The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) has responded negatively to a recently-proposed bill that would make the filming and recording of on-duty Israeli soldiers illegal, stating that they find it “racist.”
The group of journalists released a statement on Saturday, stating that the bill would encourage the Israeli occupation to commit more crimes and take advantage of the bill’s regulations. They claimed that it could potentially endanger the Palestinian people and that it “severely attacks the profession of the press.” Their statement also hypothesized that the bill was “an attempt to escape punishment and international justice.”
The bill criminalizes any documentation of on-duty soldiers—whether through photographs or video recordings. The bill was proposed on Thursday, in the Israeli Parliament Knesset, by chairman of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party Robert Ilatov, and was supported heavily by Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The bill states that “Anyone who filmed, photographed, and/or recorded soldiers in the course of their duties, with the intention of undermining the spirit of [Israeli army] soldiers and residents of Israel, shall be liable to five years imprisonment.”The bill’s supporters call the amount of documentation and recordings of the Israeli army in recent years “worrying”; Ilatov claimed that they were “an absurdity,” and were being used to hurt the country’s public image by taking merit away from their forces.
The bill also argued that the recordings were “done through video, stills, and audio recordings by anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian organisations such as B’Tselem, Machsom Watch Women, Breaking the Silence, and various BDS organisations.” The bill’s defenders have argued that the bill could potentially keep a citizen from participating in the armed forces due to a fear of being filmed or recorded by “a leftist or organization,” and that it was their right to execute their public duties without these concerns.
Liberal news website Israeli Haaretz Daily published an opinion article on Sunday in which the author presented the bill as an obstruction of Palestinian citizens’ “right to know.” The op-ed followed that statement with the claim that “The message is clear: B’Tselem, not Azaria, is the real criminal and Israeli democracy must protect itself from the human rights organization’s future crimes. The bill’s aim was made clearer in its explanatory notes and that is to silence criticism of the army, and in particular to prevent human rights organizations from documenting the Israeli army’s actions in the territories”. It also claims that the footage could be used when analyzing illegal activities and violations of the laws of war.
Here’s one of the op-ed’s more striking moments:
The main protection against indicting Israeli soldiers and commanders in international tribunals for violating the law of war is the assumption that Israel investigates complaints against its soldiers itself, and deals with them fairly. The more Israel acts to cover up its soldiers’ actions, the more the opposite assumption is substantiated — laying the ground for the indictment of Israeli soldiers and commanders in such criminal proceedings … A country and army that have nothing to hide, that act to seek out and punish those who violate their code of combat, don’t need legislation in this spirit and must oppose it.”
The Syndicate is said to have reached out to the United Nations and international press freedom institutions, requesting for them to pressure the government so that they “comply with international laws and conventions” to protect the freedom of press.
Featured Image via: Flickr/betsy roy