August 27, 2002
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The Palestinian journalists union declared on Monday
that news photographers are “absolutely forbidden” from taking pictures of
Palestinian children carrying weapons or taking part in activities by militant
groups, saying that the pictures harm the Palestinian cause.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate also called on Palestinian factions and
their military wings to stop using children in their activities.
The Foreign Press Association, representing news media working in Israel and
the Palestinian territories, called on the organization to withdraw its statement,
saying it limited coverage of news. Palestinian Authority officials had no
Children carrying weapons or dressed up as suicide bombers have been
frequently seen at rallies and marches in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
during nearly two years of Palestinian-Israeli violence. Israel has charged that
Palestinians are misusing children as pawns in the conflict; the Palestinians
counter that Israeli forces target children with gunfire during riots.
Recently six children armed with M16 rifles and Kalashnikov machine guns took
part in a pro-Iraqi rally in the southern town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.
Tawfik Abu Khousa, deputy chairman of the syndicate, said such pictures
harmed the image of the Palestinian people and the credibility of Palestinian
“We have decided to forbid taking any footage of armed children,
because we consider that as a clear violation of the rights of children and for
negative effects these pictures have on the Palestinian people,” he said.
In the statement issued by the syndicate it said footage of armed served “the
interests of Israel and its propaganda against the Palestinian people.”
The union threatened to boycott militant groups who use children and
masked men in their activities.
The ban extended to Palestinian journalists who worked for local and foreign
new agencies. The statement said Palestinians who work for foreign news
media must see to it that foreign photographers follow the ban.
The syndicate said journalists who failed to adhere to the ban would be
investigated and subjected to disciplinary procedures.
Free-lancers were also expected to abide by the ban, the statement said.
The statement did not detail what measures would be taken. In the past,
Palestinian journalists who ran afoul of the authorities had their credentials
lifted, limiting their access to official events. Palestinian photographers have
told of attempts by Palestinian officials and militias to keep them from taking
pictures considered unfavorable, sometimes using threats and coercion. The
Palestinian Information Ministry has issued statements denouncing the threats.
Most foreign news agencies make extensive use of local Palestinian
photographers in the Gaza Strip for both print and television pictures.
The statement said that there was “clear evidence that some photographers
ware trying … to mark the Palestinian struggle with terrorism.” Journalists were
also banned from photographing masked men.
The syndicate was established in the 1980s in the Gaza Strip and the West
Bank. There are 167 Palestinian journalists and photographers in the Gaza
branch, according to the union.
In a statement, the Foreign Press Association expressed “deep concern” over
the decision by the syndicate and its threats of sanctions against journalists,
local and foreign, who disregard the ban.
“While we share the expressed desire to defend the rights of children,
limiting coverage of legitimate news events and elements of stories is not the
proper way to achieve this goal,” it said.