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Israel Tied With Iran Among Top Jailers of Journalists in 2023, Report Finds

The Committee to Protect Journalists says 2023 saw the highest number of arrests of Palestinian journalists since 1992.

A pedestrian walks past a mural called "Heroes of Palestine".

A recent report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found that Israel tied with Iran as one of the world’s leaders in jailing journalists for 2023.

“Israel has appeared several times on CPJ’s annual census, but this is the highest number of arrests of Palestinian journalists since CPJ began documenting arrests in 1992 and the first time Israel has ranked among the top six offenders,” the report says.

For the first time, Israel has joined the rank of China, Myanmar, Belarus, Russia Vietnam, and Iran as the leading countries jailing journalists. According to CPJ, Israel has detained more than 20 journalists since October 7. Relatives of the detained journalists told CPJ that many were allegedly imprisoned due to their activity on social media platforms.

“This is the highest number of media arrests in Israel and the Palestinian territories since CPJ began tracking imprisonments in 1992,” Naomi Zeveloff, CPJ’s features editor, wrote in January. “The steep increase underscores just how dangerous the Israel-Gaza war is for journalists across the Palestinian territories.”

One of the detained journalists, Alaa al-Rimawi, was undergoing a medical examination when Israeli forces raided his home and detained his son to pressure al-Rimawi to turn himself in.

“As you know, the occupation, in time of its war on Gaza, now wants the journalistic and media voice to be absent,” al-Rimawi said to his TikTok followers before reporting to prison. “I apologize, I apologize because I may not be with you in this coverage and convey your pain, wounds, and victory, with God’s help.”

In October, al-Rimawi covered the start of Israel’s bombardment and invasion of Gaza on J-Media, a West Bank-based news agency he directed, as well as on TikTok and Facebook. Within two weeks of the start of the war on Gaza, Israel banned J-Media and arrested multiple J-Media contributors, including Belal Arman, Moath Amarneh, Mustafa al-Khawaja and Sabri Jibril.

“All those known to be held by Israel as of CPJ’s December 1 census date were arrested in the Palestinian territory of the occupied West Bank after the start of the Israel-Gaza war on October 7,” the CPJ report says. “Most are held in administrative detention, which allows Israeli authorities to hold detainees without charge on the grounds that they suspect the detainee of planning to commit a future offense.”

In tandem with jailing reporters, Israel has also killed at least 97 journalists and media workers since October 7. A total of more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank by Israel since the start of the genocide.

“Since the Israel-Gaza war began, journalists have been paying the highest price — their lives — to defend our right to the truth. Each time a journalist dies or is injured, we lose a fragment of that truth,” CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna said. “Journalists are civilians who are protected by international humanitarian law in times of conflict. Those responsible for their deaths face dual trials: one under international law and another before history’s unforgiving gaze.”

Press advocates believe that the arrests and targeted killing of journalists is part of a larger project by Israel to conceal the events unfolding in Gaza. Since the start of the genocide, foreign correspondents have only been allowed into Palestine if they are accompanied by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), prompting the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Foreign Press Association to demand that foreign journalists be allowed access to Gaza.

“The barring of independent press access to a war zone for this long is unprecedented for Israel,” the Foreign Press Association said in a letter earlier this month. “It raises questions about what Israel does not want international journalists to see.”

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