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“MADA”: 35 Violations against Media Freedoms in Palestine during the Past Month

Ramallah 6th Dec. 2020 - The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms has monitored a total of 35 violations against media freedoms in Palestine in November, with a slight decrease in the total number of violations compared to October, during which 38 violations were documented.

 

The Israeli Occupation committed the vast majority of the total violations during the past month, 22 violations out of a total of 35 violations, while various Palestinian authorities committed 5 violations, and Facebook Company committed 8 violations, represented by blocking and closing the accounts of journalists and media sites.

Israeli Violations: 

The Israeli assaults and violations against Palestinian journalists and media freedoms have slightly decreased in November, during which a total of 22 violations committed by the Israeli occupation forces and authorities were documented compared to 31 violations documented during October.

With regard to the nature of committed violations in the past month, they do not differ in type and comprehensiveness from those committed and documented in the preceding month. In other words, these violations include arrest, assault, storming, summoning, and closure of institutions. The most notable and prominent of these violations is the assault of settlers and occupation soldiers against 13 Palestinian journalists, preventing them from coverage and suppressing them in a peaceful march in Salfeet. This is in addition to closing Palestine TV Office in Jerusalem, once again, and arresting the journalist Bushra Al-Taweel for the second time this year. In addition to other direct assaults against journalists such as the injury of journalists Hazem Bader and Ameer Shaheen by gas bombs. 

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Nature of Violation

Name of Journalist/Institution 

1

Summoning and questioning 

Journalist Christine Rinawi/Palestine TV

2

Injury by a gas bomb 

Journalist Hazem Bader 

Journalist Ameer Shaheen

3

Injuries by stones 

Journalist Hisham Abu Shaqra

Journalist Hazem Imad Nasser

Journalist Jaaf Ishtayya

4

Storming a house 

Journalist Raed Abu Rmailah

5

Arrest 

Journalist Bushra Al-Taweel

6

Closure of media agency 

Closing Palestine TV Office in Jerusalem again 

7

Prevention from coverage 

Journalist Tarek Yousef 

Photojournalist AlaaBadarnah 

Journalist Khaled Saleh Mahmoud Budair 

Photojournalist Raneen Sawafta 

Photojournalist Issam Al-Rimawi

Photojournalist Nidal Shafeeq Ishtayya

Cameraman Majdi Mohammad Ishtayya

Journalist Mohammad Turabi

Photojournalist Nasser Sulaiman Ishtayya

Journalist Mohammad Abdelqader Hassan Ishtayya

 

 

Palestinian Violations: 

MADA Center has documented a slight increase in the number of Palestinian violations against journalists and media freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It documented a total of 5 violations committed by different Palestinian authorities during November, compared to two violations documented during October. The Palestinian violations were divided into 3 violations that took place in Gaza Strip and two violations in the West Bank. The majority of Palestinian violations committed against journalists were mostly summons and investigations.

 

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Nature of Violation 

Name of Journalist/Institution 

1

Summoning and questioning 

Journalist Mohammad Mona (two violations

Journalist Yousef Fares 

Journalist Mohammad Al-Khaldi 

2

Deleting materials 

Journalist Aseel Sulaiman 

 

Facebook Violations: 

Facebook's Administration is still continuing its policy and approach to restricting the Palestinian content and targeting the Palestinian narrative, as MADA researchers have documented 8 violations against media freedoms committed by Facebook Company during November under the pretext of violating the standards of posting, compared to 4 violations that were monitored in the preceding month, October.

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Nature of Violation 

Name of Journalist/Institution 

1

Suspended posting and live streaming 

Journalist Yousef Amro 

2

Restricting account 

Journalist Mohammad Al-Najjar

3

Closure of pages 

Journalist Hassan Islaih

4

Closure of a page 

Photojournalist Mariam Abu Duqqa

5

Restricting a page

Journalist Iyad Abu Raida

6

Closure of an Instagram account 

Photojournalist Mohammad Shabeer

7

Closure of news page 

Palestine Today News Agency 

8 Restricting account  Journalist Amjad Arafat

 

Details of Violations: 

(2nd-10th Nov.) The Israeli occupation intelligence services summoned the journalist Christine Rinawi twice. She was questioned the first time, and the second time she was given a decision on extending the closure of the Palestine TV office in Jerusalem and preventing it from working for another six months.

According to MADA researcher, the Israeli Intelligence Services summoned Palestine TV reporter in Jerusalem, Christine Khaled Waleed Al-Rinawi (31 years old), as the Prisoner Club Lawyer Mufeed Al-Haj was contacted by telephone, at 1:00 PM, on 2nd Nov. 2020, so she comes to Moscobiya Investigation Center at 3:00 PM, on 2nd Nov. 2020. Indeed, she went on the said schedule, and the investigation with her lasted for two hours and a half for suspicion of violating the decision of the Israeli Minister of Interior, which prohibits Palestine TV from operating in Jerusalem, which has been valid for about a year. She was questioned about the nature of the work of Palestine TV in Jerusalem and the political movement in the City. This included clues from the investigator about extending the Israeli decision on closing the Palestine TV office in Jerusalem for another six months. After the investigation with Christine ended, she was released in the afternoon on a bail (paper-unpaid bail) of three thousand shekels, and to return to the investigation center when she was summoned again to hand her over a decision on renewing the order preventing Palestine TV from operating in Jerusalem. On 10th Nov. 2020, the Occupation Intelligence Services summoned the journalist Christine again through a phone call, and she went to Mascobiya Center where she was given a new decision on extending the period during which Palestine TV must not operate inside the City of Jerusalem for another six months. 

It is worth mentioning that this is the 8th summons for journalist Christine Rinawi, on the background of her work for Palestine TV, noting that the Occupation Authorities have raided the TV Office, destroyed the filming equipment, and arrested the TV staff. 

 

(8th Nov.) The Israeli Occupation Forces have arrested the journalist Bushra Al-Taweel, 27 years old, on Sunday evening, corresponding 8th Nov. 2020, from Al-Bireh, while she was moving between Jenin and Al-Bireh after she was detained at a hasty military checkpoint. 

According to MADA researcher, the journalist Bushra Al-Taweel (27 years old), from Al-Bireh, while she was at around 6:00 PM, on Sunday, corresponding 8th Nov. 2020, with one of her friends and their children, heading home from Jenin to Al-Bireh, was stopped by the occupation soldiers while passing through a movable checkpoint the soldiers have set up at Yitzhar settlement street. They searched the vehicle she was riding and then one of the soldiers asked for her personal identity card and her friend’s. Then he asked her to dismount the vehicle and made her wait for 45 minutes. After checking the IDs, one of the soldiers came to tell Bushra she was arrested and to ask her friend to leave. Bushra then called her mother and told her she was arrested. She was taken to a detention center and was prevented to contact or communicate with her friend. On the following day, Monday 9th Nov. 2020, Bushra’s family learned she was arrested at Hasharon Prison and that the occupation authorities have tested her for COVID-19, to be questioned two days later, as the lawyer informed her family. It should be noted that Bushra was arrested administratively before for seven months and a half and was released on 28th July 2020. 

(8th Nov.) The Preventive Security Services in Nablus summoned the journalist Mohammad Anwar Fathi Mona and questioned him. 

According to MADA researcher, Mohammad Anwar Fathi Mona (38 years old), from Nablus, a reporter for SANAD News Agency, received at around 10:30 AM, on Sunday, corresponding 8th Nov. 2020, a phone call from someone who introduced himself as an officer of the Preventive Security Services and that he would like “to have him” come to the Preventive Security Services HQ. Mona asked whether this was a summons only or arrest, the caller said it was just “a summons”. So, Mona said he could not come on the said day but could show up on the following day. At around 10:00 AM, on the following morning (Monday, 9th Nov. 2020) Mona arrived at the Preventive Security Services HQ where they took his personal card and had him wait inside a caravan outside the HQ for half an hour. A military officer then came and took him to the investigation room, where two other officers were waiting to question him. He was questioned about his study, the type of press field he works in, with who has he worked since graduation, and what he does currently (and about SANAD News Agency offices he works at currently), his salary and how he receives it, the transfers he receives, the colleagues he works with at the Agency in Nablus, and some of the press coverages he had done including covering some events at Balata Camp. The Investigation lasted for half an hour, then he left the room. An hour later, the officer told him to bring evidence of employment at the Agency he works for, and another from the Journalists Syndicate. This is in addition to another summons another officer gave him to come back at 10:00 AM on Thursday 12th Nov. 2020. On the aforementioned schedule, the journalist arrived at the HQ and after handing over his ID, he waited until noon when the officer took his papers that he was asked to bring in the summons and then he left the HQ. Mona asked the investigators and officers about equipment that was seized from him by the Preventive Security Service HQ when he was arrested on 25th Feb. 2020 (a laptop, 2 cell phones, and a small camera). The officer told him that he will check with the HQ in Ramallah and will contact him once they receive the equipment. 

 

(13th Nov.) The photojournalist Hazem Bader (52 years old) was injured by a gas bomb fired at him by an Israeli soldier while he was covering clashes in Hebron City. 

According to MADA researcher, at around 12:50 PM, on Friday, corresponding 13th Nov. 2020, the photojournalist Hazem Jameel Ragheb Bader (52 years old), arrived to the French News Agency, Bab Al-Zawiya area, central Hebron City, to cover clashes between the soldiers and stone-throwers. Upon the arrival of journalist Bader to the area opposite the military checkpoint at the northern entrance of Al-Shuhada’ closed street, a group of soldiers were standing behind the concrete blocks, 20 meters away from journalist Bader who was in his press uniform, and while a group of young men were on the other side throwing stones at the soldiers, one of the soldiers fired gas bomb that injured the journalist, Bader, in his right leg, forcing him to slowly walk to a hallway that leads to one of the nearby houses where he sat to rest from the severe pain. Bader checked his leg that swollen so quickly while the photojournalist Mamoun Wazwaz arrived and provided him with first aid. Bader left 20 minutes later to Al-Ahly Hospital in Hebron in his vehicle. He took some medical tests and was imaged. The x-ray image showed a rupture in the right leg muscle. He was given the needed treatment and prevented from moving on his right leg for a week. 

 

(18th Nov.) The Occupation Army stormed the house of journalist Raed Abu Rmailah in Hebron and searched it. 

According to MADA researcher, at around 9:00 PM, on Wednesday, 18th Nov. 2020, a force of the Israeli Occupation soldiers, stormed the house of freelance journalist Raed Jihad Abu Rmailah (47 years old), located near the military checkpoint (Abu Al-Reesh) at the southern entrance of the old city of Hebron City. Abu Rmailah and his family were detained in one room while the force searched and messed around the house. The search lasted for 15 minutes, then the soldiers left the house after completing the search and did not take journalist Abu Rmailah with them. At around 10:00 PM on the same day, the same force stormed the house again, detained the journalist and his family in a room, and searched the house again without allowing the journalist to witness the search. They checked the surveillance cameras installed around the house while one of the soldiers dismantled the recording device of the surveillance cameras to seize it. However, Abu Rmailah intervened and prevented the soldiers from doing so. The officer addressed Abu Rmailah “you cause troubles in the area” and they left the house 10 minutes after the search was done. Abu Rmailah works in documenting the violations of the occupation army and settlers in the old city of Hebron and Sanctuary of Abraham where journalists are prohibited. 

 

(19th Nov.) “RAYA FM Radio” deleted from its website an episode of “Panorama Program” presented by journalists Aseel Salman Reehan (22 years old), a diverse entertaining radio show presented by Aseel through RAYA FM, between Saturday until Wednesday each week. 

According to MADA researcher, the journalist Aseel, at the beginning of that episode, has intensely criticized the Palestinian Authority’s decision on complying again with the agreements signed with Israel. This introduction, which was first posted on Aseel’s Instagram, raised broad interaction through social media. 

Therefore, after the video surfaced, much debate stirred up on the Administration of RAYA FM Radio referring the journalist Aseel to an investigation committee and dismissing her from work, which turned out to be wrong later on. The journalist Salman did not receive any letter under which she should be transferred to an investigation committee by the Radio Administration or that she is dismissed, or that any other procedure is taken against her. she was asked to stick to the introduction of the program and make sure it is in line with the diverse content of the topics she presents in the program.  The journalist Aseel did not receive any calls and was not contacted by the security services, noting they contacted and communicated with the Radio Administration to find out what happened, as the radio administration, in turn, contacted Aseel's father to inform him of what had happened, while the director of the radio and Aseel's father received phone calls from figures of Fatah Movement, talking to them about the program and what had Aseel said in the opening.

 

(19th-21st, Nov.) The General Investigation Services in the northern governorate of Gaza Strip summoned journalists Yousef Fares and Mohammad Al-Khalidi to the Cybercrimes Department of the Investigation Services, to interrogate them on charges of defaming workers in Al-Falah Charitable Society.

According to MADA researcher, the journalist at Naba’ Press News Agency Yousef Mohammad Hussein Fares (30 years old) received a notification on 9th Nov. 2020 to go to the Investigations Services HQ in the North Governorate as soon as he receives the notification, but he refused to obey their orders. Ten days later, on 19th Nov. 2020, another notification was sent to his house located in Tal Al-Za’tar, northern Gaza Strip, but he wasn’t at home then. One hour later, after the notification was sent, a major from the Cybercrime Department of the Investigation Services contacted him to inform him that he must come to the department immediately. At around 11:30 PM, on the same day, the journalist Fares arrived at the department, where he was questioned on the background of “defaming Al-Falah Charitable Society for republishing a report he had prepared 4 years ago through “Naba’ News Agency” when he used to be the Editor-in-Chief then. Note that the report revolves around the death of a child in Al-Falah Society gymnasium, and the negligence and carelessness on the part of the administration and workers of the Society in dealing with the incident. In his defense, the journalist Fares indicated that the Society’s Director is the complainant but he passed away about two weeks ago. Thus, the case is dropped with the death of its complainant, but the officer promised him to transfer the case to the Public Prosecution to complete the investigation, and after about half an hour of the investigation, the journalist Fares signed the record of his statements and left the headquarters.

On 21st Nov. Misbar Website Reporter, Mohammad Abdelhameed Hassan Al-Khalidi (33 years old)received summons to go to the Cybercrimes Department at the General Intelligence Services in the North Governorate, for the charge of defaming Al-Falah Charitable Society. Immediately after receiving the notification, the journalist Mohammad went to the department, and there he was questioned about the case of "defamation" against Al-Falah Society, through his own Facebook account, accusing its director and employees of "corruption and exploitation of aid money that comes to the poor for their personal interests." The journalist Al-Khaldi responded to those accusations that what he published about the Society falls within the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the officer threatened him to transfer the case file to the Public Prosecution to take legal measures against the "accused in this case". After Al-Khalidi signed his statement upon the request of the officer, he left the headquarters.

 

(24th Nov.) The journalist Ameer Shaheen was injured by a gas bomb fired at him by the soldiers while covering a march against settlement in the Northern Valleys. 

According to MADA researcher, Ameer Hilmi Mohammad Shaheen (29 years old), a press reporter for Palestine TV in Tubas, went at 12:30 PM, on Tuesday 24th Nov. 2020, to cover a march against a settlement that was heading towards Kherbet Hamsah Al-Foqa n the Northern Valleys demolished by the occupation three weeks earlier. When the march reached the military checkpoint located near the village of Tayasir (5 km east of Tubas), the soldiers prevented the march and suppressed it with tear gas bombs to disperse the demonstrators. Meanwhile (around 01:20 PM), while the journalist Shaheen, who was wearing the press uniform and covering these events, was on a live broadcast and interviewing one of the demonstrators, the soldiers prevented him from continuing his work and someone pushed him. Twenty minutes later, while Shaheen continued covering these events, one of the soldiers fired a tear gas bomb directly at him, injuring him in the right foot, causing him a slight injury, and he left the place without going to any health center.

 

(30th Nov.) Israeli settlers and soldiers have assaulted no less than 13 journalists while covering a peaceful march against settlement and prevented them from coverage. 

According to MADA researcher, a peaceful march started at around 10:30 AM, on Monday 30th Nov. 2020 against the settlers for leveling the land at “Al-Ra’s” area, western Salfeet, and initiating the construction of a new outpost there. About half an hour after the demonstrators arrived at the site, a great number of settlers arrived and began verbal and physical attacks against the demonstrators and assaulted some of them with batons. This resulted in hand-to-hand fighting with the demonstrators, and about 10 minutes after the settlers arrived, an army force arrived as well. Soon the soldiers began firing a barrage of tear gas bombs at the Palestinian demonstrators to disperse them and drive them away, so the settlers, some of whom had dogs with them and were armed, were not allowed to show their weapons in the face of demonstrators and journalists alike. While the journalists were filming the soldiers’ assaults against some demonstrators and their attempts to arrest them, settlers attacked the journalists and tried to seize the equipment of some of them, threw stones at them, chased them, and kicked them away, and prevented them from reporting. As a result, three journalists were injured with the settlers’ stones, namely: Anatolia Agency Cameraman Hisham Abu Shaqra (injured by a stone in the right leg), “Al-Ghad TV” cameraman Hazem Imad Husni Nasser (30 years old), injured by a stone in his leg too, the French News Agency cameraman Jafar Zahed Ishtayya (51 years old), injured by a stone on his left shoulder. This forced all journalists to move back and away from the settlers’ assaults who prevented them from coverage and chased them. This affected the journalists: GMedia cameraman Tarek Yousef, the cameraman AlaaBadarnah (48 years old), “Al-Ghad” TV reporter Khaled Saleh Mahmoud Budair (32 years old), Reuters cameraman Raneen Sawafta, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida Newspaper cameraman Issam Huda Al-Rimawi, Xinhua News Agency cameraman Nidal Shafeeq Ishtayya (49 years old), the American News Agency cameraman Majdi Mohammad Ishtayya (37 years old), the journalist Mohammad Turab, Flasha Israeli Agency cameraman Nasser Sulaiman Ishtayya (48 years old) and Palestine TV reporter Mohammad Abdelqader Hassan Ishtayya. 

 

(November) Facebook Company has blocked and closed accounts for several journalists during November claiming “they violate the Facebook Community criteria”.

According to MADA researcher, Facebook Administration has suspended, closed, and restricted the accounts of “five journalists and media professionals” from Gaza Strip during November 2020, namely: 

  1. Restricting the account of freelance journalist Mohammad Al-Najjar for one month claiming “he violates the Facebook criteria” noting that Al-Najjar has 9,000 followed on his account. 
  2. Closing two pages for the freelance journalist Hassan Islaih, one of which is followed by 100,000 users and the other by 3,000 users without sending them any notification.
  3. Closing the page of the freelance photojournalist Mariam Abu Duqa, followed by 23,000 users claiming “she violates the Facebook criteria” after posting an image of a military show for one of the Palestinian factions. 
  4. Restricting the page of Al-Aqsa Radio Editor, Iyad Abu Raidah, followed by 5500 users, after tweeting the hashtag “#حد_السيف” /edge of the sword, for 48 hours. 
  5. Closing the account of freelance cameraman Mohammad Shbair on Instagram after posting a story of images for martyrs of “Al-Qassam” Brigades. 
  6. Closing the page of “Palestine Today News” followed by half a million users, on 11th Nov. 2020 after posting images of Palestinian martyrs. 
  7. West Bank, on 11th Nov. 2020, Facebook Company suspended the live broadcasting feature on Facebook for the freelance journalist Yousef Kamel Ibrahim Amro (26 years old), from Dura, Hebron, for 90 days, after posting media content of a march on the anniversary of the former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, claiming it “violates the criteria of posting on Facebook”.
  8. On the same day, 11th Nov. 2020, Facebook Company suspended the work of journalist Yousef Kamel Amro, in his capacity as (the admin) of Dura City News Page, with the consideration that the page is liked by 34.684 users, and it has been suspended until September 2021 claiming that “it violates the criteria of posting on Facebook”. The block also included suspending the work of journalist Amro, in his capacity as the “admin” in another two pages, the first belongs to Fateh Movement southern region, and the second is a commercial page that he has been running (but refused to say its name) since 15th Sep. 2020.