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MADA: 20 violations against media freedoms in Palestine during July

Ramallah (12/08/2020) – July, 2020 has witnessed a noticeable decrease in the number of violations against media freedoms in Palestine. The Palestinian Center for Development & Media Freedoms “MADA” documented a total of 20 violations only (4 Israeli violations, 13 Palestinian violations and 3 violations committed by Facebook Company) compared to 59 violations documented in June (48 violations) committed by the Israeli Occupation.

This fluctuation (ups and downs) in the number of violations between one month and another across the Palestinian territories comes as a result of the closures imposed by the PA as part of its efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19 Epidemic, and as a direct result of the absence and limitation of Palestinian field activities which usually include suppression and assaults targeting the media and journalists while covering events. Moreover, June witnessed a series of peaceful Palestinian activities and protests that the media covered and they involved Israeli repression and attacks targeting journalists.

 

Israeli Violations:

The Israeli violations witnessed during July have significantly decreases, dropping from 48 violations during June to only 4 violations during July, due to the lack of Palestinian field events.

The Israeli violations this month were limited to three injuries of journalists while they were covering two peaceful events, and detaining a fourth journalist without questioning him, for several hours on his way back home, without any reason.

These violations have affected the following journalists: Yousef Sarkaji (injured by a gas bomb directly in his left leg), Baker Abdelhaq and Samer Habash (suffocated and targeted with gas bombs while they were in a live broadcast), and Qais Abu Samra (detained and questioned).

 

Palestinian Violations:

The Palestinian violations during July have witnessed a slight increase compared to June. The Palestinian violations during July totaled to 13 (compared to 9 documented in June).

Similar to June, most of the Palestinian violations have taken place in Gaza Strip (12 violations) while only one violation occurred in the West Bank.

Most of these violations fall under the serious and grave assaults against media freedoms, on top, preventing Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath TV Channels from working and operating in Gaza Strip, and arresting four journalists.

These violations have affected: Tareq Abu Zaid (arrested) for not adhering to the state of emergency, Hilmi Iyad Al-Ghoul and Ahmad AL-Ras (prevented from coverage, got their material deleted, detained), the Director of Journalists Syndicate Office in Gaza, Loay Al-Ghoul, (summoned, and questioned twice), Osama Al-Kahlout (arrested), preventing Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath TV Channels from operating in Gaza Strip by the Ministry of Interior and threatening to pursue any party that provides media services to the Channels and preventing the journalists to be on their screen, Muthanna Al-Najjar and Tareq Abu Isaq (arrested).

This is in addition to what Facebook Company Administration has done by sending threats to close the accounts of three Palestinian Journalists, without disclosing any particular reasons for this, except by sending a warning that they’ll be closed “if the identity is not confirmed” to these journalists.

 

Details of Violations

(7th Feb.) The Preventive Security Services arrested the journalist Tareq Abu Zaid while he was filming. The Police attempted to disperse a gathering of welcoming the released prisoner in Jenin.

According to MADA researcher, the journalist Tareq Abdelrazeq Abu Zaid, a freelance journalist, at around 5:00PM, on Thursday 2nd July 2020, was near the house of released prisoner Wasfi Qabaha, in Al-Iskan area, Jenin, to cover the event of welcoming him. In the meantime, a private police unit arrived and attempted to disperse the gathering, removed Hamas flags which were on the building and the sidewalk, which made the journalists move away. When the police officer tried to arrest some of the people there, Tareq Abu Zaid started filming this using his cell phone, and one of the security officers approached and asked him why was he filming, Tareq replied that he was doing his job as a journalist. The police officer ordered him to get on the police vehicle next to other arrested persons,

 Abu Zaid and four other people were transferred in the same vehicle to the Preventive Security headquarters in Jenin. The security officers seized Tareq’s personal cell phone and his identity card, and they handcuffed him, which what they did with the other four arrested persons. When they arrived to the headquarters, Abu Zaid and the four arrested people with him were taken to a cell that had a mattress on the floor and a desk only. Two hours later, they were summoned by one of the security officers and the latter informed them to sign on pledges to commit to the state of emergency announced across the Palestinian territories and never breach the same. Then they were released and asked to leave the headquarters. However, Abu Zaid requested his cell phone back before leaving and they informed him to come back later to take it. After he left, Abu Zaid contacted the Director of Journalists Syndicate in Jenin, MR. Atef Abu Al-Rub, to help him get his cell phone back, but he couldn’t. one week later, the Preventive Security contacted Tareq and told him to come get his cell phone, and he found that they deleted what he filmed the time he was arrested.

 

(4th July) General Investigation officers in Gaza have detained a TV staff that was preparing a report on suicide and seized the material they filmed.

According to MADA researcher, some officers of the General Investigation Office in Gaza, at around 1:00PM, on Sunday corresponding 4th July 2020, have detained a press staff of the Palestinian Media Group Company (PMG), including the cameraman journalist Hilmi Iyad Ashour Al-Ghoul (27 years old), and the cameraman assistant (Producer) Ahmad Al-Ras (29 years old), while they were filming a press report for Roya TV on “The Economic Situation and its impact on youth in Gaza Strip” in front of the house of Sulaiman Al-Ajouri in Beit Lahia, who attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself, claiming that the press staff “does not have an authorization from the Ministry of Interior to film”. The Investigation officers seized the camera memory, and took them to the Police Center in Beit Lahia, detained them for two house and asked them not to talk or address the suicide, until the investigations by the security services are done. The material they filmed was deleted from the camera memory, they seized the IDs of Al-Ghoul and Al-Ras. On the following day (Monday, 5th July 2020), they were summoned by the Investigation Services through a phone call to come to the Police Center in Beit Lahia. Al-Ghoul and Al-Ras went immediately to the Center (at around 12:00), and their IDs were given back to them, as well as the empty camera memory. They informed them that the case has not ended and the file has been transferred to the Government Media Office, to figure out the Company’s political intentions and for whom it works. they left the Center after almost one hour.

Roya TV reporter, journalist Muna Talal Okal, stated that the security services in Gaza are claiming that there is a decision prohibiting addressing suicide, to justify detaining the press staff and prevent it from coverage, even though there are no official decisions issued in this regard.

It should be noted that recently Gaza Strip has witnessed four suicide attempts that have raised the public opinion and pushed the media outlets to address the same looking for the reasons and motives that may lead the youth to suicide.

 

(8th July) The Internal Security in Gaza has detained the journalist Loay Al-Ghoul, the Director of the Journalists Syndicate Office in Gaza, twice, and questioned him about the Syndicate’s activities, the journalists movement office, and other issues.

According to MADA researcher, some Internal Security officers went to the house of journalist Loay Al-Ghoul, the Director of Journalists Syndicate Office in Gaza Strip, and the Secretary of the Journalists Movement Office of Fateh, located in Al-Shate’ Camp, and they in civilian clothing in an Internal Security jeep, to give him a summons. However, Al-Ghoul was not there at the time. On the following morning (Thursday 9th July 2020) he went to the Internal Security headquarters (the passports headquarters) in Gaza City, and the moment he arrived, at around 09:00AM, one of the security offices searched him thoroughly, kept his personal belonging (ID, cell phone, and wallet) and took him to a room with an area of 1.5mx3m approximately. There were five persons in the room, which was extremely hot without any ventilation. One hour later, a police officer called him and took his personal information (name, place of residence, work, the party he works for) and then took him back to the room. At around 11:00AM, he was taken to another room for investigation purposes. Half an hour later, the police officer blindfolded him and took him to the investigation room, where two officers were waiting. They asked him to take a seat and assured him: “this is a friendly session, there’s nothing against you”. They started questioning him on the nature of his work at the Journalists Syndicate and the Journalists Movement Office, as well as about a political symposium organized by Fateh Movement Central Committee Member Ahmad Hals. Al-Ghoul explained that the symposium addressed the risks of the Israeli annexation plan, affirmed the national unity to face such risks that may harm the Palestinian cause. He was also asked about his conviction of Fateh Movement to which he belongs, and about the Journalists Syndicate Chairman Deputy Dr. Tahseen Al-Astal, his Facebook posts described as “extreme”. At around 12:15PM, the officer told him that he will be released now, as his cousin has passed away and there is a funeral home for him. He gave him the option either to send him a summons again or to call through the phone and come again. Al-Ghoul replied that they may choose the way they want. They gave him his belongings and he left the headquarters at around 12:30PM.

At around 12:00PM, on Thursday corresponding 16th July 2020, the journalist Loay Nahed Mohammad Al-Ghoul received a phone call from the Internal Security Officer, asking him to come immediately, to the headquarters located near the Qatari Embassy, in front of Gaza sea beach. He was questioned this time in the square of the Internal Security headquarters, adjacent to the Qatari Embassy. The investigator’s questions were mainly about the journalists syndicate activity, the way the money is transferred, the movement office of journalists and its members, in addition to asking him about other journalists, such as journalist Tawfeq Abu Jarad, journalist Tahseen Al-Astal. During the investigation, the officer told him that “this session is friendly”, there is no need to announce anything through the social media. Al-Ghoul replied: “I, as a representative of the Journalists Syndicate, hereby call all journalists to immediately report about any summons they receive from the Security, so how about when I am personally summoned?”. He told him that his work requires telling the Syndicate about any summons. At around 2:00PM, he was released and left the headquarters.

 

(10th July) The police in Gaza Strip arrested the freelance journalist, Osama Al-Kahlout, from his house located in Deir Al-Balah, in connection his post about a young man’s attempted suicide, and detained him for three days for the charge of not preventing a suicide.

According to MADA researcher, “a police jeep arrived at around 10:00PM on Friday evening corresponding 10th July 2020 the house of Osama Sharef Mohammad Al-Kahlout(36 years old), from Deir Al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, a freelance journalist, and took him to Deir Al-Balah Police Center, where his cell phone was seized and accessed. He was asked about his relationship with the young man who threatened to commit suicide, and took his statement, even though Al-Kahlout met him few days earlier and posted on his Facebook that this young man has some serious family issued and may commit suicide if his problem is not solved. Few days later following what Al-Kahlout posted, particularly on Friday corresponding 10th July 2020, the young man threatened in a live broadcast that he will commit suicide and threatened to post the name of people involved in his problem. The security services arrested him and did not allow it to happen, noting that the Ministry of Interior in Gaza issued a statement on the following day corresponding 11th July 2020, through the spokesperson Col. Ayman Al-Batneji reading “the police arrested a cameraman who encouraged a citizen to hurt himself, and agreed with him to film him while he burns himself in Deir Al-Balah Camp central Gaza Strip, and that the police arrested the citizen (A, S) 35 years old before he could hurt himself after pouring gasoline all over himself. The cameraman (O, K) 36 years old, and the citizens were referred to the Public Prosecution, to complete the legal proceedings against them”. Al-Kahlout spent 3 days in Deir Al-Balah Police Center (he was released under a bail on Monday corresponding 13th July 2020). During his detention, Al-Kahlout was not harmed by anyone or any person.

 

(15th July) The ministry of Interior in Gaza Strip prevented Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath TV Channels to work in the Strip and prevented any journalist to be on their screens, not to mention threatening to pursue any party that provides them with media services.

According to MADA researcher, Al-Arabiya TV obtained information and details about the escape of a field leader from Hamas to the Israelis. It published the news, and placed it to Hamas leaders for any comments. However, the refused that and did not deny the news at the time. On Sunday corresponding 12th July 2020, Hamas issued a statement addressing the “false news” and accused the girl of misleading people and promoting rumors and lies”. On Wednesday, on the 15th of July 2020, Al-Arabiya TV Office official in Gaza Strip, Adel Al-Zaghnoun received a phone call from the Ministry of Interior in Gaza to close the offices of Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath, and inform the media companies and institutions not to work with them. This decision includes preventing the journalists to be on their screens. The Director of Al-Arabiya TV Office in Al-Quds, Mr. Ziad Al-Halabi, a text message on his cell phone through WhatsApp with the same content.

 

(16th July) The security services in Khan Younes detained the journalists Muthanna Al-Najar and Tareq abu Isaq, for seven hours, and after three days, they were arrested for publishing a video of a student who has forged her high school diploma and talked about a mistake made by the Ministry to her diploma.

According to MADA researcher, Muthanna Al-Najjar (36 years old), Al-Quds Radio and Al-Hadath Newspaper reporter, and Tareq Abu Isaq (35 years old), works for a news page called “For Media” were summoned by the security services of eastern Khan Younes in Gaza Strip today corresponding 16th July 2020, and detained due to a complaint filed by the Ministry of Education against them for posting a vide for a girl who’s saying that her diploma was forged, “without referring to the ministry”. They questioned and detained for 7 hours, when they were released on bail of 1,000 shekels, provided that they return on Sunday morning (19th July 2020) to Al-Sharqiya Police Center again to complete the investigation. Indeed, they went to the police center on time, and the moment they arrived at about 12:00PM they were detained for a period of 24 hours, and later (the same afternoon) the Public Prosecution informed them that there detention is extended for 48 hours, and upon their detention they were held in the cell in which there is a number of detainees on various charges, and they were not taken to a private place. On Monday (the day following their arrest (20th July 2020) and after they announced a hunger strike, the center's administration transferred them to another independent room, and they were not subjected to any torture during their stay at the police center and during their interrogation.

 

(17th July) The cameraman, Journalist Tareq Sarkaji, was injured by a gas bomb fired by the occupation soldiers while he was covering a peaceful march.

According to MADA researcher, Tareq Yousef Khaled Sarkaji (34 years old), a cameraman of JMEDIA, arrived on Friday corresponding 17th July 2020 to Asira ash-Shamaliya, in Nablus, to cover a peaceful march against settlement and confiscation of land on the summit of Mount Ebal, organized by the townspeople at 12:30PM every Friday since several weeks. As soon as the demonstrators gathered, the occupation forces that arrived began firing tear gas and sound bombs at them intensively, and at around 12:55PM, while he was covering the march in a live broadcast for "Al-Jazeera Live" channel, seven tear gas bombs fired by the soldiers fell near the cameraman Sarkji, one of them injured his left leg, knowing that he was about 20 meters away from the soldiers, and the bomb caused his pants to burn, due to the fragments injuring him with burns and scratches, and he received first aid from an ambulance crew who was in the area and left.

 

(17th July) The occupation soldiers targeted Palestine TV staff by gas bombs while it was live broadcasting an interview from the field about settlement resulting in the injury of the reporter, cameraman and their guest with severe suffocation.

According to MADA researcher, Palestine TV staff, including the reporter Baker Abdelhaq (31 years old), cameraman Samer Habash (65 years old), both from Nablus, have arrived to Asira ash-Shamaliya to cover a peaceful march against establishing a settlement outpost at the top of Mount Ebal, northern Nablus, at around 1:00PM, on Friday corresponding 17th July 2020. The soldiers tried to intercept them and prevent them from filming and broadcasting the events of the march more than once, and while Palestine TV staff was interviewing the coordinator of the factional coordination committee, Naser Abu Jaish, in a live broadcast, the soldiers fired a gas bomb towards them from several meters, which resulted in the injury of them and their guest, the coordinator of the committee with severe suffocation. The live broadcast was cut off for about 10 minutes before it was resumed again. Due to the absence of any ambulance crew in that area, which is a rugged mountainous area, the soldiers tried to rescue Naser Abu Jaish (who was speaking on television and were attacked along with the journalists, Abdelhaq and Habash), but he refused.

 

(20th July) The occupation soldiers detained the journalist Qais Abu Samra for about three hours, handcuffed and questioned him, at a military checkpoint, western Ramallah.

According to MADA researcher, the occupation soldiers, at around 3:00PM, on Monday corresponding 20th July 2020, detained the Anatolia Agency reporter, Qais Omar Darwish Abu Samra, 40 years old, at the Israeli army checkpoint near the settlement of "Hallamish", west of Ramallah, while he was returning from his workplace in Ramallah to his village in the Qalqilya, and after they saw his identity card and searched the vehicle, they told him that he was "wanted" for the “Israeli intelligence service”. They detained him in the place for three hours after they handcuffed him and removed the muzzle that he was putting on his mouth and nose (as prevention and protection from Corona virus) and covered his eyes with it during his detention. During that, they questioned him about what he was writing and an officer asked him if he was writing about Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank, so the journalist Qais told him that he was writing about the official and popular Palestinian position of the situation, so the officer asked whether he was writing about the Israeli position as well, and Abu Samra told him that there others in the Agency writing about that section. After about three hours of being held handcuffed and with his eyes covered, he was released at about 6:00Pm in the evening after they returned his identity card and phone to him.

 

(July, 2020) Facebook Company Administration threatened three Palestinian journalists with closing their accounts, as they received messages that “the account will be closed if the identity is not confirmed” noting that Facebook Company has closed the accounts of two of them.

Below are the journalists who have been threatened to closed their accounts:

  1. Journalist Mohammad Ali Abdel Qader Ateeq (28 years old), who lives in the village of Burqin in Jenin and works as a freelance journalist, received on 4th July 2020 a warning message from Facebook Company Administration to close the alternate personal account, after closing his verified account suddenly on 4th May 2020, under the pretext of violating the standards and policy of "Facebook", which prompted him to create the new reserve account through which he received a warning message to close it.
  2. Journalist Sari Jaradat (34 years old), a resident of Sa'ir in Hebron, working as a reporter with the "Refugee Gate": On 8th July 2020 he received a warning message from "Facebook" administration to close the alternate account he had created after his verified account was closed on 27th May 2020, knowing that "Facebook" administration had asked him to confirm the identity, and he did that indeed, but it was closed anyways, which prompted him to create a new account, through which he received a new warning message to close it "in the event that the identity is not confirmed" as stated in the message he received .
  3. Journalist Munqith Ragheb Mohammad Salah (known as Saddam Abu Salah), a resident of Burqa Village, in Nablus, works as a cameraman for the local Adwa’ TV, received on 4th July 2020 a warning message from Facebook company administration, "in case the identity is not confirmed" the account will be closed. It is not the first time that he has been subjected to such measures by the administration of "Facebook", as the company had previously banned him from posting and commenting through his personal page several months ago, and when the ban expired, it was renewed automatically.