January 2012 Violations Report, oPt
Ramallah –February 2012: The New Year did not begin well for journalists in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) with widespread violations in January, particularly towards the end of the month. Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) launched an extensive campaign of violence and harassment against journalists, with incidences of journalists being targeted with rubber coated steel bullets, live rounds and tear gas projectiles, extension of arrests and issuing of one exclusion order.
Compounding the violations suffered by journalists at the hand of the IOF in January, Palestinian security services were also responsible for a number of violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Campaign of harassment against journalists by Israeli Occupation Forces
IOF violations against Palestinian journalists intensified in the last week of last January with Quds TV program coordinator Nawaf Al Amer sentenced to an additional three months of administrative detention on Tuesday 26 January without charge. Also in the occupation courts, the custody order of PNN and Emirates newspaper correspondent Amin Abu Wardeh was extended for an additional five days for the fourth time in a row on 31 January. On the same day in Jerusalem, journalist Rasim Obaidat was placed under an exclusion order for a period of six months.
Occupation forces additionally launched a series of attacks against journalists during their coverage of the peaceful weekly demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall and settlement expansion. During the Bil’in march on 27 January, occupation forces fired two rubber coated steel bullets at Alahayat Aljadedah newspaper photographer Muheeb Al-Barghouti, hitting him in both legs. In Kafr Kaddom near Nablus, IOF personnel directly targeted journalists covering the march with tear gas grenades, with one striking Palestine Public TV reporter Haron Amayreh on his right leg, causing contusions. Occupation forces additionally stopped the journalists leaving the Kafr Kaddom protest demanding to see their footage and photos, the journalists however refused to cooperate.
Palestinian violations against media freedoms:
The low status of media freedoms in Palestine remained unchanged in January despite indications of improvements following the decision to redistribute previously banned newspapers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, this decision however has yet to be implemented.
In 15 January, security forces arrested WAFA news agency and Radio Ajial editor Rami Samara from his work in the agency's headquarters and interrogated him for three hours about a critical note he wrote on his Facebook page before releasing him.
On Sunday 22 January the military court of Jenin city summoned Marah TV cameraman Yousef Abu Jas to the court to interrogate him about the nature of his journalistic work before transferring him to intelligence headquarters. Abu Jas was released after five hours.
The Bethlehem Magistrate's Court issued the decision to postpone the trial of Radio Bethlehem 2000 Director George Canawati for slander on 24 January. The trial comes as a result of a complaint filed with the Attorney General against Canawati by the Governor of Bethlehem on Thursday 8 September following a note Canawati published on his Facebook page concerning the work of the Bethlehem Directorate of Health and criticising the presence of Israeli products in a meeting he attended with Directorate managers.
In the Gaza Strip unknown people beat and stabbed Al Mezan Center’s public relations officer for human rights, Mahmoud Abu Rahma, on Friday 13 January in Tal al-Hawa area in Gaza Strip, after he published an article on a number a web pages entitled "Absent Protection" in December. The Hamas government also prevented the channel "Mix Maan" to broadcast a programme entitled "New Star" via video conferencing in order to prevent young men from the Gaza Strip from participating in the program on the grounds that it "affects the feelings and habits of society in Gaza."
Conclusion and recommendations:
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) condemns all violations committed against media freedoms in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the intensified campaign waged by the Israeli occupation against journalists at the end of January. MADA additionally urges the international community to act seriously to protect Palestinian journalists.
MADA also calls upon the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza to respect freedom of expression, to stop disrupting journalists’ work and the immediate ratification of the decision issued by the Public Freedoms Committee allowing for the immediate redistribution of banned newspapers in the West Bank and Gaza, without conditions. MADA hopes that signing of the reconciliation agreement between President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khalid Mishaal in Doha will reflect positively on public freedoms in Palestine, particularly freedom of opinion and expression.
Details of violations
(18 Jan) Unknown people attacked Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights public relations officer, Mahmoud Abu Rahma, on Friday 13 January 2012 in the Tel Al-Hawa area of Gaza Strip. Abu Rahma spoke to MADA’s legal consultant Karem Nashwan, reounting threats of "punishment and retribution" he had received from unknown persons on his cell phone and e-mail after writing and publishing an article entitled “Absent Protection” on various websites. Abu Rahma also received accusations of "blasphemy, betrayal and opposing the resistance." Abu Rahma added: "I was heading to my house in Tel Al-Hawa on Friday 13 January when I noticed that there were three masked men following me, I ran quickly toward the house but I tripped on the stairs and fell over. They began attacking me, stabbing me in my right thigh, three times above my right knee, my back and left shoulder, and cutting off part of my hand.”
(22 Jan) The military court in the West Bank city of Jenin summoned Marah TV cameraman Yousef Abu Jas to the court on Sunday 22 January. Abu Jas said to MADA that he was summoned to the court for a "security check", where he was interrogated about the nature of his journalistic work, before being transferred to intelligence headquarters for interrogation about his work. He was kept in court custody for approximately five hours before being released.
(23 Jan) The Hamas government in Gaza prevented the "Mix Maan" channel from broadcasting its programme “New Star” via video conferencing in order to prevent young men from the Gaza Strip from participating in the program on the grounds that it "affects the feelings and habits of society in Gaza." Alaa Al-Abed - public relations officer for "Mix Maan" - said that negotiations with Dr Hassan Abu Hashish, head of the Government Media Office, failed and he described the signing of the program as "unsuccessful", adding that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh media refuse the program and will not allow it.
(24 Jan) The Magistrate's court in Bethlehem postponed the trial of Radio Bethlehem 2000 George Canawati on charges of slander on Tuesday 24 January. Canawati told MADA that the judge decided to postpone the trial until 7 February 2012 after hearing the testimony of another consultant of Bethlehem Governor Abdel Fatah Hamayel. The trial comes as a result of a complaint filed against Canawati with the Attorney General by the Governor on Thursday 8 September following a ‘Note’ Canawati published on his Facebook page concerning the work of the Bethlehem’s Directorate of Health and criticizing the presence of Israeli products in a meeting he attended with Directorate managers.
(26 Jan) Israeli occupation authorities extended the administrative detention of Quds TV program coordinator Nawaf Al Amer for an additional three months, on Tuesday 26 January. His wife said to MADA the court did not give any reasons for the extension. She added "his health is somewhat difficult because he suffers from pain in his back and diabetes".
(27 Jan) Occupation forces attacked Alhayat Aljadedah newspaper photographer Muheeb Al-Barghouthi during his coverage of the weekly march in the village of Bil'in near Ramallah, on Friday 27 January. Al-Barghouti told MADA that he was covering the weekly march in Bil'in when occupation forces fired two rubber coated steel bullets at him, hitting both his legs and necessitating immediate transfer to Ramallah Hospital for treatment. Al-Barghouti added: "My right leg is in good condition but on my left one the bullet struck near the bone and needs more time to heal, so I have to stay in bed."
(27 Jan) Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestine TV correspondent Haroon Amayreh during his coverage of the weekly march in the village of Kafr Kaddom near the city of Nablus in the West Bank, on Friday 27 January. Amayreh told MADA that he was covering the event with a number of other journalists away from the heart of the demonstration, but that the occupation forces directly targeted them with tear gas canisters. He added: "We ran away but a tear gas canister hit my right leg which caused bruises. The situation was difficult as it was rainy which increases the risks of gas, and we suffered difficulty breathing. When we return from the village the soldiers also stopped our car and tried to see the pictorial material, but we refused and didn’t answer their questions."
(31 Jan) Security services arrested WAFA News Agency and Radio Ajial editor Rami Samara from his place of work at the agency's headquarters in Ramallah on 31 January 2012. Samara was released after three and a half hours. Samara was arrested after writing a critical commentary about the last PLO executive committee meeting, which discussed the results of negotiation with Israel in Amman, on his page of the social networking site Facebook. Samara told MADA that four people in civilian clothes went at 1.00pm to his place of work in the agency and reprimanded him to the headquarters of military intelligence in Almoqataa in Ramallah, where he was interrogated about his activities on Facebook and his critical comments about the PA.
(31 Jan) Israeli occupation authorities extended the arrest of PNN and Emirates newspaper correspondent Amin Abu Wardeh for the fourth time in a row, on Tuesday 31 January. His colleague Atef Douglas said that occupation authorities in the Salem military court ordered the extension of the detention of Abu Wardeh for five additional days. His wife said to MADA that her husband's health is stable and that the court has not yet charged him and that when his lawyer asked the reason for his arrest he was told that that the file on Abu Wardeh was secret. Abu Warda has been held in detention by the occupation authorities since 28 December 2011.
(31 Jan)Israeli occupation authorities in Jerusalem issued columnist Rasim Obiadat with a six- month exclusion order on 31 January 2012.Obaidat told MADA that he had been summoned by Israeli intelligence services at 2:30 pm on Sunday 31 January 2012 where the order was handed down by the Commander of the Central Region of the Israeli Occupation Army preventing him from leaving Jerusalem and entering the West Bank until 9 July 2012 without a special permit from the occupation authorities. Obaidat added: "They gave me road maps that determine the roads in Jerusalem that I’mallowed to walk down, they said the order was to maintain the security of the state.”