Israel releases Al Jazeera journalist after hours-long arrest

Givara Budeiri was assaulted during her arrest while covering a demonstration in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem.

Budeiri, a veteran journalist, was wearing a flak jacket marked 'press' when she was arrested and holds an Israeli Government Press Office card [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Givara Budeiri has been released from custody several hours after she was arrested by Israeli police while covering a demonstration in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Israeli police assaulted the Doha-based media network’s Jerusalem correspondent while arresting her on Saturday and destroyed equipment belonging to Al Jazeera cameraman Nabil Mazzawi. Budeiri’s arrest drew sharp condemnation from press freedom advocates and media watchdogs.

“They came from everywhere, I don’t know why, they kicked me to the wall,” Budeiri told Al Jazeera, moments after her release late on Saturday.

“They kicked me inside the car in a very bad way … they were kicking me from everywhere,” she said.

Budeiri was reporting on a sit-in marking the 54th anniversary of the Naksa, meaning “setback”, a term Palestinians use to describe the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip in 1967.

Sheikh Jarrah has also been the site of demonstrations for weeks in support of Palestinian families facing expulsion to make way for Jewish settlers.

Budeiri has worked as a journalist for Al Jazeera since 2000. She was wearing a flak jacket marked “press” when she was arrested and holds an Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) card.

However, she said she was “treated as a criminal” when she was taken to the police station and prevented from removing her heavy flak jacket or closing her eyes. She said the police accused her of kicking a female soldier – an accusation she vehemently denied.

Budeiri said she was released on the condition that she does not go to Sheikh Jarrah for 15 days.

Dr Mostefa Souag, acting director-general of Al Jazeera Media Network, strongly condemned the arrest.

“The systematic targeting of our journalists is in total violation of all international conventions. Today’s violent actions by Israeli occupation forces against Givara Budeiri and Nabil Mazzawi are in total disregard for the fundamental human rights of journalists,” he said in a statement.

“The silencing of journalists by terrorising them has become a routine activity for the Israeli authorities as witnessed in recent weeks in Gaza and occupied Jerusalem,” Souag added.

‘Absolutely appalling’

Earlier, Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said Budeiri had been arrested for no apparent reason and that she had tried to retrieve and show her Israeli-issued press card following a request by police.

“She was being pushed, that continued as she was trying to get her press card. And then as the cameraman was trying to reach her his camera was smashed,” Abdel Hamid said.

“We spoke to several witnesses and they all said there was no reason for that kind of tension and that it was not clear why they decided to specifically go [after] Givara while there were other journalists doing exactly what she was doing,” she said.

Pictures obtained by Al Jazeera showed the moment Budeiri was arrested.

Israeli police also dispersed dozens of demonstrators who had managed to get to the neighbourhood, which has been closed off.

Barbara Trionfi, of the International Press Institute, expressed shock at the arrest.

“It is absolutely appalling,” she told Al Jazeera.

“We have seen a lot of targeted attacks against journalists by the Israeli forces throughout the past weeks and months and this is, unfortunately, not an isolated case,” Trionfi added.

“This type of behaviour by the Israeli forces is absolutely not acceptable.”

Sabrina Bennoui, spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), told Al Jazeera the arrest was shocking and unacceptable.

“This is a clear violation of press freedom, because this journalist was clearly recognisable as she was wearing a press vest, and there is a clear will from the Israeli authorities to prevent journalists from doing their job and from reporting on the ground,” she said.

On May 15, an Israeli aid raid destroyed a building in the Gaza Strip that housed media offices of Al Jazeera and other outlets during an 11-day bombardment of the coastal enclave.

Israeli forces ‘violate’ rights of journalists

At least 14 Palestinian journalists have been detained and placed in administrative detention by Israeli forces in recent weeks, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Administrative detention is a legal procedure that allows Israel to imprison Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories without charge or trial, for renewable periods of up to six months.

Israeli authorities have used this procedure, in which arrests are made based on “secret evidence”, for decades. Detainees are usually unaware of the accusations against them and are not allowed to defend themselves in court.

Two Palestinian journalists – Zeina Halawani and Wahbe Mikkieh – were assaulted and detained by Israeli forces in Sheikh Jarrah last week.

The pair were held for five days before they were released on bail and then were placed under house arrest for one month.

Several Palestinian journalists with media cards have been banned from entering Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli police, who claim they require a GPO card.

Israel ranked 86th out of 180 countries in the RSF’s World Press Freedom Index for 2021.

“The [Israeli military] often violate the rights of Palestinian journalists, especially when they are covering demonstrations … in the West Bank or Gaza Strip,” RSF said.

In a report (PDF) published last year, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights documented 98 attacks by Israeli forces against journalists in the occupied Palestinian territories.

At least 40 were injured with different bullets, including two who “lost sight in one of their eyes,” the report read.

At least 14 were assaulted with “evidence of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment,” while another 26 were arrested, it added.

Source: Al Jazeera