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Report on the Targeting of Palestinian Media Outlets by the IOF

 

 

Ramallah – 28 June 2012: Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in June, 1967, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has pursued a policy of silencing the Palestinian press in its efforts to show the bitter reality of living under the continuing violations committed by the occupation forces.

 

Israeli violations against journalists and media institutions have continued throughout the long years of occupation. The most grave violations include the killing of 18 Palestinian journalists as well as two foreign journalists in the last decade. In addition, serious physical assaults have permanently disabled other journalists. In the latest incident, Ma’an News Agency correspondent Mohammed Othman became paralyzed after being shot by the IOF in the Gaza Strip while covering a Nakba Day march last year.

 

The General Director of the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), Mousa Rimawi, noted that Israeli attacks are not limited to the targeting of journalists as they perform their professional duties. The IOF also attempts to paralyze the work of media institutions by raiding, confiscation, and even complete destruction of their equipment, causing temporary or permanent halt to their work as well as substantial financial losses.

 

Rimawi added that from 2008 to the present, MADA has monitored numerous violations related to the seizure and destruction of property belonging to Palestinian media outlets in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

This includes storming as many as 11 media headquarters and confiscating equipment belonging to 14 other institutions. During this time, the IOF has also, even bombed seven other Palestinian and international media headquarters. Several journalists’ homes have been demolished during the Israeli aggression on Gaza Strip in the beginning of 2009, and other journalists have had their cameras damaged while covering events in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). As a result of the intensification of these practices in the last few months, MADA prepared this  special report on these types of violations, which are in direct violation of international laws and conventions.

 

Financial Losses Resulting from IOF Bombing

The occupation forces have inflicted heavy financial losses to media outlets in the oPt since 2008. Estimates place the loss in the millions of dollars. The greatest single financial loss was the complete destruction of Aqsa TV station in Gaza during the IOF’s incursion on the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and early 2009. Concerning this, the program director of the Aqsa Samir Abu Muheisen explained, “The material losses are estimated at six million dollars, five million for the price of the equipment and furniture, and one million for the cost of the five-floor headquarter building.”

 

The Alresalah weekly newspaper paid a heavy price from Israeli bombardment in 2009. On January 3 of that year, bombing by Israeli war planes resulted in severe damage to the headquarter building. According to the newspaper’s Chief Editor Waseem Afaneh, the occupation forces shelled the headquarters with three missiles, destroying part of the headquarters along with its computers, electrical devices, and furniture. An independent committee estimated financial losses at 60 thousand dollars.

 

It worth mentioning that the occupation forces also blew up the five-story headquarters of Palestinian State Radio and Television in Ramallah on January 19, 2002, causing another loss estimated in the millions of dollars.

 

Priceless Losses of Media Archives

Since the beginning of the current year, the occupation forces have stormed the headquarters of four different media outlets in the West Bank. For this reason, MADA has decided to commission this special report on this type of grave violation in order to shed light on its debilitating short, medium, and long-term effects, as well as the negative physiological effects on the media outlets owners. Although material losses can be compensated, the loss of an organization’s archives cannot.

 

On February 29, 2012, the occupation forces stormed Watan TV headquarters and confiscated equipment worth 300 thousand dollars in addition to the television archives of the station. Director of Watan TV Muammar Orabi commented, “The material losses, in spite of its large value and its impact on the institution’s work, can be compensated, but the archives are priceless. In 2002, the occupation forces confiscated all the television station’s productions since its beginning in 1996, and now they have again confiscated all our archives from 2002 until the date of intrusion.”

 

On the same day of the WATAN TV raid, the IOF also raided the headquarters of Quds Educational TV, confiscating broadcasting equipment, tampering with their contents and with other equipment, and halting the television broadcast.

 

A number of other incidents have been reported in recent months. On April 2, 2012, the IOF raided the Jerusalem office of media network Hona Al-Quds (“Jerusalem is here”). On May 17, 2012, they confiscated Al-Aseer channel’s main transmission device in Jenin. The channel was forced to use its back-up transmitter to continue broadcasting, but the occupation forces control these broadcasts and only publish material they choose via satellite. MADA also received reports of a recent raid on a community center belonging to Al Quds University in the old city of Jerusalem.

 

Political and Economic Reasons for Targeting Media

By confiscating broadcasting equipment, Israeli occupation authorities effectively seize the digital space and frequencies of Palestinian radio and TV stations. In essence, they occupy the airwaves. For example, during the confiscation of the radio’s transmitter, an Israeli officer told the director of Radio Bethlehem 2000, George Kanawati, simply, “We do not want to hear Radio Bethlehem 2000.” When the transmitter was taken a second time, the Israeli pretext claimed that the radio disturbed Ben Gurion International Airport’s transmissions, which is based many kilometers away and surrounded by much heavier airwave traffic from the numerous stations in Tel Aviv. Kanawati expressed his resentment over the IOF’s targeting of the radio station, stating that each transmission device costs about 120 thousand dollars to replace, and this does not include the additional loss of revenue from advertising during the interim period when the radio cannot broadcast.

 

Director of Government Media Center Ghassan Al-Khatib said that  “This is part of targeting the Palestinian effort to build a state. The occupation’s continuous targeting of media outlets in Palestine has many reasons, chief among them being that Israel is in a permanent media war with the Palestinians. Israel seeks to reduce the impact of the Palestinian media on public opinion and the Palestinian voice internationally and instead impose the Israeli narrative over what is happening in Palestine. Recently, Israel has been doing this for economic and technical reasons.Some analysts have concluded that Israel wants to retrieve certain frequencies that are economically useful to them. They want to occupy the digital space.”

 

Al-Khatib noted that the Government Media Office has worked tirelessly to address this problem, engaging with the governments of the United States and many other European countries, as well as with international human rights organizations, including the UN. Some of these institutions have dialogued with the Israeli government concerning these violations, but they have to date received only unclear and camouflaged answers. More consistent pressure is needed from these countries and international bodies in order to make progress on these issues with the Israeli government. Palestinian institutions must also take a more concerted, unified, and persistent role in working to bring these violations to an end.

 

Conclusion and Recommendations

The practices employed by the Israeli occupation against Palestinian media organizations stand in flagrant violation of international laws and conventions. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects and guarantees freedom of opinion and expression. In addition, General Assembly Resolution 59d(I) of 1946 (entitled “Calling of an International Conference on the Freedom of Information”) confirmed that media freedom is a fundamental human right and the cornerstone of all freedoms. Also, in its 131st session in July, 1989, UNESCO amended its decision in 25 C/4 to reiterate its constitutional stipulation in Article 1.2(a) “to collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of people through all means of mass communication” and “to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image” among nations and within each state. These are only a few examples of the many international laws and conventions protecting media freedoms.

 

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) appeals to all institutions and personalities that believe in the right to freedom of expression to raise their voices against the IOF’s policy of targeting Palestinian media outlets. MADA calls for international governmental and non-governmental institutions to increase pressure on the Israeli government to compensate the effected media outlets,to return the equipment and archives to their owners, and to hold Israeli forces accountable for its grave violations against the internationally protected rights of the Palestinian media. The counties that financially supported some of media outlets in oPt by paying the equipments costs should make special efforts to retrieve the equipments from Israel.

 

 

Violations details and testimony:

(17 May 2012) Israeli occupation forces arrested Al-Aseer channel General Director Baha Khairi Mousa and took him to an unknown location following a search of his home in Jenin in which they confiscated the channel’s main satellite transmitter. The Executive Director of the channel Saher Qasim told MADA that a unit of Israeli occupation forces raided Mousa’s house at approximately 1:30 am. Soldiers searched his home, confiscating the channel’s transmission device and other equipment before arresting him and transferring him to an unknown location. Qasim. As for the channel, it is now broadcasting using a spare transmitter, but the occupying forces can control our broadcasts and publish any material they want via satellite, and this is very scary."

(2 April 2012) Israeli occupation forces raided the Hona Al-Quds network office for societal media, in the Al-Kalidiya neighborhood in Jerusalem’s Old City which is affiliated with the Al-Quds University Institute for Modern Media. They prevented the opening of the network, which was scheduled to take place simultaneously via Skype between offices in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Al-Quds Al-Tarbawi TV manager Haron Abu Ora said Israeli forces broke into the Hona Al-Quds network, which consists of Al Quds Al Tarbawe TV, Hona Al-Quds network and Hona Al-Quds Radio, and confiscated the network devices, which disrupted transmission. They also confiscated the identity cards of all those present and only returned them after delivering an eviction order and demanding that staff not return to work without permission. Abu Ora also reported that Israeli forces arrested two other employees from Al-Quds University who were in the office of the network – Adel Rowaished and Mohammed Suleiman – and took them to an unknown location. He added that the Israeli forces justified the arrests by saying the network is affiliated to the Palestinian Authority.” 

 

(February 29 2012) On Wednesday, 29 February 2012, Israeli occupation forces carried out a dawn raid on the local TV headquarters of both Watan and Educational Quds, confiscating computers, documents and radio equipment and leading to the suspension of broadcast.

 

Watan TV journalist Hamza Salaymeh told MADA: "I and my colleague Ahmed Zaki, who is the broadcast supervisor, were in the TV HQ and at about 2:00 am the building guard told us that there are soldiers and army jeeps in the vicinity of the building. We prepared ourselves to film what is going on, but when we opened the door, we found soldiers in front of us."

 

Salaymeh added: "They asked to confiscate the transmitter and when we told them we do not know where it is, they went up to the roof of the building and confiscated the head piece of the transmitter. They also confiscated all the computers on the fifth floor (the HQ is in two floors)) and then went to the fourth floor, where two colleagues, Ibrahim Melhem and Abdul Rahman Thaher, were working. They detained us in a room, in addition to the building guard, and began to search and confiscate the equipment and documents. This process continued for around two-and-a-half hours. The soldiers refused to explain why they were seizing the broadcast equipment and other devices."

 

Ola Abu Gharbia, Watan TV projects officer, said: "They confiscated a total of 21 computers from various sections of the TV headquarters, a transmitter and a device used for live broadcasts from the field, as well as a number of files and TV cassettes, and all TV accounts for the year 2011."

 

The Israeli occupation army also raided the headquarters of Quds Educational TV, which belongs to the University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Modern Media.

 

Shadi Barakat, Quds Educational TV broadcast technician, told MADA: "A group of Israeli soldiers, accompanied by several members of the Israeli intelligence and communication engineers raided the television building at 3:30 am, detaining personnel, and confiscating the broadcast equipment and communication devices.” 

 

Quds Educational TV director Haroun Abu A’rra said: "The occupation army stormed the TV headquarters at dawn, confiscating broadcasting equipment, tampering with the contents and other equipment, and stopping the TV broadcast."

 

He added: "The occupation soldiers who stormed Quds Educational TV also blocked the private TV cameras so they did not affect what the soldiers did. This is an attack on the sanctity of the University of Jerusalem."

 

 

 

(14 April 2011) IOF personnel confiscated Radio Bethlehem 2000’s transmitter in Hebron, effectively shutting down the station’s 102.9 frequency band that broadcasts to southern West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Radio Bethlehem 2000 director George Canawati said that IOF soldiers raided the building where the transmitter was located and confiscated it, disconnecting all broadcasts to southern Bank and Gaza Strip. Canawati added that he had made a formal complaint to the Palestinian DCO, but has not yet received a response from the occupation authorities.

 

(29 Decemeber 2010) Reuter’s cameraman Yusri Aljamal went with colleagues to Yatta, south of Hebron to cover attacks by settlers on lands belonging to Palestinians on the 29th of December. Aljamal reports that when they had finished filming and returned to their vehicle they found that settlers had damaged their tires in plain view of Israeli soldiers, he added that they had to wait for 9 hours before getting help in repairing them.

(3 Jan 2009) Alresalah weekly newspaper headquarters was bombed by Israeli military air craft in Gaza City. Its chief editor Waseem Afifah said that an Israeli Apache helicopter bombed the headquarters of the newspaper in the El-Ajrami building with three rockets at about 4;00 pm, which led to extensive damage to the headquarter, furniture, computers, and electrical appliances. He confirmed that an independent assessed the damage with an estimated amount of 60,000 $. He mentioned that paper ceased publication during the aggression. The Israeli aircraft also bombed, shortly after the Rantisi printing headquarters in which the newspaper was printed.

 (4 Jan 2009) – Al-Aqsa Radio headquarters was bombed by Israeli aircraft, in Gaza city. Its Director Ibrahim Thaher said that an Israeli Apache bombed the headquarters at around 7pm, which led to the destruction of the building that houses the store of fuel, equipment and standby transmitters. None of the employees was hurt, and the damage was estimated at $60,000.

 

 (8 Jan 2009) – Editor for Saudi Ekhpareyah TV Manar Shalolah (26 years) was slightly injured in his head when Al-Jawharah (Jewel) tower was bombed by an Israeli airplane. The building is used by Media Group as a place for live broadcast for a number of TV channels, to whom it provides media services. Media Group Chairman Atef Isa said that the bombardment was during the live broadcast for Al-A’lam Iranian TV, and there were also more than twenty journalists on the roof. The bombing was about eight meters from the journalists. He stressed that the Israeli army knows that the surface is used for live broadcasts, where there are press signs, in addition they contacted Israeli army spokesman Afihai Adra’ei and told him about the place since the first day of the war, and he had confirmed that the place would not be bomb

(15 Jan 2009) – Abu Dhabi TV cameraman Mohamed Sobhi al Sosi (33 years) and montage technician Ayman Yousef Al-Rouzi (33 years) were injured The Israeli occupation forces shelled the Abu Dhabi TV office in Al-Shoruoq tower in Gaza city. Al -Rouzi said that they were in the office when an Israeli shell hit the office at 11:30 am. He was injured in the head, and Al-Sosi in his left hand, and they were transferred to Shefa hospital and received treatment. Abu Dhabi TV office operates through Gaza Center for Information, which provides media services to a number of Arab television channels and media outlets. The shell also led to the destruction of most of the television transmitters, TV cameras and production equipment, according to a Gaza Center for Information statement. In Al-Shoruoq tower there are also offices of a number of local, Arab and international media.ed.

 

(25 August 2009) – Radio Bethlehem 2000 broadcasting equipments wereconfiscated by the Israeli occupation forces in the town of Beit Jala
southern Bethlehem. Station manager, George Qanawati, said that a troop of the Israeli army composed of five vehicles raided the broadcasting
headquarters in Beit Jala at about six in the evening and asked the
technician to disconnect the equipment (two transmitters) and confiscated
them telling him not to try to re-broadcast "because we do not like to
lessen to Bethlehem 2000", and it will be bombed if it re-broadcast. The
radio station headquarters, which is located in the town of Beit Sahour and founded in 1996, was halted broadcasting.

 (28 Dec 2008) The headquarters of Aqsa Television was destroyed by Israeli occupation forces, in Gaza city. Israeli aircraft fired two missiles early in the morning at the headquarters of Aqsa TV in Gaza city, which destroyed it completely, but it continued to broadcast from a secret location, where one news announcer said, “This sound will continue its work to expose the crimes of the occupation.” The bombing did not lead to any causality in the ranks of Aqsa TV staff, in view of the administration’s evacuation of the headquarters on the previous day. Palestinian Public Radio & TV headquarters was bombed and destroyed by the occupation forces on 19 January 2002.

 

(10 July 2008) - Afaq local TV in Nablus city was closed by Israeli occupation forces after raiding it about 1am. The TV owner and director Issa Abu Ezz said they confiscated all its equipment and furniture, and left an order of its closure for a year on the front door. It is noteworthy that this new attack on Afaq TV is not the first one. The Israeli occupying forces raided the headquarters of the TV station, and a number of other media outlets on May 21, 2007 and had confiscated equipment and devices, and the attack was repeated on December.12

(7 April 2008) - Radio FM office in the city of East Jerusalem was closed by Israeli security forces after the raid and confiscation of studio equipment, arrest of seven of its workers, who were released the next day, but put under house arrest at home for seven days (and not allowed to talk with each other for a period of fifteen days.) The Israeli security forces argued that it was an unlicensed radio, but the radio office opened again the next day. The radio has broadcast from its headquarters in Ramallah since its founding in February last year by a South African company, and is licensed by the Palestinian Authority. It is the only radio which broadcasts in English, where 80% of its programs are music and the rest is news and talk.

(24 March 2008) - Ahmed Sunnuqrut, Seraj local radio sound engineer, was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces, who raided the radio headquarters in Hebron city and confiscated all its equipment (transmission system, mixer, four computers and files), which led to the stoppage of work. The occupation forces had raided the radio on December 7, 2006 and arrested its Director Abdel Jabbar Abu Sneineh.

 

(24 March 2008) - Manbar Al-Hureya (Freedom Forum) local Radio was raided in Hebron city by Israeli occupation forces, where they forced the Radio crew broadcasters Raed Al-Sharif, Raed Atrash, Saed Alshiokhi and Odai Hejazi to stand by the entrance wall throughout the raid, which lasted approximately an hour and a half. They devastated the entire contents of the headquarters and confiscated two computers and cut the broadcasting cable, which led to the stoppage of the broadcast for six hours. The occupation forces had previously raided the radio on the seventh of December 2006.

(1 March 2008) – Almajd (Glory) local Radio in Jenin was closed by Israeli occupation forces, after they raided the Radio headquarters, and confiscated all its equipment and belongings (transmitter, equalizer, three DVD players, television set, stereo, three computers, printer, and scanner videos, as well as all the furniture, the kitchen tools and air conditioner). In Jenin there are six local radio and television stations broadcasting from the city.