. For this reason, the report focused more on the situation of journalists in the West Bank than Gaza, he said.
He also said that he noticed an increase in the number of violations in recent years but could not yet tell if the trend was continuing for this year.
Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the Palestinian security services, denied what came in the HRW report regarding violations of journalists in the West Bank.
He said that the Palestinian Authority does not have a policy to restrict or intervene in the work of journalists, which he said was guaranteed in the Palestinian basic law.
He said that the PA is ready to investigate any violation and to take all judicial proceedings necessary against violators of the law.
He called on HRW to submit all cases of alleged violations against journalists by the security services to investigate them.
He stressed that the PA does not have any political arrests and that any case of arrest could be because of security offenses.