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With the participation of journalists Amarna and Rinawi MADA announces the results of its annual report at a press conference

678 Violations against Media Freedoms in Palestine during 2019

Ramallah (11/02/2020) - The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms “MADA” issued its annual report on media freedoms in Palestine during the past year 2019. It is worth mentioning that this report is part of the project “A Step Forward towards Promoting Freedom of Expression in Palestine”, supported by the European Union.

This came during a press conference held today on Watan TV, in which Dr. Ghazi Hanania, Chairman of the Board of Directors of MADA Center, Mr. MousaRimawi, Director General of the Center, and journalists MoathAmarneh and Christine Renawi participated in it.

At the beginning of the press conference, Mr. MousaRimawi greeted all journalists, especially Palestinian journalists who face the Israeli repression, to convey the reality of what is happening on the ground. Rimawi emphasized on the rejection of the so-called deal of the century, which pave the way for state of apartheid, and human rights violations in Palestine, including media and press freedoms in Palestine. Also, Rimawi welcomed again the primary efforts announced by the Palestinian government headed by Dr. Muhammad Shtayyah, which rejects the attacks and violations against journalists and against the freedoms of opinion and expression. These efforts reflected on the reality by the low number of violations in the West Bank, but the decision to block 49 sites by the Magistrate's Court in Ramallah was a setback to freedom of expression.

Additionally, Dr. Ghazi Hanania reviewed the results of the annual report for media freedoms in 2019, pointing to the efforts of the MADA Center to shed light on the violations that are being practiced against media freedoms in Palestine by the Israeli occupation authorities and Facebook, in addition to the Palestinians .Hanania added that MADA Center held a meeting with the Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh to brief him on the state of media freedoms and the requirements neededfrom the Palestinian government.

Hanania indicated that MADA Center monitored and documented a total of 678 violations against media freedoms in Palestine (Israeli occupation forces and authorities committed a total of 297 attacks (about 44%), while social media companies committed 181 violations (27%), and various Palestinian authorities committed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip a total of 200 violations (29% of all violations), indicating that the increase of number of violations came as a result of the violations committed by social media companies (Facebook specifically) against the Palestinian content, and the targeting of news pages and the journalists’ accounts.

On the other hand, Journalist MoathAmarneh(free-lance photographer) thanked all those who solidarity with him from journalists and organizations after being shot by the Israeli occupation forces, which led to the loss of his eye. Amarneh stressed the need to preserve the cohesion of the press body to face the attacks of the Israeli occupation against Palestinian journalists, which intends to fight the Palestinian image and narration in all ways and tries to prevent the journalist from reporting the reality of what is happening on the ground. Moreover, Amarneh pointed out that the Israeli occupation army deals with the Palestinian journalist as an enemy on the ground and intentionally targets them and the best evidence of this is his deliberate injury caused by anIsraeli sniper who shot him directly in his eye and later photographed the location of the injury to document it. Amarneh said that this was a direct and clear message to the journalists by the Israeli occupation “a strong photograph will be the reason for your injury.”

As for the journalist ChristineRinawi (palestinian TV reporter in Jerusalem)she explained how that the Israeli occupation closed Palestine TV office in Jerusalem in 20/11/2019 and prevented the journalists working in it from practicing journalism work for 6 months. Rinawi indicated that the decision to close is a political decision that comes within the systematic attack against the city of Jerusalem. Rinawi also confirmed that the occupation deals with the journalist as part of the problem because of the strongphotos they deliver and their ability to convey the truth. She also added that she had been interrogated 3 times within one day,  and the staff at the Jerusalem office was prevented from continuing to present their programs in the field, where her colleagues got arrested live and they were investigated. At the end, Rinawi indicated that no matter how the occupation forces try to obstruct the work of the Palestinian journalist, the coverage will continue because the Palestinian journalist has amessage.

Media Freedom Report 2019: Results Summary:

The report indicates that the year 2019 did not carry any concrete positive changes in terms of respecting media freedoms and putting an end to attacks against journalists and media outlets. The Israeli occupation forces and authorities continued, at great frequency, to commit various types of attacks against Palestinian journalists, especially physical attacks. Also, social media companies and networks have also become one the parties to suppress media freedoms and fight Palestinian content, according to the vision and standards of the Israeli occupation state. This all started in 2016 when Facebook Company started agreements and understandings with the Israeli occupation state.

According to the report, MADA Center monitored and documented during the year 2019 a total of 678 violations against media freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (including occupied Jerusalem). This number constitutes a total increase of 94 points (16%) over the total number of violations recorded in the year before (2018), noting that this rise came mainly as a result of violations committed by the social media companies (Facebook specifically).

The Israeli occupation forces and authorities committed during the year 2019 a total of 297 attacks (about 44% of all attacks), while social media companies committed 181 violations (27%), and various Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip committed a total of 200 Violation (29% of all recorded violations).These attacks affected a total of 503 journalists, including 456 male journalists and 47 female journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The annual report of MADA indicates that the Palestinian journalists and media were ten years ago subjected to an average of 18 attacks per month, but this gradually increased in the year 2019, as it reached an average of 56.5 attacks every month, meaning that the Palestinian journalists and media outlets are exposed to an average of one assault every 12.7 hours.

Israeli Violations:

The report shows that the number of violations of the Israeli occupation witnessed a significant decrease during the year 2019 (about 35%) compared to the previous year.However, this decline did not reflect an improvement of respecting press freedoms in Palestine by the Israeli occupation, but rather it was a result to limited events and field confrontations with occupation forces. The Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists and media have increased in violence, and a detailed look at the quality of the Israeli attacks revealsthis fact. For instance, the percentage of physical attacks (for example) out of the total recorded Israeli attacks increased compared to what they were and constituted 54% of the total Israeli attacks.

The Israeli attacks came within 11 types, five of which are considered the most dangerous to the lives of journalists and media freedoms, namely: physical attacks, the arrest or detention of journalists, the confiscation, detention, or destruction of work equipment, the use of some journalists as human shields while working in the field, and the closure or destruction of media organizations. It should be mentioned that the five of the most dangerous typesreached 72% of all Israeli attacks recorded in 2019.

MADA Center indicates in its annual report that severe violence, direct and deliberate targeting have become the first choice for the Israeli occupation forces and authorities in their daily engagement with journalists and media outlets, in order to exclude them from the fields of work. Among a total number of physical injuries of 159 attacks committed by the Israeli occupation forces against journalists during the year 2019, 94 of these journalists and victims were wounded by live bullets, metal and rubber bullets, and with direct gas bombs.Dozens of them were severely injured, asthe case of journalist MoathAmarneh, who lost his left eye as a result of a live bullet fired at him while he was covering a peaceful popular protest atSurif in Hebron.

Moreover, the number of journalists who were hit by direct gas bombs fired by the Israeli soldiers reached 42; 18 of them were injured in the sensitive upper parts of the body (nine of these were injured in the head and face and the other nine were injured in the neck, chest, or back).

Social Media Companies Violations:

The year 2019 witnessed the entry of Facebook as a major violator of media freedoms in Palestine, due to the understandings between the Israeli government and Facebook in 2016, under the pretext of fighting “incitement.”

MADA monitored and documented during the year 2019 a total of 181 violations committed by social media companies and networks (180 of which were committed by Facebook and WhatsApp), which constitutes 27% of the total violations. This number is equal to the total number of violations committed by Palestinian authorities in each of the West Bank and Gaza combined, which constituted about 29%.

These violations included closing down news pages by Facebook (belonging to various media outlets), and others belonging to Palestinian journalists, or blocking them for specific periods, or deleting content published on them, or preventingthe admins of these pages to post on Facebook. These attacks did not only affect journalists, but hundreds of other Palestinian citizens also were being blocked by Facebook.

MADA Center explained in its annual report that Facebook Company behaves in a unidirectional way, and limits its movement to what Israel considers Palestinian "incitement" content. On the other hand, Facebook ignores the huge amount of the Israeli hate speech and incitement against the Palestinians. It should be noted that Facebook stated in its Transparency Report that it received during the year 2018 a total of 1321 Israeli requests regarding the closure and blocking of websites and that it "dealt" with about 72% of them, and in the first half of 2019, it received a total of 709 Israeli requests that it said "dealt With 76% of it.

Palestinian Violations:

The number of Palestinian violations recorded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the year 2019 witnessed a remarkable increase, as a result of a strong increase recorded in the Gaza Strip compared to what it was in 2018.

MADA Center monitored and documented during the year 2019 a total of 200 violations committed by Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza, which represents a 55% increase from what was recorded in the year 2018, which witnessed 129 Palestinian violations, knowing that this increase was recorded exclusively in Gaza Strip.

These violations were divided into 87 violations that occurred in the West Bank (a number similar to what was recorded in the West Bank in 2018, which witnessed 88 violations), and 113 Palestinian violations that occurred in 2019 in Gaza, which represents an increase of almost 276% over the previous year, where it witnessed 41 violations.

Additionally, the report explainshow the government of Dr. Muhammad Shtayyah has created a positive atmosphere regarding media freedoms in Palestine and not affecting it, and has demonstrated a clear commitment to that. The number of violations recorded in the West Bank were almost zero over the months following the inauguration in April 2019, but this all changed when Ramallah Magistrate Court (on October 17 2019) issued a decision to close a total of 49 news websites and Facebook pages, dispelling the positive atmosphere spread by the Shtayya government, and reviving fears in this regard to its previous era.

Among the most prominent Palestinian violations that were recorded in 2019, in addition to the closure of dozens of websites, a total of 46 cases of arrest and detention committed by Palestinian authorities. 15 of these violations were committed in the West Bank and 31 in Gaza Strip. The most cases of arrest took place in Gaza (18 cases) and they were accompanied by severe physical torture, knowing that a single case of torture was registered in the West Bank.

To read the full report,