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MADA: 107 violations against media freedoms in Palestine during October

Ramallah – (03/11/2019) - November 2019 has witnessed a significant rise in the number of violations against media freedoms in Palestine. These violations represent the double of those witnessed during September.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has documented a total of 107 attacks against media freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, committed by Israeli and Palestinian authorities in addition to the Administration of Facebook during October, compared to a total of 53 during September.

This rise was mainly attributed to the decision of closing dozens of websites and Facebook Pages, in addition to the ongoing violations by Facebook Company, which led to closing more Palestinian pages claiming that they violate “the Facebook community standards”, not to mention the increase in the number of Israeli violations this month.

The Israeli Violations

The number of Israeli violations has increased significantly during October, totaling 27 attacks compared to a total of 14 Israeli attacks during September.

As usual, most of the Israeli violations fall under the serious attacks against the lives of Palestinian journalists and media freedoms. The attacks included a total of 12 assaults which varied between beating, physical injuries due to the Israeli occupation forces’ rubber bullets and gas bombs which targeted Palestinian female and male journalists while they were covering miscellaneous events in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as the city of occupied Jerusalem. This is in addition to 5 cases of arrests and detention. Also, the assault against another group of the following female and male journalists: the cameraman and journalist, Rami Mahfouth Al-Khateeb, he was assaulted and prevented from coverage.  Palestine TV cameraman, Ameer Mohammad Abed Rabu, he was summoned, questioned and his equipment were confiscated.  Palestine TV cameraman in Ramallah, Mohammad Radi, he was injured by a rubber bullet in his knee while he was covering a raid by the army in Ramallah. Mutasem Saqf Alhait, he was injured by a rubber bullet in the flank while he was covering an army incursion in Nablus.  He also was assaulted while he was covering a march against settlement in Turmus 'Ayya, a Palestinian town located in Ramallah, in another separate event.

 

Al Jazeera Mubasher reporter, Sondos Abdelrahman Owais was summoned. MAAN News Agency reporter Maysaa Abu Ghazala was also summoned. The Palestine TV reporter Osaid Mohammad Sbaih was prevented from covering and threatened with firing gas bombs at him. Sbaih’s coworker, Palestine TV cameraman, Najeeb Hussein Sharawneh was assault and had a suffocation injury. Mohammad Dahlan was injured by rubber bullet that hit the camera, which led to damaging it. The arrest of the following journalists: Al-Ghad TV cameraman, Hazem Nasser, his reporter colleague Khaled Budair. Also, the arrest of Palestine TV reporter, Ameer Shaheen, the cameraman of Colonization & Wall Resistance Commission, Zaher Abu Hussein, and the freelance journalist, Mahmoud Fawzi. It should be mentioned that the Israeli occupation forces confiscated their filming equipment while they were covering a peaceful protest against settlements in the northern Valleys, east of Tubas.

Additionally, six of Palestinian journalists were assaulted and beat by the Israeli occupation forces while they were covering a sit-in in solidarity with the prisoners on food strike, organized in Jerusalem, namely:  Diyala Talab Jwehan, Al Hayat Al Jadida Newspaper cameraman, Nawal Imad Ibrahim Hijazi, Al Kufiyya TV reporter in Jerusalem Nawal Imad Ibrahim Hjazi, her coworker, the cameraman, Ghassan Mohammad Khader Abu Eid. Also, Al Quds Newspaper cameraman,  Mahmoud Elayan, cameraman of French News Agency AFP, Ahmad Gharablah, Anatolia News Agency cameraman, Fayez Hamza Fayez Abu Irmailah. The freelance journalist, Fatima Mohammad Hassouna, suffocated, fainted, threw up due to the tear gas bombs.  WAFA News Agency cameraman, Hassan Al Wahwah, was assaulted and prevented from coverage.

 

The Palestinian Violations

October 2019 has witnessed a significant increase in the number of Palestinian violations, most of which was due to the decision of blocking dozens of news websites and media pages on Facebook, based on the Cybercrime Law. The total number of Palestinian violations during this month reached 61 attacks; 49 of which were a result to the decision of blocking media websites and pages. This decision was considered a setback for the Palestinian government, which, since its inauguration last April, has promised to be committed to protecting media freedoms.

The other 12 Palestinian violations documented in addition to the practices of blocking websites included the detention and prevention from coverage of the reporter of Sawt Al-Shaab Radio, Mahmoud Omar Allouh, by Hamas police officers. Moreover, the journalist Izz Al-Deen Yasser Abu Aisha was summoned four consecutive times for several hours each and assaulted by the Internal Security Services.

The Preventive Security Services arrested the journalist Mahmoud Abu Hassan in Tubas for 15 days before being released under a bail. Also, the Preventive Security Services in Nablus arrested the journalist Radwan Abdelqader Qatanani for seven days before being released under a bail and summoning him twice after he was released. In addition to arresting the journalist Bassam Mohammad Muhaisen by the Internal Security of Hamas Government (he is still arrested until this day 31st Oct. 2019), as well as Ziad Awad, who was summoned and detained  for 10 hours.

 

The Violations of Facebook:

During October, Facebook continued to close more pages of Palestinian journalists and media websites, claiming that they violate the "standards of Facebook community" as stated in some notices that have been received.

The blocking practices or the prevention from live broadcast as commenting at different intervals included a total of 19 pages for female/male Palestinian journalists and media websites followed by thousands. This is in addition to blocking and prohibiting another number of pages belonging to other Palestinian citizens (not journalists). During September, Facebook has (fully or partially) blocked a total of 34 Palestinian websites for female/male journalists and media websites.

 

Details of Violations:

(1st Oct.) The Israeli Police officers have assaulted the cameraman and journalist Rami Mahfouth Abdelhafeeth Al-Khateeb while he was covering a sit-in in Jerusalem city.

According to the investigations of MADA field researcher, on the afternoon of Tuesday, 1st of October 2019, a sit-in and a march were organized in front of Hadassah Hospital, Isawiya, in the east of Jerusalem, in solidarity with the prisoner Samer Al-Arbeed who was taken to Hadassah hospital after he was tortured in the Israeli prison. The Palestinian cameraman and the journalist, Rami Mahfouth Al-Khateeb (42 years old), who was filming for “An Eye on the Event” Program, broadcasted by the Jordanian TV, arrived to cover the protest and stopped at a distance from the protestors. While the Israeli police officers were suppressing the protestors and dispersing them, a couple of police officer assaulted the journalist Al-Khateeb by pushing him and disrupting his media coverage even though it was clear to them that he was a journalist and he emphasized this while he was standing at a distance from the demonstrators.

(3rd Oct.) The Israeli Intelligence forces summoned Palestine TV cameraman in Jerusalem, Ameer Mohammad Abed Rabbu, questioned and threatened him of summoning him again if he is seen in events organized by the so-called “terrorist groups”.

According to the investigations of MADA field researcher, a force of the Israeli occupation intelligence and police has raided Al-Dar Hotel, Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, at around 5:30PM, 3rd October 2019, where the High Islamic Council was organizing a seminar titled the Jerusalemite Cultural Scene, where Dr. Sheikh Najeh Bakeirat, the Director of Sharia Education at the Islamic Awqaf, was supposed to give a speech. The seminar was prevented from being held, claiming that “it was organized under the sponsorship of Hamas”. Dr. Najeh Bakerat was arrested and so Aziz Assa, as well as the political analyst Fakhri Abu Diab. Furthermore, Palestine TV cameraman in Jerusalem Ameer Mohammad Khaleel Abed Rabbu (26 years old), who arrived to cover this event as part media work, was given an order to go to room No. 4 at Al-Mascobiyya Police Center, Jerusalem, for investigation purposes on Monday, 7th Oct. 2019, after seizing his camera and preventing him from covering the incursion. The camera’s memory card was also seized and he was threatened to be arrested if he attempts to film the incursion.  Not to mention stopping and preventing the seminar, this lasted for half an hour.

At 10:00PM, on the evening of the same day, Ameer Abed Rabbu contacted Addameer Organization lawyer, Mohammad Mahmoud, to help him retrieve his camera. The lawyer contacted with the police officer at Salah Al-Deen Center, in this regard, but the Israeli police refused to respond. Abed Rabbu, at around 11:00PM, on the same day, contacted the lawyer Al-Maqdesi, Khaldoun Najm, who explained to him that he can have his camera back on the following day (Friday, 4th Oct. 2019). Indeed, at 9:00AM, on Friday, the police gave him the camera back without questioning him and simply informed him that he need to come to the center at 2:00PM, on Monday, 7th Oct. 2019 (as he was informed earlier). On the day of the appointment, Abed Rabbu went to Al-Macobbiya Center where he was questioned about the nature of his work as a journalist in Jerusalem. He was asked to give information about who gives him the orders for filming, with whom does he wort at the office of Palestine TV, how are the subjects to be covered are selected, his personal opinion in the subjects suggested by NAjed Bakeirat during the seminar which was stopped while he was filming it. Furthermore, the investigator showed Abed Rabbu some pictures taken from his (the investigator’s) personal laptop of Abed Rabbu covering some events and activities in Jerusalem. The investigation continued with Abed Rabbu for more than two hours (until 4:15). Then he was released after he was threatened to be summoned again and questioned if he is seen in any events organized by “terrorist” groups as described by the investigator.

 

(3rd Oct.) Palestine TV cameraman, Mohammad Radi, was injured by a rubber bullet while he was covering an incursion by the Israeli occupation army into Al-Tireh, Ramallah.

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, an Israeli occupation army force has raided, at around 02:30AM on Thursday 3rd October at Al-Tireh, Ramallah. Several journalists went to cover the incursion, including Palestine TV cameraman Mohammad Radi (25 years old), specifically at Shuqaira Square at Al-Tireh. The clashes started, and a group of Palestinians started throwing stones at the occupation soldiers and its patrols. While the occupation soldiers were firing tear gas bombs at the Palestinians. Israeli snipers were deployed on the rooftops of the buildings firing rubber bullets every once and a while. This resulted to the injury of Palestine TV cameraman, Mohammad Radi, by a rubber bullet in his knee, while he was covering the events, even though he was wearing the press helmet and vest, he was 100 meters away from his colleague journalists. Given his injury was not that major, the journalist Radi continued covering the incursion at Al-Tireh for half an hour after he was injured (the incursion lasted for an hour, between 2:30 – 3:30). Then he moved to Kobar, near Ramallah City, which the Israeli army raided as well.

 

(6th Oct.) The Palestinian journalist, Mutasem Saqf Al-Hait, was injured by a rubber bullet fired at him by the Israeli soldiers while he was covering an incursion by the Israeli occupation army into one of Nablus blocks.

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, Mutasem Sameer Hamdi Saqf Al-Hait (30 years old), from Nablus, a reporter and cameraman of Quds News Network, has arrived at 10:30PM, on Sunday 6th Oct. 2019, to Amman St., Nablus, to cover an incursion by the Israeli occupation army into that area to secure the entrance of settlers to Joseph’s Tomb to perform religious rituals, which included clashes and throwing of stones by Palestinians against the army patrols while the soldiers were firing sound bombs and rubber bullets. At around 11:00PM, on that night, while Saqf Al-Hait was covering these events and standing 50 meters away from the occupation soldiers along with another number of journalists in full view of the soldiers who were pointing the laser light at them. He was wearing the press vest and helmet, and was injured by a rubber bullet in the flank (from the open side of the vest) fired at him by one of the occupation soldiers. He received the field aid by an ambulance staff of the Palestinian Red Crescent that was in the area.

 

(7th Oct.) The Medical Investigation officers (police officers) have arrested the journalist Mahmoud Allouh while he was covering a sit-in taking place in front of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, in Deir Al-Balah. They questioned him and forced him to sign a pledge of not covering any event inside or outside the walls of the hospital without a prior permission. They also prevented him from covering the sit-in that was taking place there.

 

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, Mahmoud Omar Mahmoud Allouh, 30 years old, a reporter of Sawt Al-Shaab Radio, while he was, at around 11:00AM, on Monday 7th Oct. 2019, covering through a live broadcast for the radio a sit-in of Majdi Allahwani family, against Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza Strip, three police officers approached him and asked him to stop the coverage of the sit-in. It should be noted that the journalist Mahmoud Allouh was wearing the uniform which clearly showed the logo of Sawt Al-Shaab Radio. When he attempted to transmit another message to the Radio Office about the sit-in, the three officers approached him again and took him to a “container” within the Hospital’s walls. They requested his press card, questioned him about the party that informed him about the sit-in, to whom he works for, and whether he had taken any pictures of the event.  As a result, the journalist Mahmoud Allouh contacted with the Radio Office and the Government Media Office. And after they intervened, the investigation officers released him and forced him to sign a pledge not to conduct any press interviews inside or outside the Hospital’s walls unless under a prior permission from the Medical Investigations.

 

(8th Oct.) The Israeli occupation Police has summoned the journalists Sondos Owais and Maysa Abu Ghazala, while they were covering a raid by the settlers to Al-Aqsa Mosque.

According to the investigations of MADA field researcher, the journalists Sondos Abdelrahman Owais (23 years old), who works for Al-Jazeera Mubasher, and Maysa Abu Ghazala, who works for MAAN News Agency, both went, at around 11:00AM, on Tuesday 8th Oct. 2019, to Al-Aqsa Mosque, through the Lion’s Gate. While they arrived to the Golden Gate, one of the Israeli police officers asked them to show their IDs. Owais asked him to give them a number so that they can take back their IDs on their way out (a card with a serial number, the first half of which is affixed to the ID card, while the second half remains with the holder of the ID to retrieve the latter on the way out). This procedure is followed by the Israeli occupation forces at all gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque. However, the officer refused to give them a serial number, and told them that they will receive their cards on their way out.

During their tours in the squares of Al-Aqsa Mosque, they noticed that the intelligence and police officers were following them, moving around them and taking their pictures. While they were leaving and arriving to Bab Hutta, they saw the officer who took their IDs; he called them and gave them their IDs back. Owais told him that their IDs are at the Lion’s Gate. However, he took out their cards and gave them back along with a summons for each to investigation. When they asked about the reason behind the summons, the officer claimed that they “caused riot at Al-Aqsa”. Accordingly, both journalists Owais and Abu Ghazala directly went to the Police Center (Al-Qashla Center) after they contacted a lawyer who went to the same investigation center. When they arrived, they talked to the lawyer for consultation, and did not enter the investigation rooms. In the meantime, an officer came and told them that they were accused of “carrying out acts prejudicing security and public safety at Al-Aqsa, causing riot, and filming what is prohibited to be filmed – referring to the settlers’ raids of the Mosque”. After waiting for half an hour without being questioned, they were released and informed that they will be contacted on phone.

 

(12th Oct.) The Internal Security Service in Gaza has summoned the reporter of Independent Arabia Newspaper, Izz Aldeen Abi Aisha, several times, and detained him each time for several hours, questioned him about a report he had published under the title How does Hamas contact its leaders in the occupied West Bank. It was erased from the Newspaper Website 44 minutes after it was published to protect the safety of the resources in the article from the possibility of being harmed by Hamas Security Service in Gaza Strip.

According to the investigations of MADA field researcher, the Independent Arabia Newspaper’s reporter in Gaza Strip Izz Aldeen Yasser Mohammad Abu Aisha (26 years old), has received on Saturday (12th Oct. 2019) five missed calls. The caller send the journalist Abu Aisha a text message saying “this is the public relations, please respond” without explaining his position. Abu Aisha then called him (at around 10:00AM on the same day), the caller introduced himself as “Abu Mohammad from the Internal Security Service”. He asked Abu Aisha to appear in front of the Internal Security at the Passports building in Gaza City within 30 minutes. Indeed, Abu Aisha went immediately to the headquarters where he was questioned about the newspaper he works for and the nature of the report he had published How Does Hamas Contact Its Leaders in the Occupied West Bank, and the resources he relied upon in preparing the report.

 

When Abu Aisha refused to expose his resources, the investigator claimed that all of the information included in the report is pure fabrication (by the report’s writer). This forced Abu Aisha to open voice records between him and some of the resources he relied upon in his report to prove to them that all the information in the report are in fact accurate. Only then, the investigators seized his mobile phone and referred it to the Technical Resources Department at the Headquarters. The investigation continued until 2:00PM on the same day, and before Abu Aisha left the headquarters, they gave him a request to come again at 8:30AM on the following morning (Sunday, 13th Oct. 2019).

 

When Abu Aisha arrived the headquarters on the said schedule, he was questioned again, his statement was recorded, with regard to the same report he had published. At around 11:00AM, he was taken to a room in the top floor of the same headquarters. The room was divided with wooden planks separating the individuals from one another. He sat on the chair and headed his face to the wall. They ordered him to remain silent, not to speak or ask for anything. The whole time, he was listening to dog parks and knocks of a stick on the room’s wall, in addition to the voices of persons screaming as a result of the assault and torture. He remained in this position for 5 hours (until around 4:00PM) when he was released provided he shall come back again Thursday morning, corresponding 18th Oct. 2019, to complete the investigation with him. Indeed, Abu Aisha came back at around 9:00AM on 18th Oct. 2019 to the Internal Security headquarters, where he was detained again in the same room and the same position for five hours. He was then released after they gave him back his mobile phone which was still seized over the past period. He was informed to go to the Internal Security headquarters for the fourth time, on Thursday (25th Oct. 2019). 

 

(14th Nov.) The Preventive Security Service in Tubas arrested the journalist Mahmoud Abu Hassan and detained him for 15 days. He was then released under a non-paid bail of an amount of 3000 JD (1000 JD as a bail of Tubas File, and 2000 JD as a bail of another file that was referred to Ramallah).

 

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, Mahmoud Nathmi Mahmoud Abu Hassan (32 years old), a journalist who works as a Public Relations Director at Tubas Electricity Company, he also writes for Palestine Post Newspaper, and Shahid Post. Abu Hassan was arrested by the Preventive Security Service at around 3:00PM, on Monday 14th Oct. 2019, while he was leaving his workplace (in front of Tubas Electricity Company). He was transferred to the headquarters of the Preventive Security Service in Tubas where he was detained for 24 hours under investigation.

 

On the following day, (Tuesday 15th Oct. 2019) Abu Hassan appeared in front of the Public Prosecution in Tubas. His detention was extended for 48 hours to complete the investigation with him about his work for “Palestine Post” and “Shahid Post” Newspapers, and about the money transferred to him by Palestine Post. On Wednesday, 16th Oct. 2019, the Preventive Security Service contacted Mahmoud Abu Hasan’s brother, and asked him to bring Mahmoud’s mobile phone to be examined. The journalist Mahmoud was brought before the court on the afternoon of Thursday, corresponding 17th Oct. 2019 where the judge informed him that he was accused of “illegal possession of a weapon and shooting”. However, Mahmoud denied this before the judge and informed him that he was not questioned at all about possessing a weapon; instead he was questioned only about his work for Palestine Post and the salary he receives.

 

At 1:00PM, on Thursday (18th Oct. 2019) Mahmoud Abu Hasan’s bail was paid. The court and the Public Prosecution requested his investigation file from the Preventive Security Service, but the file was brought late at 2:30PM, which resulted in postponing looking into the investigation file and requesting a bail until Sunday 20th Oct. 2019.  During his detention, Mahmoud Abu Hassan was subject to 30-minutes investigation session most of which was about his press work at Palestine Post Website and accusing him of working for a website belonging to Hamas. He was also accused that the money transferred to him is by Hamas to be given to individuals belonging to Hamas in the West Bank, and to reporter or journalists. As “he receives the transfer money from his work and distributes part of the same to reporters and journalists” he stated. The investigators attempted to use private conversations with his wife, female/male colleagues on Messenger as a means of pressure to threaten him of publishing the same if he posts about the PA or goes back to work for Palestine Post. Mahmoud was released under a bail of 1000 JD by Tubas Court where he was accused of possessing a weapon. As to Ramallah case, it was related to his work for Palestine Post, and he paid the bail of this case amounted to 2000 JD.

 

(17th Oct.) The Israeli occupation soldiers have assaulted a number of journalists while they were covering a peaceful march against settlement in Turmus 'Ayya, a Palestinian town located in Ramallah, more than once, and they prevented them from covering the event and got them away from the place.

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, the Israeli occupation forces have informed the families residing in Turmus 'Ayya, located 23 kilometers away from northwest Ramallah, on 8th September 2019, with the decision of confiscating 100 acres of their lands for the purpose of expanding “Shilo” settlement. Not to mention that they have established a new settlement outpost. After two weeks, the settlers started leveling the lands, not to mention assaulting the families’ properties by them and the army. As a result of this series of assaults and attacks, the Colonization & Wall Resistance Commission along with the institutions of Turmus 'Ayya have called for a peaceful march to protest against these assaults to take place at 12:00PM on Thursday 17th Sep. 2019. Indeed, hundreds of citizens from Turmus 'Ayya, as well as from other villages such as Al-Mughayyir, Abu Falah, Jalud, and Qaryut.

 

The occupation soldiers confronted the march and the settlers, with the protection of the army, which assaulted and attacked some citizens, and prevented them from reaching their lands, and threatened them with settlement and confiscation. This resulted in the injury of several demonstrators with suffocation and rubber-coated metal bullets. Furthermore, the soldiers and settlers assaulted the journalists and the (settlers) threw stones at them guarded by the occupation soldiers. At around 01:30PM, a number of Israeli occupation soldiers assaulted Mutasem Sameer Saqf Al-Hait (29 years old), who works for Al-Arabiya TV and Quds News Network as a cameraman. While he was covering the march organized east of Turmus 'Ayya. Saqf Al-Hait asked an Israeli officer who was cursing him to stop doing so, as he was attacked by 7 soldiers who were with the officer. He was beaten by their hands, feet and riffles. This resulted in injuring Saqf Al-Hait with scratches and bruises in his face, hands and chest. He was medically treated in the field by the Red Crescent volunteers and taken away from the site of the march.

 

In the same place, the Israeli occupation soldiers forced Palestine TV reporter Osaid Mohammad Isbaih (24 years old) to leave the eastern area of Turmus A’yya where the march was taking place. The Israeli soldiers prevented him from covering the event and threatened him with gunshots, sound bombs, or tear gas bombs to be fired at him if he does not leave the site claiming “it is a military closed zone”. However, he did not leave, and while he was covering the event, the soldiers approached him and addressed him “if you stay here, you will be shot”. One of the soldiers interrupted his direct broadcasting and fired sound and tear gas bombs at him and at the demonstrators from a distance of no more than 10 meters, which resulted in the injury of Osaid Isbaih with suffocation. He was treated in the field and taken away from the clashes. Moreover, Sbaih was assaulted once again, and his live broadcast was interrupted, not to mention he was threatened to leave the area again at around 3:00PM.

 

At 2:00PM, the Israeli soldiers were firing a barrage of sound and treat gas bombs at Palestine TV staff which resulted in the injury of Najeeb Hussein Sharawneh (31 years old) with suffocation and fainting. He was given the first aid and taken by an ambulance away to a secured area. Sharawneh was assaulted again while he was live broadcasting (in the field) to published the same at 3:00. A number of soldiers approached him and asked him to stop broadcasting and stay away. They fired sound and gas bombs to interrupt his media coverage of the march.

 

 (17th Oct.) On 21st Oct. 2019, the Ramallah Magistrate Court issued a decision of 17th Oct. 2019 of blocking (52 websites and Facebook pages, in accordance with Article 39 of the Cybercrimes Decree Law No. 10 of 2018, upon the request of the Attorney General[1].

The above mentioned article states that “1- If a website hosted within or outside the country detects any statements, numbers, images, films, propaganda or other material that may threaten the national security, civil peace, public order or public morals, the relevant investigation and control authorities shall submit a statement to the attorney general or to one of his assistants requesting permission to block the site, the websites or to block some of the links from being displayed. 2- The attorney general or one of his assistants shall apply to the Magistrates Court within 24 hours for permission, accompanied by a memorandum of opinion, whereby the court shall issue its decision on the same date the request is made as to whether to accept or reject such request”.

 

The blocked websites and pages totaled to (49) and not 59 as mentioned in the decision include: 7el3anna Facebook page, UltraPalestine, Tubas 24, Palestinian Abroad, PalNews Agency, Metras Website, Midan, Sulta, Palestine Post, Sawad Bakhat, Esh Feh, Sahbak, That Al-Hizam, Malta’, New Pal 21, Fatah Movement for Democratic Reform, Ps 24, Almajd nahwa wae amni/ Glory towards security consciousness, Arab 48 Website, Al-Tayar Al-Islahi/reformist movement, Riyad Al-Malki does not represent me, Nabd Al-Haqiqa, Mashaneq, Amad Press, Ishraqat, Citizens against Corruption, Al-Shahed, bdon raqaba/without supervision, Palestine 27, A’ks Al-Tayar, Sawtkom, qom wa efdahom, Mahmoud Abbas does not represent me, Mattabat, Habatrash, Awraq News Network, Watan News, Shihab News Agency, Quds News Network, Palestine online, Fatah Voice Dahlan, Al-Kuffiya TV, Palestine Hiwar Network, Al-Risala Net, Gaza Now, Al-Nawras Net, Al-Ayn Al-Amni, Palestine in Video, Arabi 21.

 

The blocked websites and pages learned the decision of blocking through the social media, after the decision and the list included thereof was leaked. Four days following the decision, the sites were blocked gradually starting from day one when the decision was issued, through most of the service providers’ networks and corporations in Palestine, including “Hadara, Ordedoo, and Mada Internet”. As a result, representatives of the blocked sites went to legal institutions, especially the Independent Commission for Human Rights ICHR and the Syndicate of Journalists, which have been appointed as attorneys on behalf of the blocked sites. UltraPalestine has appointed the lawyer Ahmad Nasra, and the Journalists Syndicate lawyer Alaa Freijat, to follow up on the case. As a result, Ramallah Magistrate Court issued a decision on 24th Oct. 2019 to refer Article 39 of the Cybercrime Law to the Constitutional Court to review its constitutionality (the article based on which the blocking decision was issued).

 

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, Al-Kuffiya TV website received a decision from the Public prosecution of block through the media. It organized a protest in front of the headquarters of the Journalists Syndicate in Gaza, to reject the decision. The persons in charge of the website confirmed that they will file an action of appeal against the decision, and explained that they have never received and prior alerts. As for Amad Press, which was launched in 2007, it is a licensed website in the name of “Dar Al-Mostaqbal Company” in Gaza. It was blocked two years ago in the West Bank, as part of an operation which included thirty websites. The same was also confirmed by Metras Website which was blocked as well, which confirmed that that they have never received any prior notices and they knew about the blocking from the social media.

 

(18th Oct.) The camera of the journalist Mohammad Dahlan was disabled due to a rubber bullet fired at the camera while he was covering the events of the peaceful return march on Friday 18th Oct. 2019, organized on a weekly basis, in the border area, eastern Al-Zaitoun Neighbourhood in the eastern Gaza City.

According to the investigations of MADA field researcher, Mohammad Akasah Khamees Dahlan (32 years old), from Al-Taw’am area, northern Gaza, a cameraman for Anatolia Agency,  arrived on the afternoon of Friday, 18th Oct. 2019, to Malka area, east of Gaza, holding a canon video camera, to cover the events of the weekly return march. He was wearing the press vest marked press. At around 5:15PM on that day, the journalist Dahlan was taking pictures and filming videos of the demonstrators and the Israeli soldiers stationed on the other side of the fence while they were firing rubber, and live bullets as well as tear gas bombs at the demonstrators. While Dahlan was 300 meters away from the separation fence, one of the demonstrators was injured and he started filming him. Only then, the occupation soldiers started to heavily fire rubber bullets. One of the bullets hit the camera directly, specifically the LCD, which disabled the camera and made him leave the location.

(18th Oct.) The freelance journalist Fatima Mohammad Hassouna was suffocated severely while she was covering the peaceful return march, eastern Rafah.

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, Fatima Mohammad Hassouna (23 years old), a freelance journalist, has arrived at around 4:00PM, on Friday 18th Oct. 2019, to the border area, eastern of Rafah, to cover the events of the peaceful return march organized on a weekly basis. She was wearing the Press vest, holding a cell phone, and wearing a muzzle to reduce inhaling the gas. She stopped at 600 meters away from the separation fence on the other side of which the Israeli occupation soldiers are deployed.

 

Hassouna started taking pictures and conducting some interviews while she was still 600 meters away from the fence. She walked towards the tent built 500 meters away from the fence, and continued conducting interviews and taking pictures. In the meantime, the occupation soldiers fired gas bombs at the tent which resulted in the injury of a number of them with severe suffocation due to the heavy gas. The journalist Fatima was one of those who suffered severe suffocation. She fell to the ground, and was taken by paramedics in an ambulance to the field medical point located far away from the border fence. She received the necessary aid and stayed there for 15 minutes inside the field medical point. Then she was taken to Abu Yousef Al-Najjar Hospital to complete her treatment. Hassouna stayed in the hospital for two hours under the supervision of the Doctors, as there were complications (vomiting, redness in the face, high temperature). At around 9:00PM, she was discharged and on the following day she came back on the following day as she was still suffering from vomiting and high temperature again. She was given some medications.

 

 (21st Oct.) On Monday, corresponding 21st Oct. 2019 – The Preventive Security Service arrested the journalist Radwan Abdelqader Qatanani, from the Library he works for at Askar Camp/eastern Nablus, and detained him for seven days before he was released under a bail.

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, two vehicles of the Preventive Security Service arrived at around 1:00PM, on Monday, corresponding 21st Oct. 2019, Askar Camp, and stopped by Al-Forqan Library for Stationary & Books, where Radwan Abdelqader Hassan Qatanani (30 years old) works. He is also a journalist who writes for “Palestine Post” Newspaper. Several persons got off the vehicles and were masked. They introduced themselves as officers from the Preventive Security Service, and asked Radwan Qatanani to go with them. On the evening of the same day, Radwan’s family contacted the Preventive Security Service, and the latter informed them that he was not at the headquarters. Later on, his family learned that he was detained at Al-Junaid Prison.

 

On the following day (Tuesday – 22nd Oct. 2019) Radwan Qatanani was brought before the Magistrate Court of Nablus. His detention was extended for 48 hours. His lawyer, Adv. Reem Al-Sayyed informed his family that he was not questioned (until that time). On Thursday (24th Oct. 2019), the journalist Radwan, was brought again before the court to extend his detention. The judge asked him about the charges against him. Radwan told the judge that he was not questioned, and the judge refused to extend his detention for fourteen days, and he requested the investigation file to be submitted to the court within 4 days. Accordingly, a hearing session was scheduled for him on Sunday corresponding 27th Oct. 2019, to bring the investigation file. On this day (Sunday) a decision of releasing him under a bail was issued. Indeed, on the following day (Monday (28th Oct. 2019), he was released after paying an amount of 100 JD. During his detention which lasted seven days, Qatanani was subject to seven investigation sessions, most of which about his press work in Palestine Post and Arabi 27, the orientations of the website, its management, and how he receives his salary. On Thursday (31st Oct. 2019), Qatanani was summoned to the Preventive Security Service, and he went to the headquarters, he was not met or seen, and his schedule was postponed to Tuesday, 5th Oct. 2019. His cell phone was not returned claiming that it was still under examination.

 

(23rd Oct.) The Internal Security Service of Hamas in Gaza Strip has arrested the journalist Bassam Mohammad Muhaisen.

According to the investigations of MADA field researcher, Bassam Mohammad Diab Muhaisen (39 years old), who works for “Voice of Palestine” Radio – The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, received on the evening of Tuesday, corresponding 22nd Oct. 2019, a summons from Hamas Internal Security Service in Gaza Strip, asking him to come to the headquarters of the Internal Security in Gaza City, at 8:00AM, on the following morning (Wednesday, corresponding 23rd Oct. 2019). Accordingly, the Journalist Muhaisen went to the headquarters on time, located in the passports premises, central Gaza City. He was arrested, and his family was not allowed to come and see him. His family stated that they knew that “the journalist Bassam Muhaisen was referred to Ansar Headquarters, western Gaza City”.

 

(23rd Oct.) The General Investigations of Hamas in Gaza Strip have summoned the journalist Ziad Awad and detained him for 10 hours.

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, the General Investigations Service has summoned the journalist Ziad Awad the reporter of the Palestinian Network for Press and Media. Accordingly, he went, on the morning of 23rd Oct. 2019, to the headquarters in central Gaza Strip (Ansar Headquarters). When he arrived at around 8:00AM, he was detained in the headquarters until 6:00PM on the same day, as he was released without being questioned. Two hours and a half after he arrived, he was taken to one of the rooms in the headquarters where he remained detained until he was released at 6:00PM.

 

(25th Oct.) Four occupation soldiers have assaulted the journalist Mashhour Al-Wahwah, and detained him for twenty minutes in Hebron.

According to the investigations of MADA field researcher, the journalist Mashhour Hassan Mahmoud Al-Wahwah (36 years old), the cameraman of WAFA News Agency, arrived to Al-Tahrir Square in Hebron, after he learned that the occupation soldiers have raided the area at around 11:00PM, on Friday. Immediately upon his arrival, he parked his car on the side of the road, got off the vehicle to put on the press helmet and vest. In the meantime, he was surprised by a soldier beating and assaulting him on the back using his gun, and asking him to leave the area. Mashhour told him that he is a journalist and he just wants to do his job. The soldier pushed him again and addressed him “no filming”. The soldier detained the journalist for 20 minutes and then four soldiers came and pushed Mashhour with their hands and guns towards the door of his vehicle asking him to leave.

 

(26th Oct.) A force of the Israeli Occupation Army has arrested five journalists while they were covering a peaceful march protesting against settlement in the Northern Valleys area. It detained them for 15 hours after they were taken to Ariel Settlement to be questioned.

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, on the morning of Saturday, on the 26th Nov. 2019, a protest was organized against settlement in Al-Hemma area, northern valleys. Several journalists went to cover this event, and at around 11:00PM on that day, while they were covering the protest and march, the Israeli occupation soldiers rushed to the location and detained the following journalists: the cameraman of Al-GHad TV, Hazem Nasser, his coworker, the reporter Khaled Budair, Palestine TV reporter Ameer Shaheen, the cameraman of the Colonization & Wall Resistance Commission Zaher Abu Hussein, the freelance journalist Mahmoud Fawzi.

 

The Israeli soldiers seized their personal cards and filming equipment including (three video cameras for the journalist Hazem Nasser, his vehicle, and another car keys of a Skoda, two press vests, two muzzles, a helmet, a photographic camera for the journalist Zaher Abu Hussein). At around 2:00PM, the five journalists were taken to the nearby Ein Sakoot settlement. They were left in the bust for ten minutes and then they were taken to Ein Sakoot area, to the Police Center at Ariel Settlement above the lands of Salfeet, no less than 100 meters away. They arrived to Ariel Settlement at the Israeli Police Center at around 5:00PM. The five journalists were questioned individually for about one hour or one hour and a half. They were questioned about being in a “closed military zone, taking part in an illegal event, and disrupting the Israeli soldiers”. Then, the journalists were filmed and their fingerprints were collected. They were asked to sign a statement but the journalists refused to do so because it was in Hebrew. Following fifteen hours of being detained, they were released without giving them back their equipment, which remained seized. They were informed to go to the Liaison Office to retrieve the equipment but until the present day (30th Oct. 2019) they are still seized.

 

(26th Oct.) The Israeli Occupation Forces have assaulted six female/male journalists by beating while they were covering a sit-in in solidarity with the prisoners on food strike at the occupation prisons, organized in Jerusalem City.

According to the investigations of MADA researcher, a solidary sit-in was organized with the prisoners on food strike at the Israeli occupation soldiers, at around 5:00PM, on 26th Oct., in Salah Al-Deen Street. A number of journalists arrived to the site to cover this event. The Israeli occupation police and some officers of the Israeli Special Forces dispersed the demonstrators and assaulted them, in addition to assaulting six journalists; Al-Hayat Al-Jadida Newspaper Cameraman in Jerusalem, Diyala Talab Jwehan, who was assaulted by the Special Forces and beaten on her back. They forced her to stay away from the sit-in. Furthermore, the occupation forces have assaulted Al-Kuffiya TV reporter in Jerusalem, Nawal Imad Ibrahim Hijazi (33 years old), by beating and pushing her which made her fall to the ground. Other Israeli forces also assaulted her coworker, the TV cameraman, Ghassan Mohammad Khader Abu Eid (36 years old) by beating his shoulders and back to prevent him from covering the event, not to mention attempting to seize his camera as well as cursing and insulting him and forcing him to stay away.

When the cameraman of Al-Quds Newspaper, Mahmoud Ibrahim Elayan (45 years old), attempted to stop the assault against Ghassan Abu Eid, the Israeli Special Forces officers attacked him and pushed him to the ground. They also attacked, in the meantime, the AFP cameraman, Ahmad Gharabla (39 years old) by beating and pushing. Furthermore, Anatolia Agency cameraman, Fayez Abu Irmailah (29 years old), was violently assaulted and some of the police and special forces officers dragged him (die they really dragged him on the ground or removed him by force) and pushed him away, assaulted him, dragged him from his hear, and threatened him with arrest if he does not move. His colleague Fayez Abu Irmailah sought to stop this assault by speaking with the special unit officers and the Police in Hebrew, but the security officers assaulted him and forced him to move to the other side of the street.

 

(1st Oct. – 31st Oct.) Facebook continued the practices of closing and blocking more Palestinian news pages as well as pages belonging to female/male journalists claiming that “they breach the rules of posting on the Facebook community”.

The temporary and ongoing blocking and closing practices by Facebook during October have affected no less than 19 news and personal pages, noting that some of which were subject to more than one violation. These pages included:

  1. The page of the journalist Mashhour Al-Wahwah, WAFA News Agency cameraman in Hebron. He was blocked through his personal page for three days claiming that “he violates the rules of posting on the Facebook community”. Furthermore, Facebook, on 10th Oct. 2019, blocked him again to comment or post for another three days under the same claim.
  2. The journalist, Noor Al-Deen Banat, the reporter of International Fact TV in the West Bank. On 3rd Oct. 2019, he was blocked from posting on his personal page for three days claiming that he breaches the rules of posting, and he was also blocked from live broadcasting.
  3. Hebron Defense Committee, a social media news page concerned with the events and news of Hebron City, especially, the Israeli occupation violations. It published reports on the life under the occupation and settlers in the old city of Hebron. On 10th Oct. 2019, a post on this page was deleted not to mention its access to other posts related to calling for solidarity with prisons inside the Israeli prisons was blocked as well.
  4. The freelance journalist Ali Taqatqa (28 years old), a cameraman of Palestine News Agency. On 2nd Oct. 2019, he was blocked from posting on his personal page on the Facebook by the Administration itself for three days claiming that he has breached the rules of posting, noting that he was blocked once before.
  5. Al-Rabea Media Network, a page on the Facebook for Al-Rabea Radio broadcasting from Hebron, West Bank. It posts various types of news (political and cultural) Facebook, on 5th Oct. 2019, has closed Al-Rabea Media Network page after posting news relating to political statements of Palestinian parties and organizations, claiming that it “breaches the policy of posting on the Facebook” considering their news to be related to “terrorist organizations”.
  6. Shihab Agency reporter, journalist Amer Abdelhaleem Abu Arafa. On 1st Oct. 2019, Facebook has deleted several posts and images of events related to prisoners and marches for martyrs on his page. Amer was also blocked from commenting and live broadcasting on his page until 19th Sep. 2019, in addition to restricting his access to the posts on the page claiming that he breaches the Facebook standards.
  7. The page of the freelance journalist Samer Al-Rowaished. In the beginning of October, his account was disabled completely.
  8. The freelance journalist Yousef Kamel Ibrahim Amro from Hebron (works also for Sawt Al-Shabab Radio broadcasting from Ad-Dhahiriya, Hebron). On 2nd Oct. 2019, Facebook has blocked him from live broadcasting through his page as well as posting on his page for 90 days. Al-Rowaished created a new page but it was blocked on 13th Oct. 2019, for another 90 days.
  9. The active journalist Jamal Jameel Sulaiman Abu Seifan, a volunteer at the filming section of B’TSELEM, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. He covers the Israeli violations taking place in the southern area and the old city of Hebron. On 8th Oct. 2019, his page was blocked and he could not post anything on the page.
  10. Asdaa Press Network, a varied Palestinian news group, whose official journalist in charge of is Ameen Abu Warda, with its main headquarters in Nablus. It was blocked since 18th Sep. 2019, claiming that it posts in violation of the Facebook standards. 
  11. Madama Net Page, followed by about 12,000 persons. An alternative page created recently after the main page was blocked previously. First of all, the followers’ access to the page was blocked throughout the last month, due to old posts on the page which allegedly violate the standards as Facebook claims. As the latter has sent notifications to Madama page to delete the said posts which are pictures of Palestinian martyrs published with the news, pictures of some Palestinian leadership, videos of martyrs and different public Palestinian events. Afterwards, and in the beginning of October, the page received a notification from Facebook that it is blocked and cannot post for allegedly reposting what violates the Facebook standards.
  12. The journalist Munqeth Ragheb Mohammad Saddam, works for “Adwa’” TV, in Nablus. On 13th Oct. 2019, he was blocked from directly posting on his Facebook page for three days, claiming that he breaches the posting rules.
  13. The cameraman of ROYA TV in the West Bank, journalist Ashraf Al-Nabali, from Ramallah. In the beginning of October, 2019, he was blocked from posting on his page for four days claiming that he breaches the rules of posting on the Facebook, noting that they are old posts on his page.
  14. Journalist Imad Mahmoud Abu Awwad. A media writer and researcher of the Israeli Affairs. Works independently, and he was blocked by Facebook to post for a month (as of 25th Sep. 2019 until 25th Oct. 2019) claiming that he breaches the rules of Facebook.
  15. The journalist Hafeth Ismail Odeh Talahma, the Public Relations Coordinator at “Alam Radio”, based in Hebron. Last May, his page was blocked, and ever since he created several new accounts (consecutively) and Facebook closed every new account he created after two months claiming that he breaches the rules of posting.
  16. Qalandia Media Center Page, which is a news page created with the establishment of the center in 2015, concerned with the media coverage of Qalandia Camp Affairs and keeping abreast with the events taking place in Palestine. On 5th Oct. 2019, the page was blocked noting that it is followed by 170,000 users, and on 13th August 2019, it was blocked from posting temporarily (for several days), while on 29th August 2019, the pages was blocked and it was banned from posting for a month.  
  17. George Carlos Qanawati, Director of Bethlehem Radio 2000 broadcasting from Bethlehem City. In the beginning of October 2019, he was blocked from live broadcasting claiming that he “breaches the rules of Facebook” and the block was extended until December, 2020.
  18. “Al-Madina TV” a local and interactive TV that provides local Palestinian media services in Nablus City, and transmits the City events. In the beginning of October 2019, the followers of the TV Page were blocked to have access to its posts claiming that it breaches the rules of posting.
  19. The journalist Jihan Hassan Hamed Awad, from Ramallah, works currently as a freelance journalist in addition to her work as a trainer of media. She also writes in the field if investigations with “Al-Arabi Al-Jadid” Newspaper.  Her account was deleted for the first time completely without any prior alert because she was an “admin” in Palestine Today TV page which is considered “inciting”. Her account as well as the accounts of all those supervising the Page were closed. As a result, the journalist Jihan messaged Facebook Administration and retrieved her account. When the results of Tawjihi (the Secondary School Certificate) were announced three months ago, Jihan posted news and reports about the children of martyrs (in the form of news) and the posts were deleted and she was prevented to posting anything. During September 2019, she was blocked for two weeks because of old posts and she could not send any messages or reply to the same through her account. In the middle of October, the journalist Jihan attempted to live broadcast through her Facebook account, but she received a notification that she is forbidden to do so until 22nd Nov. 2019, noting that she did not receive a prior notice on this regard. During September 2019, her page was blocked for a week after posting a picture of Kobar Village. She received an alert that it was “an inciting content”. He comments on the Facebook were also deleted claiming that they violate the rules of Facebook community.

 

 

 

[1] According to the decision of the Court which was leaked and published throughout the media, the blocking decision includes a total of 59 websites and pages on the Facebook. However, having reviewed the names of the blocked pages and websites, it was found there was repetition. Thus, the number of blocked websites and pages under the decision is totaled to 49 not 59.

 

The picture shows the Palestinian journalist Mutasem Saqf Alhait, who was he was injured by an Israeli rubber bullet in the flank while he was covering an Israeli army incursion in Nablus.