Israeli Police Chief Announces Stricter Rules on Detaining Journalists

After two high-profile arrests of reporters by Israeli police forces, officers will now have to seek permission from high-ranking officials before any such arrest

Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni
Police and press at a protest in the West Bank in May
Police and press at a protest in the West Bank in MayCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni

Israel's police chief announced on Monday a stricter policy on detaining journalists by officers, requiring the approval of an officer of the rank of Brigadier General or above.

Speaking at a meeting with the Israel Press Council, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said he will act to guarantee journalists are free to cover events and are safe to do so.

The meeting with the council's president, retired Justice Hanan Melcer, was called following the arrests of Haaretz reporter Gidi Weitz a month ago and of journalist Yasser Okbi last week.

The protocol Shabtai referenced was proposed back in 2017 following a petition filed with the High Court of Justice on the subject. However, it was never implemented.

It also stipulates that police would look into allowing journalists access to crime scenes considered particularly tense either by accompanying the reporters or allowing access only for limited time.

The commissioner suggested journalists wear safety vests for easier identification, with their press card easily visible.

Melcer sought guarantees that the police will ensure journalists are safe from violence by police and others, and the sides agreed to hold further discussions on this matter.

Following Okbi's arrest while covering the Jewish National Fund’s forestation work in the Negev, the Union of Journalists in Israel wrote to Shabati, protesting the “unreasonable” decision by officers.

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