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Violations of Media Freedoms in the OPS during November 2012

 

MADA: violations contaminated with the blood of journalists throughout last month

 

Ramallah - Media freedoms in the Palestinian territories deteriorated badly during November. Israeli occupation forces killed three journalists and wounded many more during the recent aggression on the Gaza Strip. Several media outlet headquarters as well as homes of journalists were bombed.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) team in the West Bank and Gaza continued to closely monitor developments in the aggression on Gaza and violations against journalists and the media. The situation for journalists was extremely dangerous; they worked under extremely difficult and complex circumstances, particularly following the bombing of Neameh towers, Al shawwa, Al Husary, and Al shoroq by occupation forces. The majority of the local, Arabic and international media were based in these locations.

 

Egregious violations committed by the occupation forces

The most heinous violation occurred with the killing of Al Aqsa TV cameramen Mahmoud Al-Komi (30 years) and Hossam Salameh (30 years) as well as Executive Director of educational Jerusalem Radio by Israeli forces on Tuesday 20/11/2012.

 

One of the most agonizing violations occurred during the targeting of the home of BBC Arabic service employee Jihad Mashharawi by the occupation forces in Gaza. Mashharawi’s 11 month-old son, his brother and his sister-in-law were all killed. The shelling of the Al Quds TV building by occupation forces caused serious injury to journalist Khader Al Zahhar, which eventually led to the amputation of his leg. A further six journalists, including Hazem Daoor, Mohamaad Al Akhras, Ebrahim Labad, Hussien Al Madhoon, Omer Al Efranji and Darwish Bolbol all suffered moderate injuries and sustained minor wounds.

 

Israeli violations in the West Bank

Violations perpetrated by occupation forces were not limited to the Gaza Strip alone. The occupation’s attempts to conceal and eradicate Palestinian images and narrative in the West Bank was clear through the repression of journalists arriving to report on the marches of solidarity with the people of Gaza across the West Bank. 

 

Occupation forces targeted Freelance photographer Mahfoz Abu Tork, firing a rubber-coated metal bullet into his neck as he covered clashes between Palestinians and occupation forces at Qalandia checkpoint on Sunday 18/11/2012. In addition, Palestine TV correspondent Ali Dar Ali was wounded in the waist area while covering clashes that had broken out near the Israeli Ofer  military camp west of Ramallah.  

 

Three photographers, Samer Hamad, Mousa Al Sha’er and Loai Sababa, were also prevented from reporting on clashes that had broken out between Palestinians and occupation forces in the Dar Salah area near Bethlehem on the morning of Monday 19/11/2012. On the very same day, a female soldier in the Israeli occupation attempted to assault Raya FM correspondent Muna Qawasmi as she covered clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the area of Al Mokaber Mountain in Jerusalem.

 

The following day, occupation forces attacked Chinese news agency photographer Xinhua Fadi Arrori and Palestinian news agency WAFA photographer Iyad Jad Allah as they documented clashes that had broken out between Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces at the Attara checkpoint, north of Ramallah city.

 

Penetration frequencies for Palestinian media

Since the beginning of the aggression on Gaza, Israeli occupation forces have interfered with radio station and local television broadcasts, penetrating their frequencies. Executive Director of Al Quds radio in Gaza, Rabah Marzouq, informed MADA that from the second day of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, the occupation army seized the radio waves and proceeded to broadcast information warning people not to cooperate with the Palestinian resistance. Such a practice was repeated several times, in addition to jamming the radio station, which is considered less threatening than the act of seizing airwaves to broadcast occupation propaganda. Other radio stations, including Aqsa Radio, have experienced frequency seizing.

 

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed such actions, admitting to France Press Agency “We controlled Hamas television to broadcast warnings”.

 

Director of Audio Engineering at Sout Al Wattan Radio, Ahmad Al Kharti, informed MADA that the Israeli army interfered with radio waves, seized control over its broadcasts and issued warning messages to the citizens of Gaza requesting that they renounce resistance and stay away from Hamas positions and eastern regions (the border area). Moreover, the radio station’s website was hacked and pictures of the Israeli flag along with statements such as “peace for Israel” and “Israel under threat” were published.

Other Palestinian news websites have been subjected to intense attacks, causing a number to cease operations for hours and even days on end, including the Safa news agency, Palestine Today and the Palestine News Network (PNN).

 

Conclusions and recommendations

Throughout November, journalists and the media in Palestine have suffered from the most heinous crimes. In spite of this,  they succeeded in highlighting the true meaning of journalism and sacrificing everything in order to convey the truth and the suffering of their people to the world. Some have fallen while others have wounded or lost their homes and family members.

 

The world today is facing a new challenge in struggle to achieve justice for all Palestinian journalists. Such justice will be realized only when perpetrators and parties to violations including the murder and injury of media personnel as well as the destruction of media offices are held accountable for their actions.

 

Israeli violations of media freedoms

 

(14/11) The Israeli occupation targeted the house of Jehad Mashharawi (27 years), a journalist working in the BBC Arabic office in Gaza. Al Mashharawi informed MADA that his home was targeted by direct shelling and completely burned, and resulted in the martyrdom of his son (11 months) sister-in-law, Heba Mashharawi (19 years). His brother Ahmad sustained serious injuries, suffering from severe burns over the entirety of his body, and was eventually died as a result of his wounds 12 days later in hospital. Ali, his 4 year-old son also suffered from burns and wounds.

 

(14/11) Samir Khalifa, journalist and Palestine TV correspondent sustained a number of wounds across his body following the occupation’s targeting of civilian houses in Gaza. Loai Al Sa’adoni, journalist and news director at Palestine TV, affirmed to MADA that Khalifa was injured as a result of the targeting civilian houses near the Abu Ouf building, which houses the headquarters of Palestine TV. The bombing shattered glass and broke windows as well as one of the doors. Khalifa was transferred to hospital where he received treatment for an injury diagnosed as moderate on Wednesday 14/11/2012.

 

(15/11) Israeli occupation forces shelled a ‘free zone’ near the home of Sami Al Ajrami, journalist and correspondent for the Palestinian news agency WAFA and Italian news agency Ansa. Al Ajrami told MADA that a free zone in front of his home had been targeted by two rockets fired from a P-16 aircraft, resulting in material damage to his home and injury to his daughter (9 years), leading to the amputation of three of her fingers. She remains in receipt of treatment.

 

(16/11) Israeli occupation forces shelled civilian targets in Al Awda tower in the 5th circle near general security and the headquarters of the free media in the Sheakh Radwan area. According to Ahmad Oudeh, owner of the office targeted by two rockets from an F-16 aircraft in the vicinity of the building in which eight journalists work, at around 4.30pm. The attack resulted in the destruction of the office, damaging glass, equipment and doors.

 

(16/11) In Sheakh Radwan, Israeli occupation forces bombarded an area of agricultural land adjacent to the home of European Agency photographer Ali Noor Al-Din (27 years) on 16/11/2012. Noor Al-Din informed MADA that the bombing severely damaged his home (breaking glass, doors and causing cracks in the walls of he house), and despite the target lying seven meters away, his father (71 years), his sister (40 years) and her daughter (8 years) were all wounded.

 

(17/11) Journalist and Palestine Today TV cameraman Mothana Al Najjar (28 years), was wounded during an aircraft bombing in the Alqarara area in Khanyounis. Al Najjar reported to MADA that during his press work in the Qarara area, Israeli warplanes bombed the nearby free zone. He suffered from bruising and wounds to his hands, left foot and right knee. His camera was also damaged.

 

(18/11) Israeli warplanes bombed the Al Quds satellite office and as well as that of Al Aqsa channel in Gaza. Six journalists and a driver from the Al Quds channel were wounded, with injuries ranging from minor to medium. Serious damage was caused to the offices of both channels on Sunday 18/11/2012. Imad Al Afranji, director of the Al Quds channel informed MADA that the occupation forces fired three rockets at the imaging department, located on the 11th floor of Al Shawwa and Al Housary towers in the Al Remal area at around 1:30pm. Al Afranji also reported that a bomb attack caused injury to the photographers, assistants and a driver in the office at the time, as well as large-scale damage to the department, an ambulance that was being used to transport the injured and a car belonging to the channel. According to Al-Afrangi the injured include:

Khader Al Zahhar: right leg below the knee amputated and bruising.

 

Hazem Al Da’or: wounded by shrapnel, bruises.

Mohammad Al Akhras: fragments of shrapnel throughout his body and medium injury.

Ibraheem Labad: wounds and bruising, injuries to the hand.

Hussien Al Madhoon: suffocation, bruising and contusions.

Drwish Bolbol: minor injuries.

   

The director of Al-Quds reported damage to a broadcasting car, injuries to the population leaving the tower and extensive damage to the building and surrounding areas.

 

Saed Radwan, program manager at Al Aqsa TV, reported that Israeli warplanes targeted the broadcasting department located on the 15th floor of Al Shoroq tower at 6.30am in the Al Remal area of Gaza. The assault caused widespread damage and destroyed most of the studios and hardware. Radwan added that “one rocket penetrated the ground to infect Palestine Media Production office which located in the 14th floor, and it causes financial damage”. Journalist and photographer for foreign agencies Ashraf Abu-Amra (27 years) was present in the building at the time and sustained minor injuries.

 

The bombing of the two towers has inflicted financial damages on the majority of the media agencies located within the Al Shawa and Al Husary towers; such agencies include: Maan News Agency, Russia Today, the  Arabic-speaking branch of German TV, Palestinian news agency WAFA, Al Quds radio, Radio Alwan, Al Buraq radio and Safa news agency. The agencies sustaining damage in Al Shoroq tower include offices of: Palestine media production company, Al Mayadeen satellite channel, MBC,  Abu Dhabi channel,  Dubai channel, Press TV, Sky News, Egyptian Satellite Channel , Huna Al Quds channel, Al Arabiya and Al Esra’a radio.

 

(18/11) Occupation forces targeted freelance photographer Mahfouz Abu Turk as he covered clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces at the Qalandia checkpoint north of Jerusalem on Sunday 18/11/2012. Abu Turk informed MADA that he went with colleague Ahmed Grabula to cover the clashes “when we started filming, a group of soldiers approached us we showed them our press cards and then let us go. But one of the officers pushed me several times during filming so we moved from them”. He added “while filming we noticed that two soldiers were talking and looking at me and laughing I felt that they were planning to target me I tried to withdraw from the area but a sniper fired at me kind of rubber-coated metal bullets, injuring my neck. Fortunately I was wearing a leather jacket and a camera belt protect my neck, I have got aid in the field”. Abu Turk concluded “I've been a photographer for 30 years, for the second time I feel I am killings targeted by the Israeli occupation forces only because covering events". 

 

(18/11) Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestine TV correspondent Ali Dar Ali on Sunday 18/11/2012 during his coverage of clashes near the Israeli Ofer camp west of Ramallah. Ali reported to MADA that when covering the clashes, the army fired rubber bullets indiscriminately at young Palestinians and he himself was hit in the side causing redness and swelling to his waist. Ali added “we have been deliberately being targeted where press signals was clear. I had the microphone and my colleague cameraman had camera there is no doubt about our journalistic identity, or that we are not journalists".

 

(19/11) The Iranian Al Alam TV office in the Al Remal area of Gaza was damaged following the targeting of the nearby Abbas police station by occupation forces on 19/11/2012. Mustafa Abdel Hadi, Al Alam channel correspondent, reported that the office, located o the 6th and 7th floors of Carmel tower had been financially damaged (all glass smashed) due to the violent shelling of the nearby Abbas police station. Wesam Abu Zeid, Algerian TV reporter, was wounded across various parts of his body during the bombardment.

 

(19/11) On Monday morning, Israeli occupation forces prevented three photographers from covering clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the Dar Salah region near Bethlehem city. Pal Media cameraman Samer Hamad told MADA “I have been prevent me and colleagues photographer Mouses Al Sha’er and Loai Sababa coverage, the soldiers were pushing us and they put their hands on the cameras whenever we try to imaging one of the soldiers took my car keys to stop coverage but he return it to me later. We told them we are journalists but they did not care they continued to prevent us from coverage and pushing us”. 

 

(19/11) A female Israeli soldier attempted to assault Raya FM correspondent Muna Qawasmi as she covered clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the area of Al Mokaber Mountain in Jerusalem. Muna informed MADA that the female soldier prevented her from reporting, pushing her several times and raising her hand to hit her. Muna managed to escape in time, adding “she shouted many times and said get out of here, but I didn’t care”.

 

(19/11) Occupation forces bombed the Huna Al Quds office located in Al Shoroq tower in Gaza city on Monday 19/11/2012. The assault wounded photographer Moahammad Ahmad Al Ashqar and almost lead to his suffocation. Al Ashqar told MADA that the flames and smoke rising to the top of the building forced him to vacate the office and make his way down through the fire to escape. On the 3rd floor he fell unconscious but received first aid from the civil defense and was transferred to hospital where he was treated for suffocation and injuries sustained to his knees and feet. 

 

(20/11) Occupation forces killed Al Aqsa photographers Mahmoud Al Komi (30 years) and Hussam Salameh (30 years) at around 6pm on Tuesday 20/11/2012. Their car was targeted by a rocket fired from an Israeli warplane. According to MADA lawyer Karem Nashwan, the photographers were traveling in an Al-Aqsa TV car which clearly displays a press sign, and in spite of this, they were still targeted. Nashwan reported that the incident occurred near Al Shefa’a tower, near Al Shefa’a hospital. It seems likely that their intention was to film the martyrs and the wounded in the hospital following an escalation in bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli occupation forces during the previous few hours. Salameh and Al Komi were both married and each had four children.

 

(20/11) Occupation forces killed Mohammad Muosa Abu Eihseh(24years), Executive Director at Al Quds educational radio. According to Mahmoud Al Awadya, director of public relations at the radio, Israeli warplanes directly targeted journalist Mohammad Abu Eisheh with rocket fire as he walked with a friend near his home in Al Baraka Street, Deer Al Balah, on Tuesday 20/11/2012. It is noteworthy that Muhammad had recently married on 1/9/2012.

 

(20/11) Israeli airplane bombed the government complex of Abu Khadra and the Ne’ama tower, located in the Al Remal area of Gaza, Many press and media offices in Al Jala’a tower were also effected as a result of the shelling of the Abu Khadra complex. Journalist and correspondent for Al Horra channel in Gaza Wesam Yasin told MADA that occupation forces targeted ministry complexes in the Abu Khadra area with six rockets, and the shelling caused extensive financial damage in the vicinity of the bombing. Such damage acutely affected organizations based in the Al Jala’ tower, which contains a number of media offices and caused damage to equipment in the Al Jazeera headquarters, the Al Hurrah channel office and the Al Doha mediacenter, the Turkish News agency office,  she suffered  from nervous shock and a temporary inability to speak. 

 

MADA lawyer Karem Nashwan, reported that the direct bombardment of Ne’ama tower caused the destruction of the Al Thorayya media office, the burning of the Al Jeel press office, and caused financial damages to the French news agency office, the Associated Press and the School of Journalism offices. Nashwan added that most of the press offices in Gaza were vacated during the period of aggression, and that journalists were working on the street and from other locations that did not house equipment.  

 

Khalid Al-Ashqar, Associated Press photographer in Gaza, informed MADA that rocket fragments penetrated his office, located on the 11th floor of Ne’ma tower. Glass panels and items of equipment were broken while cracks were made in the walls of the office.

 

(20/11) Israeli occupation forces attacked Chinese news agency photographer Xinhua Fadi Arrori and Palestinian news agency WAFA photographer Iyad Jad Allah as they documented clashes that had broken out between Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces at the Attara checkpoint, north of Ramallah city. Jad Allah told MADA that they were roughly handled, pushed and prevented from covering the events by Israeli soldiers, despite clearly displaying press badges on their chests. He added: “we have made a complaint to the officer on the checkpoint and he took our testimony and our personal cards numbers”.

 

(20/11) The Palestine News Network website (PNN) experienced 18 hacking attempts between Tuesday 20/11/2012 and the following morning, which resulted in the site’s closure for intermittent periods of two hours. Monjed Jado, the site's managing editor told MADA “we still facing problems til now(21/11), penetration continues, but technical webmaster was able to locate the pirates, it is ‘Petah Tikva’ and the internet service provider is the Israeli ‘Bezeq’ company”.

 

(20/11) Freelance photographer Abdel Raheem Al Khatib, was wounded during his coverage of the bombing of in the Absan area in north Gaza by Israeli occupation forces on Tuesday 20/11/2012. Al Khatib told MADA that he was in the Absan area filming the bombing and destruction of Abu Anza’s house by Israeli aircraft when a neighbouring free zone was targeted. He sustained bruises to and contusions in his right and left hands and his camera equipment was also damaged.

 

(20/12) Press TV correspondent Akram Al Satry, was wounded following the bombardment of a free zone adjacent to the beach hotel in Gaza by Israeli warplanes contains. The hotel housed a number of journalists. Al Satry reported to MADA that he relocated his work base to the beach hotel following the bombing of Al Shoroq tower. He sustained mild injuries to various parts of his body.  

 

Palestinian violations

MADA monitored three Palestinian violations during November. Hamas police detained journalist Seif Al Deen Shahin on Tuesday 13/11/2012 for his coverage of a peaceful feminist gathering calling for the termination of the political divide between Hamas and the Fatah movement. Mohamed Nassar, journalist and presenter of the “Be basata” morning program at Sout Al Ghad radio, was attacked on 14/11/2012 in Ramallah city. Unknown assailants also attacked the car of Raya news agency editor Maan Samara on the morning of Friday 30/11/2012 in Ramallah.

 

Recommendations

MADA condemns all Palestinian violations against Palestinian journalists and the increase in suffering caused and compounded by the fierce attacks committed by the occupation forces. MADA hopes that the optimistic atmosphere of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will reflect positively on media freedoms in Palestine journalists be able to work freely and safely. MADA demands perpetrators must be  held accountable for their actions.

 

Violation details

(13/11), Reporter Seif al-Din Shaheen was  detained by Hamas  police because of his coverage of peaceful women gathering that demanded ending of the political split between Hamas and Fatah. Shaheen told MADA that he went  in (11/13/2012) to the Square of the Unknown Soldier in Gaza City to cover a women gathering demanded an end to the division, and after end of the activity, a group of armed men in civilian clothes, followed him and took him to the police station. He added: "they detained me in a cell for an hour and a half and there was other detainees, despite the existence of orders to vacate the police headquarters because of the Israeli occupation forces threats to attack more targets in the Gaza Strip. I asked about the reason of my detention, they told me that the gathering that you covered is illegal, I told them that I'm not one of the organizers, but they did not listen to me. " He was released after about an hour and a half.

 

(14/11) Mohamed Nassar, journalist and presenter of the Bebasata (simply) morning program at Sout Al Ghad radio, was subject to attack on 14/11/2012 in Ramallah city. Sound engineer in Sawt Alghad “Voice of Tomorrow” Yazan Ghazi told MADA center that he coordinated with one of the officials to speak during the program "simply" about Youth Week events this morning. When he contacted his assistant , he gave the phone to someone else to talk on the air, Ghazi added: "I contacted the assistant once again to talk with his boss, he shouted at me and closed the line." When Ghazi told the program presenter Mohamed Nassar about that he said on the air: "Thanks to the assistant for his behavior."

 

After 15 minutes of the end of the program, the assistant brother came accompanied with two men in a car carrying a yellow registration plate to the radio station and asked to talk with Nassar, then he asked him to go down with them to the outside of the building, there they beat him severely.

 

Ghazi said : "I have tried to intervene, as well as the radio crew, but they expelled everyone. During that time another car came and got out a big man he check hands with the attackers, but did not intervene. We transferred Nassar to the hospital, and he filed a complaint to the police."

 

 (29/11) Unknown assailants attacked the car of Raya news agency editor Maan Samara on the morning of Friday 30/11/2012 in Ramallah city. Samara informed MADA that unknown assailants vandalized his car, broke the glass in his window, stole a personal computer and a recorder from inside and broke a number of external lights on the car. Samara stated “I don’t think its steal incident because the car was in the building parking and there were many cars around it, in addition that no other personal purposes were stolen. I don’t want to charged one. I did applied a complaint for the police”.