Rights Group Takes Legal Steps After Reporters Thrown Out of Jerusalem's Old City

In a High Court petition filed Sunday, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel alleges that such limitations infringe on freedom of the press

Journalists who were barred from Jerusalem's Old City, near Lions Gate, July 23, 2017.
Emil Salman

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed a petition Sunday with the High Court of Justice seeking an order halting police attempts to restrict the presence of journalists. The case arises out of allegations that during the recent unrest over Israeli security measures around the Temple Mount, reporters were ordered to leave the area and that they were sometimes even subjected to harassment and violence.

The petition claims the Israel Police do not have the legal authority to restrict journalists' and press photographers' access to public areas. The Union of Journalists in Israel said it was considering a similar petition of its own on the issue.

The unrest around the Temple Mount came after two Israeli policemen were gunned down there on July 14. In response, Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at the entrances to the mount, which sparked clashes between police and Muslim demonstrators. The metal detectors and other new security equipment have since been removed.

According to the Association for Civil Rights, the conduct of the police has hampered reporters' ability to do their job, infringing on freedom of the press and the public's right to know. Justice Uri Shoham gave the police until Tuesday to respond.

Last week, reporters told Haaretz about a number of alleged incidents in which they said police had restricted their access to the Old City and in some cases had purportedly reacted violently against them.

In response to a Haaretz report on the matter, the Israel Police said they would look into the incidents mentioned in the report, but added that most of the incidents took place during clashes in which demonstrators refused to evacuate areas when asked to do so by the police.