Palestinian journalists in the West Bank have gathered to mark the World Press Freedom Day and protest against Israeli violations of the freedom of speech, Press TV reports.

On Saturday, dozens of protesters and journalists, who had gathered near the city of Bethlehem, carried placards and shouted slogans, demanding the right to freely travel.“We are trying to tell the world and send a message to all rights organizations that the Palestinian journalists face many violations at the hands of the [Israeli] occupation. On this day, all international rights organizations must find a way or a mechanism to protect the Palestinian journalists from the policies of the Israeli military forces,” said protest organizer Musa al-Shaer, pictured above.

Israeli forces used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to break up the crowd.

Nasser Najjar, the chairman of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, was slightly injured. He said the protest was aimed at condemning Tel Aviv’s efforts to strip Palestinian journalists of their rights.

Palestinian paramedics give aid to protesters after a sound bomb and tear gas canister were thrown by Israeli forces toward Palestinian journalists during a protest, ahead of the World Press Freedom Day, at the main entrance of the West Bank town of Bethlehem, May 2, 2015. © AFP

The Palestinian Corporation for Prisoners’ Affairs also issued a statement marking the World Press Freedom Day and accused the Israeli regime of restricting the movement of journalists.

The group called on the international community and institutions which advocate the rights of journalists to pressure Tel Aviv into ending its restrictions on Palestinian journalists.

Official figures say last year over 300 human rights violations by Israeli forces were reported against Palestinian journalists. At least 17 journalists were killed and more than two dozen were arrested. The figures also say that 53 journalists were detained while working and 42 others were prevented from covering events.

No safe space for journalists in Egypt: Amnesty

Egyptian journalists tape their mouths during a protest demanding the release of detained photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid in Cairo, July 12, 2014. © AP

Amnesty International has accused Egypt of muzzling and intimidating journalists, saying there is no safe haven for press to criticize the country’s authorities, with scores of media workers languishing in jail or facing criminal charges.

The human rights group said in a report published on its website on Sunday that Egypt is using courts and jail to intimidate journalists who are “challenging the authorities’ political narrative and rights records.”

The group said since Mohamed Morsi was ousted as president in July 2013 in a coup led by former army chief and current president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Egyptian authorities have “rounded up” critical and opposition-linked journalists.

According to Amnesty, detained journalists have faced “trumped-up charges of broadcasting ‘false news, information or rumors’, as well as sedition and incitement to violence.”

A number of journalists listen to their verdicts from inside a cage in an Egyptian court. (File photo)

Amnesty warned that in Egypt there is at present “no safe space for a journalist or blogger in Egypt to criticize the authorities’ political or human rights records, or to peacefully express their opposition to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government.”The group said its research shows at least 18 journalists and other media workers are currently incarcerated in Egypt, including photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, who has been detained for over 600 days without formal charge or trial.

In addition, dozens of other journalists have been detained and released only after questioning by prosecutors and the National Security Agency.

A majority of those arrested had to post bail before being released and face ongoing criminal probes, a policy “apparently aimed at intimidating or silencing them.”

According to statements by defense lawyers to Amnesty, there was no incriminating evidence against their accused clients.

The lawyers added that in most cases courts convicted media workers on the testimonies and investigations of Egypt’s security forces, including the National Security Agency and officers at the Criminal Investigations Department.

Egyptian authorities have defended the crackdown on journalists, claiming they only target those “who have incited violence or spread ‘false information,’” however, the Amnesty research has not found any credible evidence to support the statement.

The human rights group called on Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all media workers who have been detained “solely for their journalistic work” and those who have been detained on charges of “spreading false news, information or rumors.”

The report is the latest criticism by rights groups against Sisi’s government for launching a heavy-handed crackdown on journalists and stifling freedom of speech in the Arab country.

Source: Press TV

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