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May 20, 2021 6:00 pm

Israeli Media Union Urges Facebook to Act to Stop Incitement Against Journalists on Social Platforms

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Torched synagogues and cars and vandalized stores in the central Israeli city of Lod, following a night of heavy rioting by Arab residents in the city, on May 12, 2021. Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

Israeli journalists have in recent weeks increasingly been the target of attacks, threats and intimidation as they report on the Gaza hostilities and the political crisis in the country.

Amid a staggering rise in online threats, the Union of Journalists in Israel urged on Thursday both Facebook and Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to take the necessary steps to stop the incitement against reporters on Facebook and WhatsApp.

“In recent days verbal threats turned into acts and journalists found themselves physically attacked by groups of violent rioters who apparently adopted the false and inciting narrative that exists on the networks,” the letter sent by the union to Facebook Israel read. “We see a direct link between videos, interviews of senior politicians and opinion leaders linking journalists to terrorist organizations or other enemies of the State of Israel, and physical attacks against journalists. This is one chain of cause and effect. Facebook should be aware of these developments and take the necessary steps to help prevent them. ”

The journalist union said that the past week has been marked by an unprecedented number of attacks on journalists, against the backdrop of growing violence between Jews and Arabs, the rocket attacks on Israel, the war in Gaza and the ongoing incitement on the internet against media outlets and journalists.

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It is estimated that at least 20 reporters and photographers have been assaulted and wounded since the start of the riots in Jerusalem and the hostilities with Hamas. In an incident earlier this month, Channel 13 news anchor Ayala Hasson and her crew were attacked in the city of Lod by a mob of Jewish extremists. Meanwhile, Israel’s Channel 12 announced that it is providing security for several of its senior network reporters, including Dana Weiss, Yonit Levy, Guy Peleg, and Rina Matsliah after they received numerous threats, including death threats.

The veteran Israeli journalist Rina Matsliah received a handwritten letter which said: “I’m going to kill you when you leave the house on the way to the studios. No bodyguard will help you.”

“I have been a journalist for 34 years and I am used to and committed to criticism. So I get criticized often. Sometimes it is very harsh, sometimes it’s blunt, even offensive. But I accept it. People threw tomatoes at me during the terror attacks of the Oslo accords. A Molotov cocktail went off by my feet in Hebron,” the TV anchor told Channel 12. “But what is happening now is not criticism. It’s not a disagreement, it’s not an argument. What’s happening now is an elimination attempt and it doesn’t happen by chance. It happens after many years during which individuals in power used to, and even took pains to identify the media as the enemy. It is so bad that our channel has been called ‘Al Jazeera.'”

“Now you don’t criticize your enemy. That’s not the relationship. Enemies are to be eliminated. And that’s how we got to this situation, in which the media is perceived as an enemy of the country rather than a group which is here as part of the country, as a group which supports the country and encourages it through the criticism it voices. Criticism is part of journalism. It cannot exist without it. We will continue despite the threats and despite the hardships,” she said.

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