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"MADA": serious violations of media freedom during August despite the significant decline in numbers.

Ramallah- (14/09/2017)- August-2017 witnessed a significant decline in number of violations against media freedoms in Palestine compared to July, but the major part of the attacks were significantly grave against media freedoms, the safety of journalists and the work of media outlets. Besides, the arrest of journalists based on the recently adopted (cybercrimes law) law that witnessed wide opposition by human rights organizations and journalists.

 

August witnessed a total of 25 violations (14 by Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Strip and 11 by Israelis), whereas, July witnessed a high number of violations (a total of 106) as a result of a sharp escalation in Israeli attacks on journalists during their coverage of "Al Aqsa rise " in East Jerusalem.

 

 Israeli violations:

Israeli Occupation committed during August a total of 11 violations; majority fell under grave violations against media outlets and journalists, hindering their abilities to perform their work professionally, besides the raid and storm of three media outlets including (Menbar Al-Huria radio station, Al-Nawras/ Hebron, free media company and al Quds news, the raid also included destruction and confiscation some of these outlets equipment, besides, the shutdown of Menbar Al-Huria radio,  noting that a total of 56 employees work there, with a total of 500,000$ estimated loss in accordance to their chairman Ayman Qawasmi, which reveals a significant long-term damage caused by such a violation.

 

One of the most serious and prominent Israeli attacks this month was the targeting of Palestine TV cameraman by an Israeli sniper while he was covering the demolition of a house in the village of Kobar (west of Ramallah). He was seriously wounded by a metal bullet in the nose causing a serious injury, besides, targeting him with another bullet in the thigh.

 

 Palestinian Violations:

Palestinian violations continued declining compared to what was monitored previously in June and July (41/17 total violations respectively), as August witness 14 violations; 12 in West Bank and 2 in Gaza Strip.

 

Despite the decline of violations committed by Palestinian sides, yet the majority of violations monitored were grave including the arrest of 8 journalists, noting that, one of the cases witnessed inhumane treatment and one case of beating during interrogation.

 

What was noticeable in such arrests that although most of the cases were related to the internal political division, yet some journalists were accused in accordance to the newly adopted law ( cybercrimes law), that reveals the danger of such a law on media freedom, and the urgent need to freeze the law and amend all articles related to freedom of expression and opinion.

 

August violations in details

(08/08)-Palestinian Intelligence service arrested the reporter of Al-Quds TV channel in Hebron, Ahmad Mohammad Halayqa (31 years) for six days after accusations directed to him (data leakage to hostile entity) in accordance to the newly adopted electronic crimes law as his father reported to MADA “ after midnight and while we were in front of our house that is located in Al-Shyoukh in Hebron, two civil vehicles from the Palestinian intelligence service arrived and arrested Ahmad without entering the house”.

Ahmad reported to MADA after he was released ”I was arrested and transferred to the headquarters of the intelligence service in Hebron governorate after 12:30 am, I was also subjected to direct interrogation regarding my work in media and the reports I conduct for Al-Quds TV channel; I was also accused of spreading opposition posts against security service on Facebook, besides, leaking data to hostile entity all based on the recently adopted electronic crimes law, none of the accusations was approved”.

He also added “they insisted that I should open my personal e-mail and facebook, they changed my password on facebook, till now I was not able to regain it, after the interrogation I was transferred to a narrow and hot cell, lacking the minimum standard of life, on the next day afternoon I was presented to the public prosecutor where they asked the same questions, I refuted all accusations, afterwards I was sent back to the headquarters of the intelligence, where the legal consultant informed me that  the public prosecutor refused the decision of extending my arrest and I will be released, afterwards they received a call to transfer me to the court and there I learned from the public prosecutor that my detention was extended 24 hours for further interrogation”.

He also added “ on Thursday 10/08/2017 I was presented before the court and the public prosecution demanded to extend my detention for 15 days, which the court minimized to 10 after Al Quds channel lawyer Abdul Rahman Al-Natsheh pleaded before the court, I was returned to the cell, on Saturday 12/08 afternoon I was interrogated once again, the interrogator questioned me about my life for the last 10 years, then I returned to the detention center of the intelligence where I was visited by a delegation from the Independent Commission of Human Rights , where they informed me that it is over and I will be released. I was released on Monday with unpaid bail (1000JD) to comply and attend all the court hearings in future, on the other day I returned my cellphone, and they set a date to follow up with them on Monday 20/08, then after I contacted Mohammad Lahham the head of freedom committee at the journalists syndicate they canceled the follow up date”.

 

(08/08)- Palestinian Intelligence arrested the reporter of Al Aqsa channel Tareq Abdul Raziq Abu Zeid as his father reported to MADA “Palestinian Intelligence force arrested Tareq in front of his house in Nablus at around 10:00 pm, right when he and his family arrived home, he was transferred to the to the headquarters of the intelligence forces in Nablus”, he was accused of “data leakage to hostile entity”. He was released on 14/8, we at MADAtried to contact him many times but he didn’t respond.

 

(08/08)- Palestinian Intelligence forces arrested the freelance journalist and blogger at Al Jazeera and Al-Quds network Qutaiba Saleh Qasem (30 years), for 6 days after he was accused of (establishing inciting websites against the PNA) and working in a prohibited channel, and that on the backs of the recently adopted electronic crimes law as his father reported to MADA “ at around 17:00pm of 08/08, a force of intelligence service arrived to our house with an official summon for Qutaiba, they handed it to his brother as he was not home, once we informed Qutaiba of the warrant he headed at around 19:00pm to intelligence headquarters”.  

Qutaiba reported to MADA after he was released “after I learned about the warrant on Tuesday 08/08 I headed to the intelligence headquarters, the head of the interrogation informed me that I am arrested for 24 hours precautionary; without any significant reason, I was presented for a medical examination and transferred to a cell, at midnight I was interrogated about general  personal information like where I work, on the other day 09/08, I was presented to the general prosecutor, who asked me not to assign a lawyer as It should be solved within 24 hours, it was clear that my release was depending on a political decision but me and my colleague Mamdouh Hamamreh were astonished with an accusation indictment against us; working with Al-Aqsa channel since 2008/ a prohibited channel in West Bank/ noting that I have never worked in this channel, they also accused me of establishing inciting websites against the PNA, accusations were directed to me based on the electronic crimes law, I refuted these accusations”.

He also added” they postponed the case for 24 hours, after I was presented in front of the public prosecutor on Thursday 10/08 and after the extension period ended, they redirected the same accusations and interrogation about my work and the list of indictment directed to me, they extended my detention for 5 days, after the public prosecution demanded a 15 days extension, I was sent back to the cell, where I started my hunger strike, that lasted for two days, I was released after the lawyer demanded twice my release lastly was on 14/08, where my brother undertook and signed an unpaid bail (1000JD) to attend the hearings of the court in future, I was released on Monday 14/08 afternoon”.

 

(08/08)- Palestinian Intelligence service arrested the reported of Al-Quds Channel Mamdouh Hamamrah (33 years), for six days and was accused of “establishing sites that disrupt public security” and was subjected to assaults during his detention as his brother reported to MADA “ at around 19:00pm and while Mamdouh was in a market near the House in Hussan village, a black private car(Scoda), with intelligence forces inside civil dressed asked Mamdouh to get in the car, after they presented themselves and intelligent service agents and without providing any official documents or arrest warrant and transferred him to the intelligence headquarters in Bethlehem”.

Mamdouh Hamamreh reported to MADA after he was released “since I arrived at the headquarters I was subjected to a 3 hours interrogation about the nature of my work, and the place I work at, besides to other questions about my life in general, and then I was transferred to a cell where I remained there till I was released “.

He also added” on the other day 09/08 I was presented to the public prosecutor where they extended my detention for 24 hours, on Thursday 10/08 they extended my detention for 15 days, they provided a list of indictment, I kept on hearing that I will be released when “they finish my political cause”, at the hearing I was prosecutor directed me with questions about establishing sites that disrupt public security, of course I refuted this accusation”.

He also reported “on Friday 11/08 I announced my hunger strike, and I refused to response to the officer to go for interrogation when he hold me from my neck and dragged me, on the way he hit me and pushed me real hard till we arrived the interrogation room, there they verbally assaulted me”.

Finally he added” I was released at around 14:30pm of Monday 14/08 after officers from the intelligence service accompanied with a delegation of the Palestinian journalist syndicate I did not know if I have to pay a bail or not”.

 

(08/08)- Palestinian Intelligent service arrested the reporter of Shehab News agency and Oruba media network Amer Abdulhakim Abu Arfeh (33 years) after raiding  his house in Hebron after accusing him of “providing assistance in spreading news of facebook, and leaking data that disrupt the public security to hostile entity”, as his wife Safa’ Al Huroub reported to MADA” a total of 10 personnel from Palestinian Intelligence –militant uniform- stormed our house in Hebron governorate at 22:00pm, and demanded all devices including computers laptops and two cell phones for Amer, they searched the house randomly and left the house after 15 minutes, currently he is at the Intelligence Headquarter in Hebron.

Amer Abu Arafah reported to MADA after his release: “I was arrested at 10 pm on Tuesday (8-8). My mobile phone and my laptop were confiscated. After sitting in a chair for four hours, I was subjected to an hour-long investigation into the Hebron intelligence services on charges of helping to publish news on Facebook and leaking information to hostile parties that affected security (in connection with the news I publish). They also investigated with me about the nature of my work in the Shahab agency, whether I am a reporter or editor, how I receive my salary, and for how long I’m working with them. The investigation was interrupted by shouting and some insults such as you are liar. After the interrogation, they took me to the cell and I went on hunger strike for five days.

 

He also said: “On Thursday (10/8) I was presented to the prosecution, which demanded to extend my detention for 15 days, but the court agreed to the extension for only 7 days. I was interrogated by the prosecution about my work, the news I am writing, who is my director and how I sent the news to the agency. I stayed in the cell until Sunday, when representatives of the Independent Commission for Human Rights came and told us that our arrest would end and we would be released. On Monday (14/8), I was released on bail of (JD1000). On Tuesday, August 15, I recovered my confiscated equipment from the headquarters of the intelligence service”.

 

(9/8) Israeli occupation soldiers detained Palestinian TV cameraman Sakhr Talib Zawatiya (29 years) while his colleague Mohammed Badarneh was preparing a report on what the workers face at the Barta'a checkpoint in  Jenin governorate during their way to work in Israel. Zawatiya reported  to MADA: “I and my colleague Muhammad Badarneh (24 years), a reporter for Palestine TV, went to Barta'a checkpoint to prepare a report on the suffering of Palestinian workers in reaching their work. After making some interviews and taking some pictures of the workers the checkpoint was opened, I was about ten meters away from the gate when I surprised by two soldiers (one speaking Arabic) asking me to approach them. Then they took me into a room that looked like a cell with screens. One of them pulled me in a violent way while the other confiscated my camera. Half an hour later, they asked me to take off my clothes and display it on the screen. Then two armed soldiers entered the room and searched me by an electronic machine and took my shoes and my mobile and go out the room. They brought it back After 15 minutes. Then they took me to another room and asked me to open the camera and delete all the materials. Otherwise, I would be transferred to the intelligence service so I deleted all the materials and was released around 6:30 am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(9/8) The Internal Security in Gaza arrested the journalist Amer Mahmoud Abu Shabab (37 years) the director of Raya media network from his home and confiscated several devices. As he reported to MADA: “I was arrested from my house in Rafah city at around 10:30 on 09/08, where a troop presented themselves as internal security  service arrested me without any arrest warrant, they transferred me to the headquarters of the service western of Rafah, they treated me very humiliating fist and after 40 minutes I was blindfolded/ handcuffed and transferred me to the headquarters in Gaza  when I arrived to the governor’s palace, they recorded my personal information and was detained in a special room specialized for prisoners that has uncomfortable iron seats after 5 hours they summoned me for interrogation by one of the officers, and there I was informed that I will be released, I was released at around 17:30pm”.

He also added” the internal security service returned my house after my arrest-about 15 minutes- and searched all the house and confiscated 2 laptops, one mobile, USBs, voice recorder, and everything related to my work as a journalists, they did not return any of the confiscated items so far”.

 (10/8) The Palestinian intelligence service in Bethlehem arrested the freelance journalist Islam Za'al Salem, (25 years), after being summoned and held for eight days. Salem reported to MADA: “I received an official call on Monday 7/8 to go to Bethlehem Intelligence office on 10/8. When I went at 9:30 am as scheduled, I was surprised to see the medical services directly, which means that I’m arrested. The following day I was brought to the Public Prosecutor's Office, which demanded to extend my detention for 15 days on charges of possession of weapons and weapons trade. During the same day I was brought to the court, which refused to extend my detention for 15 days and agreed to extend for five days. After my return to the intelligence service office, I was interrogated about participating in a released prisoner's reception, communicating with Al-Aqsa TV, and how they pay me for the reports I prepare for them, although I’m freelance journalist and have never worked with Al-Aqsa TV. I stayed until Tuesday when I was brought to court and was acquitted of the previous charges and released at 5 pm. The  intelligence asked me to comeback on Thursday, 17/8 at 10 AM, but  I did not go as I contacted the Journalists Syndicate and the matter was resolved through understandings between the two sides”.

(10/8) The Palestinian intelligence service arrested the journalist Thaer Ziad al-Fakhouri (28 years) who is working in the social Media Department in Al-Quds satellite channel. Al-Fakhouri reported to MADA: “On the assignment of the Al-Quds channel I went to Hebron court to hire a lawyer for my colleague Ahmed Halaika after he was arrested. The intelligence officer knew that I was from Al-Quds channel; he confiscated my ID and mobile phone and accused me that I came to take pictures inside the court and asked me to check with the intelligence services. When I went to the intelligence office, I was taken to the prison and told that there was no investigation and that my release would take place after a response from the Ramallah office”.

He added: “The next day I was brought to the Public Prosecution where I was charged with publishing news on Facebook and transfer information to hostile parties based on the Cyber Crimes Law. My detention was extended for 10 days; I spent three days in a cell and then transferred to the prison room. I stayed there until representatives of the Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights came and told me that I would be released on the following day. On Tuesday night I was released (on 15/8) without bail or any conditions, and no case against me was registered, also I took back my mobile phone from the intelligence service”.

(10/8) Israeli occupation forces raided the house of journalist Rami Hassan Alariyeh,  and the headquarters of the Independent Media Company and Al Quds News office (one headquarter) and searched and confiscated many of its contents in Al-Eizariya town east of jerusalem . Alariyeh (45 years) said to MADA: “On 10/8 an Israeli occupation army force raided my house in the town of Al-Eizariya at 3:00 am. They broke the door, gathered the family in one room and searched the house in a barbaric way. They then went to the Independent media and Al Quds news office on the first floor of the building and confiscated everything related to information storing: 8 computers hard disks, 1 Mac (computer), 5 memory cards, 5 camera chips, and my personal mobile phones were confiscated. They give me a list of the confiscated materials and left the place after an hour and a half, but before they leave I was threatened with arrest in case I return to my work in journalism, and the officer refused to give me a “written order” to prevent me from working”.

It is noteworthy that the center contains documentaries that exceed the value of ($ 30000) in addition to other materials with high political value.

(16-8), a video cameraman in the news department of Palestine TV, Mohammed Salman Radi, (32 years), was wounded by two rubber bullets fired by an Israeli sniper while he was heading to cover a house demolition in the village of (Kobar) west of Ramallah. Radi said to MADA: “As the 3:00 AM news bulletin approached, I and my colleague, the Palestinian TV reporter Ali Dar Ali, were in the village of Abu Shkheidm on our way to cover the Israeli army incursion into the village of Kobar in order to demolish the house of the Palestinian guy who broke into the settlement of Hamlish (killed 3 settlers)  on 23/7. Before we reached the village of kobar (there were no clashes), I was targeted by an Israeli sniper with two rubber bullets. The first rubber-coated metal bullet hit my nose, causing a fracture, and the second one hit me in the right thigh.

He added: “I was taken to the Ramallah Governmental Hospital and after the necessary tests it founded that my nose was broken and warped, therefore I underwent a surgery, and remained under surveillance until 11 pm”.

(19/8) the Palestinian intelligence service summoned Walid Khaled Zayed, (22 years), an assistant news producer for Al Quds satellite channel and interrogated him.

Zayed said to MADA: “On Friday (8/8) I received a phone call from the Palestinian intelligence service in Ramallah at 8:30 pm. They asked me to come immediately to the intelligence headquarters, and I went there after contacting the journalists' syndicate and informed them”.

He added: “"There (at intelligence headquarters) and after the confiscation of my mobile phone, I was interrogated about the nature of my journalistic work, what news I was covering, how I was employed, what salary I was getting, and who worked with me at the channel office. Most likely they knew of my participation in the solidarity stand held at the Manara square to protest against the arrest of my colleagues at the beginning of the month, and to get to know more information about me. I was released at 12 am and I get my mobile phone back after two days on 20/8”.

(27/8) The Palestinian Preventive Security detained Trans Media cameraman Hazem Emad Nasser, (27 years), and Media Port reporter Mujahid Mohammed al-Saadi while covering a sit-in in front of the Preventive headquarters in Jenin and deleted photos of the sit-in that was taken. Nasser said to MADA: “I and my colleague Mujahid Mohammed al-Sa'di, (29 years), a reporter for the Media Port network, went to cover a sit-in organized by the detainee Ahmed Abu Zeina relatives in front of the Preventive Security headquarters in Jenin in protest against his arrest. When we got out of the car and started preparing the cameras, one of the Preventive Security officers asked us to approach him and asked us to close the mobile phones. We stayed in the waiting room for five minutes then transferred to the investigation”.

He also said: “I was interrogated about the reasons for my presence in the place, what I was filming, and where I was working. The officer asked me to see the pictures I had taken, even though I did not take any pictures but he insisted to check by himself, he also asked to see the pictures on my mobile phone. I was held for about two hours and released at about 1:00 pm, while my colleague Mujahid was released after me in a short time, but during the interrogation with him he was forced to delete the pictures he had taken on his cell phone during the sit-in”.

(31/8) IOF raided the Al-Hurriya radio stations and Al-Nawras local TV in Hebron, broke up and confiscated their contents and closed Al-Hurriya radio for six months. Ayman al-Qawasmi, (45 years), the chairman of Al-Hurriya radio reported to MADA: “On Thursday (31 August) midnight, a large number of Israeli soldiers stormed Al-Hurriya radio stations in Al-Harizat building in Hebron. They destroyed, and confiscated all equipment and devices, which is: computers, transmitters, cameras, and mixers”.

He added: “The value of the losses equipment and devices is 450-500 thousand dollars, and we were handed a decision to close the radio for six months, after they closed the door with red wax”.

Al-Qawasmi also said: “Then the Israeli soldiers moved to the Al-Nawras TV office (I am one of its partners) in the same building. They cut the cables of the equipment and confiscated all the devices and equipment there: computers, transmitter, transmitter, and cameras. The loss of television is estimated at $ 150,000”. He noted that this operation lasted about 4 hours and that the number of Al-Hurriya radio employees was 56, while Al-Nawras TV had 8 employees”.