Ramallah (06/09/2020) – August has witnessed a decrease in the number of violations against media freedoms in Palestine compared to the preceding month.
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms “MADA” has documented during August a total of 12 violations against media freedoms, 4 of which were committed by the Israeli occupation while various Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have committed 7 violations. This is in addition to one violation committed by Facebook Company, compared to a total of 20 violations that were committed during July.
This decrease is attributed to the limited field events and activities which usually witness violations and assaults by the Israeli occupation forces against the demonstrators and journalists who cover such events.
The Israeli violations documented during the past month were limited to four, including the arrest of journalist Musab Saeed from his home in Birzeit, Ramallah, the injury of journalist Ibrahim Abdel Majid Abu Shaar (from Gaza), and journalist Mai Farhan Shehadeh (from Tulkarm), with severe suffocations as a result of gas bombs, which the Israeli army fired towards them. Also, an armed setller prevented WAFA cameraman, Mashhour Hassan Mahmoud Al-Wahwah, from covering an anti-settlement activity in Yatta, Hebron and threatening him in the presence of Israeli soldiers, without them interfering.
During August, 7 Palestinian violations were committed, 6 of which in Gaza Strip and one in the West Bank. These violations are: summoning the freelance journalist Muein Tayseer Al-Dabbah by the General Investigations of Gaza twice and forcing him to sign a pledge not to publish any information or pictures on the work of the charitable societies in Gaza Strip for sharing an image and comment criticizing one of these charities, preventing an event of the Journalists Movements Office by the security services in Gaza, summoning the journalist Mohammad Al-Haddad by the General Investigations in Khan Younes three times and questioning him about his Facebook posts, and preventing the Administration of MAAN TV to host one of the guests of “Kilimten o bas/ two words only” program, presented by the media professional Nahed Abu Taima, as a result of pressures exerted by some of the Executive Authority parties, forcing Abu Taima to cancel the episode in protest.
Details of Violations:
(02/08/20) The General Investigations of Gaza summoned the freelance journalist Muein Tayseer Al-Dabbah and questioned him about images he posted on his personal account. He was forced to sign a pledge not to post anything about charitable societies in Gaza.
According to the investigations of MADA researcher, the freelance journalist Muein Tayseer Ahmad Al-Dabbah (32 years old), from Al-Shujaiya, has seen some individuals of a charitable society at 10:00AM, on Sunday morning, corresponding 2nd August 2020, distributing some aids (meat) that they have given to a group of children, and they wanted to take pictures of these children holding the paper of aid (meat), among these children was his nephew, so he intercepted them and to a picture of the society members and posted it on his Facebook account criticizing them and why would they film some children without their families knowing. About half an hour after posting this photo, one of the employees of that society came to Al-Dabbah’s house and threatened him with internal security, and left. At about 2:30PM in the afternoon he received a call from a person who introduced himself as an Investigation officer, and asked him to come immediately to the investigation center in Al-Shujaiya. Indeed, he went to the center where he arrived at 3:00PM, and the moment he arrived he was questioned based on a complaint filed against him by one of the Society staff members the picture of whom he posted on his account. The investigation and questioning lasted for 45 minutes, and before he left, he was asked to sign a pledge that includes a condition that he must remove anything related to the charitable society and to come back to the Investigations Center on Wednesday corresponding 5th August 2020. Muein went again to the center and arrived at 3:00PM, along with MADA center lawyer, Ihsan Abu Sharkh. When the Center’s Director learned about the lawyer, he asked Muein to leave while MADA’s lawyer stayed for a while and then left the Center. Muein was taken to the investigation room and questioned again about the image he posted. He was again forced to sing another pledge (other than the one he signed the first time he went to the Center) that he would not post any photos or information about the work of charitable societies in Gaza. He was then released at 4:30PM.
(15/08/20) The journalist Ibrahim Abu Shaar was severely suffocated while covering a night demonstration at the separation fence eastern Gaza.
According to MADA researcher, Ibrahim abdelmajeed Abu Shaar (36 years old), a reporter of the Iranian TV, has arrived at 10:15PM on Saturday corresponding 15th August 2020 to the border area eastern Gaza City/Malka area, to cover the night protests referred to as “the night confusion” as part of the peaceful return marches, and he was in his press uniform. At about 11:15PM, while Abu Shaar was at 500 meters away from the separation border fence, the occupation soldiers randomly fired gas bombs and he was severely suffocated, and fainted for few minutes. He received first aid by the ambulance staff in the area and fifteen minutes later went home. But on the following morning (Sunday 16th August 2020) and as a result of inhaling a large amount of gas, he suffered from symptoms and complications such as shortness of breath and a respiratory disorder, which required a visit to a private doctor who gave him some medicine to treat the effects of the injury.
(15/08/20) Facebook Company Administration closed PAL+ page claiming “it violates the criteria of Facebook community”.
According to MADA field researcher, the creator of PAL+ page, Fadi Al-Sheikh Yousef, has noticed on 14th August a decrease in the number of views and followers of the page that coincided with a notification from Facebook Company warning to close the page, which was done on the following morning, corresponding 15th August 2020. Hours later, the page’s founder and his team filed a direct challenge against this measure and contacted the support team at Facebook in an attempt to recover the page. After 4 days of contacting, the team succeeded in recovering the page, with "offences" still pending against it, as Facebook Administration refused to remove the same.
According to Fadi Yousef, the threat to close the page by Facebook started when the page began covering the return marches in Gaza Strip since 30th March 2018. The page was transmitting the march live including all the events and updates and documented all of the Israeli Occupation violations. Since that time, the page started to receive notifications to delete some contents (such as the video of the martyr Razan Al-Najjar and the martyr Yasser Murtaja, where Facebook restricted access to these videos after the number of views exceeded one million). Then the "Israeli" coordinator's page entered one of the live videos and commented. This was followed by Israeli websites targeting the page, especially the English PAL+ page, and restricting access to its contents.
(20/08/20) The journalist Main Shehadeh was severely suffocated due to a gas bomb fired at her by one of the Israeli occupation soldiers while she was covering a march against settlement in Tulkarem.
According to MADA researcher, a number of journalists including Mai Farhan Shehadeh (29 years old), a reporter of “Aswar Press” have joined a peaceful march that started on 11:00AM on 20th August 2020 to Shufah Village, southeast Tulkarem, protesting against the confiscation of hundreds of donums of lands there by the Israeli occupation authorities, while she was in her press uniform. The demonstrators started to gather near the confiscated lands, holding up slogans denouncing the occupation policy, while the soldiers who were there prevented them to have access to the confiscated lands, and when the demonstrators tried to reach their confiscated lands at 11:30, along with journalist Main Shehadeh, the soldiers started firing sound bombs at the demonstrators, and journalist Shehadeh moved away to continue covering the event. One of the soldiers fired a sound bomb at her but did not hit her, which made the same soldier fire another gas bomb directly at her, one of the demonstrators shouted her name to avoid the bomb, while it landed near her, causing her severe suffocation until she fell to the ground. Some of the demonstrators around her took her away and helped her recover her consciousness using alcohol especially that the occupation forces prevented the ambulance to reach the journalist Mai who returned home in Anabta with the help of some of her colleague journalists.
(22/08/20) An Israeli settler prevented the journalist Mashhour Al-Wahwah from covering a peaceful march that was taking place eastern Yatta, Hebron.
According to MADA researcher, at around 12:00PM, on Saturday, corresponding 22nd August 2020, a number of journalists, including WAFA cameraman, journalist Mashhour Hassan Mahmoud Al-Wahwah (36 years old), arrived to Sadet Al-Thaghlah, located in Yatta City, southern Hebron, to cover a peaceful event called to by the national forces with the participation of some families, protesting against the decision of the occupation authorities that allowed one of the settlers to construct a road in their lands and expand the settlements projects claiming “they are confiscated lands”. Once the demonstrators arrived to the location where a number of soldiers have arrived, the journalists started filming and documenting the assaults of settlers against the citizens’ properties, one of the settlers, with a gun on his side, approached and started shouting at journalist Mashhour Al-Wahwah, and prevented him from filming. When Al-Wahwah tried to move away to continue his work, one of the settlers stopped him, grabbed a gun and threatened him in Hebrew which he does not know or understand. He had to move away for fear of being subject to any assault especially that the soldiers did not interfere to move away the settler, but rather deployed in the area and announced it as a closed military zone, and ordered the demonstrators to leave.
(24/08/20) The security services in Gaza prevented the Journalists Movement Office to conduct an event of signing a memorandum of understanding with the Lawyers Movement Office, at Al-Zaytoun Sports Club.
According to MADA field researcher, the Journalists Movement Office in Gaza was about to conduct an event to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Lawyers Movement Office, at Al-Zaytoun Sports Club in Gaza City. However, the Head of the Club received a phone call from Hamas security services informing him to prevent the event scheduled to take place at 5:00PM on Monday corresponding 24th August 2020 at the Club’s headquarters without explaining the reasons. It should be noted that the agreement provides for cooperation between journalists and lawyers in eastern Gaza, to train and educate journalists about legal matters while carrying out their journalistic work, in return journalists are supposed to train lawyers on some media issues such as drafting and disseminating news about their activities, as stated by the secretary of the Journalists Movement Office, Ahed Farwana, to Mada’s researcher.
(26/08/20) The Israeli occupation forces arrested the journalist Musab Saed from his house located in Birzeit, northern Ramallah.
According to MADA researcher, an Israeli military troop, consisting of 40 soldiers, at about 3:00AM, on Wednesday 26th August 2020, raided the house of the freelance journalist Musab Ibrahim Saed (29 years old) in Birzeit, northern Ramallah, after surrounding the house, smashing and exploding the main entranc. It searched the house, messed up its contents and arrested the journalist Musab, after detaining him for half an hour in one of the house rooms. This was followed by handcuffing his hands and informing his family he was under arrest. He was taken to the Israeli military patrols that arrived at an area close to the house fifteen minutes after they stormed it. The following day (Thursday 27th August 2020), Musab’s family learned that the occupation forces had transferred him to the "Etzion" detention center near Bethlehem, and that a trial session had been held for him in "Ofer" camp in Bitunia, Ramallah. His detention was extended in absentia for a period of 6 days, and a new court session will be held for him on Tuesday (1st Sep. 2020).
(27/08/20) Preventing the Administration of MAAN TV to hose a guest of “Kilimten o bas/ two words only” program, presented by Nahed Abu Taima, due to pressures exerted on the Channel by some of the Executive Authorities parties, forcing Abu Taima to cancel the episode in protest.
According to MADA researcher, it was scheduled to present an episode at 7:00PM on 27th August 2020 of Kilimten o bas/ two words only” program by Nahed Abu Taima, on repairing the judiciary, its problems, and the performance of the Transitional High Judicial Council. It was supposed to host: Amnah Hamarsha, the Supreme Court Judge, Osama Al-Kelany the former Supreme Court Judge, the former Judges Club Head, the legal advisor at Al-Haq Institution Ashraf Abu Hayya, due to pressures exerted by officials at the Executive Authority to prevent the hosting of one of the guests, namely Advisor Osama Al-Kelany. However, Abu Taima refused to do so and preferred to cancel the episode rather than doing this which was never done before at MAAN TV. No guest has ever been prevented to appear on MAAN screen and no subject matter has ever been blocked or changed. This proves that the pressures were exerted by a party with powerful influence.
It should be noted that “Kilimten o bas/ two words only” program presented by Abu Taima has raised broad arguments and interests and was subject to denigration and ill-treatment, given the issued it discusses and addresses, to the extent a complaint was filed against it at the Attorney General’s Office. However, MAAN Administration handled the pressures and refused to issue a statement for public opinion announcing it is not supporting CEDAW, and confirmed that it will forever defend CEDAW and women rights as an approach and goal.
(28/08/20) The General Investigations in Khan Younes summoned the journalist Mohammad Al-Haddad for his Facebook posts.
According to MADA researcher, the freelance journalist Mohammad Ismail Al-Haddad (31 years old), from Batn Al-Samen, western Kahn Younes, Gaza Strip, on Friday evening, corresponding 28th August 2020, received summons from the General Investigations, to come on Saturday corresponding 29th August 2020, to the headquarters. The Investigations vehicle came to his house at 11:00PM on that day, gave his brother the notice ordering Al-Haddad to come to the Investigations headquarters on the following morning (Saturday 29th August 2020) the Technical Sources Section, and to bring a copy of his identity card. Indeed, when Al-Haddad arrived to the headquarters, he was immediately taken to one of the investigations rooms for questioning. He asked why he was asked to come and the investigator replied that it’s because his Facebook posts accusing him that he incites against the Government in Gaza, addressing him “this isn’t the time to express opinion”. The investigator started reading him a post he believed inciting against the Government “It is a shame to see the corrupt and the exploited being glorified at this time”. The journalists asked: “And what is wrong with this?” the investigator replied “you are accusing us of corruption”. He read another post saying “Gaza Government and the Electricity Company honestly the people no longer have energy and we cannot sleep or sit or anything, the floor tile marked out bodies, you want the people to stay strong, please bring out what is hidden and you will be for sure compensated later”. The journalist replied “How is that inciting? This is my personal opinion which I have the right to say”. Before the questioning ended, the investigator asked the journalist to turn off his cell phone and give it to him, and to leave the room and wait outside.
Al-Haddad waited until 6:15PM (noting that the investigation only took 10 minutes). Two police officers came and asked him to come with them on foot to the investigation room in the nearby police headquarters. Indeed, he went with them and the investigator took his statement on the same subject, prepared an arrest protocol for him, with the guarantee of one of his colleagues. He left the headquarters at about 6:40PM, provided to come back at 8:00AM on the following day (30th August 2020) to be brought before the prosecution. He appeared on the scheduled day and waited until 2:30PM, while the prosecutor did not show up. The investigation inspector asked him to come at 9:30AM on the following morning (31st August 2020), he went and waited until 12:30PM when he met with the prosecutor who asked him about inciting against the government and read some of his Facebook posts and said “There’s nothing”. He asked him to support the Government and left the room. He asked the journalist to sit outside the room and come back in ten minutes. When the journalist came back, the prosecutor said “I’ve seen your page and there’s nothing, but anything you would post against the Government or you want to post let us know first, or do not write anything”. He also asked him to sign the pledge of “Respecting the public order and the Law”. He gave him back his cell phone, and left at about 1:00PM on the same day.