Israeli Soldiers Filmed Attacking Two AFP Journalists During West Bank Demonstration

One of the photojournalists suffered bruised rib after being thrown to ground and forcibly held down; weapons drawn on both journalists, who were wearing body armor marked 'Press.'

A screenshot of the video showing Israeli soldiers attacking AFP journalists, September 26, 2015.
A screenshot of the video showing Israeli soldiers attacking AFP journalists, September 26, 2015. Screenshot

Israeli soldiers assaulted two journalists working for AFP during a West Bank demonstration, the French news agency said late Friday.

Following the report, the officer commanding the force, a deputy company commander in the infantry Givati Brigade, was suspended from operational duty. A spokesman for the Israeli army said that "The IDF sees the incident as grave, and in contradiction of its code of ethics and professional standards." He added that a full investigation was underway.

According to AFP, Italian video journalist Andrea Bernardi suffered bruised ribs and an injury to his eye after soldiers threw him to the ground, where he was held down while a knee was compressed against his chest until he managed to show his press card.

The soldiers also reportedly pointed their weapons at him and his colleague, Palestinian photographer Abbas Momani, both of whom were wearing body armor marked "Press." 

The soldiers destroyed and seized the journalists' equipment, but the incident at Beit Furik, near Nablus, was filmed and posted online by the Palmedia camera crew.

 

Soldiers attacking AFP photographer and cameraman. ..

Posted by Atef Safadi on Friday, September 25, 2015

AFP protested to the Israeli military over the incident and said it intends to file an official complaint.

"Disciplinary measures will be taken," IDF Spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told the agency, adding that "the highest levels of command are aware of the incident."

The Foreign Press Association denounced the incident "in the strongest possible terms" in a statement issued on Saturday, calling the soldiers' behavior "deplorable." While welcoming the IDF statement that the incident would be investigated, the FPA was concerned that had the incident not been filmed no investigation would have taken place.

"Units of the IDF too frequently act with impunity and apparently outside of their orders in direct contradiction with the ideal of high morals Israel's military says it adheres to," the FPA said.

"The Foreign Press Association has raised its concerns with the IDF on multiple occasions but seen no discernible change in behavior. It is time for the IDF command to act, to show it respects the freedom of the press and that it has control over the behavior of soldiers on the ground."

In April, two IDF officers were captured on video assaulting two photographers, one from AFP and the other from the ActiveStills photography collaborative, at a demonstration in the Palestinian West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. The officers were sentenced in disciplinary proceedings, in which footage from one of the news photographers was used. 

One of the officers was sent to military prison for 14 days while the other was confined to base for 30 days.