Civil and political rights/Freedom of opinion and expression – Special Rapporteur’s report – Communications with Governments (excerpts)



The right to freedom of opinion and expression


Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received*


*The present document is being circulated in the language of submission only as it greatly exceeds the page limitations currently imposed by the relevant General Assembly resolutions



1. This addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression gives an account of actions undertaken by the Special Rapporteur between 1 January and 31 December 2003. It also contains in summary form the replies received from Governments to his communications, as well as observations of the Special Rapporteur where considered appropriate.

2. Owing to restrictions on the length of documents, the Special Rapporteur has been obliged to reduce considerably details of communications sent and received. As a result, replies from Governments could not be published in their entirety.





Communications sent 

425. On 30 January 2003, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders regarding the situation of 'Abla Sa'adat, a 47-year-old human rights defender. She was reportedly arrested at the border crossing into Jordan on 21 January 2003, while she was on her way to Brazil for the World Social Forum as a delegate representing the Palestinian human rights organization Addameer. She was then allegedly taken to the Beit El Military Detention Centre (near Ramallah, West Bank), where she was placed in an isolation cell without being questioned. All her personal belongings were allegedly taken away from her. The Special Rapporteur and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders were concerned that her arrest may be related to her activities as a human rights defender and her trip to Brazil.

426. In the same urgent appeal, attention was drawn to the case of Iman Abu Farah, aged 24, and Fatma Zayed, aged 23, both fourth – year students at the Religious Studies College of al-Quds University in Abu Dis, Jerusalem. They were reportedly arrested at their apartment in Um al-Sharayit (a suburb of Ramallah), on 20 January 2003, and also taken to Beit El Military Detention Centre. On the evening of 22 January 2003, 'Abla Sa'adat, Iman Abu Farah and Fatma Zayed were reportedly all served with four-month administrative detention orders, a procedure under which detainees are allegedly held without charge or trial.

427. On 14 October 2003, the Special Rapporteur sent a communication regarding the following cases:

(a)  On 2 May 2003, British journalist James Miller, who was making a documentary on the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on children for the television channel Home Box Office (HBO), was reported to have been fatally hit by a bullet in the neck, allegedly fired by a Israeli soldier. Mr. Miller was reportedly in a home in the area of Salah al-Din Gate in Rafah to film agricultural land levelling and house demolition by Israeli military bulldozers. It seemed that when the journalist and the crew accompanying him wanted to leave the house, they decided to go and see the soldiers to identify themselves. Although they were reportedly all wearing helmets and jackets identifying them as journalists, they were allegedly fired at as they were leaving the house. It was further reported that the soldiers did not come straight away to help when the other journalists called for help saying that one of them was seriously wounded;

(b)  On 19 April 2003, Nazeh Adel Dawazah, a Palestinian cameraman for the Associated Press Television News (APTN) and Palestine TV was shot in the head, reportedly by an Israeli soldier, as he was filming clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) during an incursion by the Israeli army into the centre of Nablus. It was reported that he was clearly identifiable as a journalist when he was hit;

(c)   On 30 January 2003, the Israeli army launched a vast military operation in Hebron aimed, according to an army spokesperson, at "terrorist organizations and their infrastructures, as well as the arrest of wanted Palestinians", during which the troops in Hebron reportedly evacuated and closed two local television stations, Nawras TV and Al-Majd TV, as well as the local radio station Al-Marah;

(d)  On 21 January 2003, two Palestinian photographers, Nasser Ishtayeh of the Associated Press and Jaafar Ishtayeh of Agence France Presse, were reportedly assaulted by Israeli border police. It was reported that they were preparing to photograph an Israeli army jeep manned by border police, when the jeep reportedly drove towards them and three of the four soldiers in the jeep got out and beat them. It seemed that the photographers wanted to take a picture of two youths sitting on the hood of the moving jeep, who, the photographers believed, were being used as human shields against the throwing of rocks. It was reported that after the beating, the driver of the jeep inspected the cameras in order to make sure that no picture was taken, and that he allegedly threatened to kill the two photographers if pictures of the incident were published in the press;

(e)   On 19 December 2002, photographer Jaafar Ishtayeh of the Agence France-Presse was reportedly beaten by frontier guards near Nablus. The frontier guards allegedly knew that he was a journalist, when he arrived at the crossing point between Nablus and the town of Salim. They also reportedly threatened to seize his camera, but changed their minds when they saw that he had not taken any picture, and allegedly threatened to kill him if he returned;

(f) On 22 September 2002, Esam Al Tellawe, a journalist with the Voice of Palestine radio station, was reportedly shot dead while he was covering a peaceful public protest at the isolation by Israel of President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, in which several thousands took part. According to information received, Mr. Tellawe was wearing a press jacket clearly identifying him as a journalist;

(g) According to information received, the private radio station Tariq al-Mahabbeh in Nablus has reportedly been subjected to harassment by the Israeli authorities. It was reported that during the night of 3 September 2002, the army stormed into the radio station’s rebroadcast link station after allegedly breaking the doors. Soldiers allegedly seized all the equipment, including a receiver, a transmitter and a modulator, without giving any explanation. It was also reported that the radio station’s premises were shelled with missiles and heavy artillery in April 2002 and raided in the spring of 1999. When the staff of the radio station were summoned reportedly to recover the confiscated equipment, they were allegedly charged with operating an illegal radio station.

428. On 10 November 2003, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal regarding the announcement by the director of the Government Press Office (GPO) on new regulations for foreign and Israeli journalists to be introduced on 1 January 2004. On the basis of reports in the media, the new security rules allegedly included the requirement that journalists seeking accreditation would be subject to a review by the Shin Bet security service and required to produce an affidavit made before a lawyer to the effect that the information provided in their application is true. It was further reported that a fee would be charged for issuing a press pass. GPO allegedly stated that the changes were precipitated by the need for increased security measures in Israel. However, it was also alleged that the new eligibility rules were intended drastically to reduce the number of people with press cards. Fears were expressed that the review to be carried out by Shin Bet would enable the authorities to reject applications without having to provide any explanation other than broad-based and unproven security concerns. Furthermore, the requirement to produce an affidavit would allegedly be an added layer of bureaucracy meant to slow down the application process. Moreover, if Shin Bet were to review the backgro und of the journalist in any case, the affidavit would allegedly be unnecessary. Finally, fears were also expressed that payment of a fee could make the cost of employing journalists in Israel prohibitive and that it could increase the likelihood of their being arrested or deported for having press passes that are no longer valid.

Communication received

429. In a letter dated 11 November 2003, the Government responded to the urgent appeal of 10 November 2003 and explained that, on the same day, it decided to freeze new directives issued by the GPO regarding applications for press cards.


430. The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Israel for its reply, but awaits a response to his communications of 30 January and 14 October 2003.




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