“It seems at this moment the invasion is beginning at a number of points in the Gaza Strip,” Ramallah-based reporter Hadir Shaheen declared on Saturday, January 3. And he was right. Less than two hours later the beginning of Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza Strip was worldwide news, covered on every website and television station on the planet.
But Hadir Shaheen was the first… he and his fellow correspondent Mohammed Sarhan broke the story to a Beirut affiliate of the Iranian Al-Alam News Network. And what did scooping the hundreds of high-profile international reporters who flocked to Israel during the beginning of the Gaza air campaign get the two for their troubles? In Israel, an indictment and potentially a hefty jail sentence.
Since the start of the war the Israeli government has used national security as an excuse to enact a myriad of draconian new military censorship laws, giving the military considerable power to regulate what private journalists are and are not allowed to say. Reporting the truth about a major military operation before the Israeli military’s Spokesperson Unit had decided it was fit for international consumption now constitutes “passing information to the enemy.”
Israel has had a long history of relative press freedom, but that image is being seriously tarnished by a censorship-happy military that cheerfully ignores the orders of its own Supreme Court in the hopes of keeping tight control over information about its ongoing war. ABC News’ Simon McGregor Wood warns that the ongoing behavior is “placing Israel at risk of appearing like a military dictatorship.”