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“MADA”: 37 violations against media freedoms over the past month, 32 of which committed by the Israeli Occupation

Ramallah - (9th Feb. 2021 Feb. 2021) - The total number of violations against media freedoms documented over January of 2021 did not witness any change compared to the previous month. However, almost all of these violations were committed by the Israeli occupation, which is double than those committed over the preceding month.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms "MADA" has documented in January 2021 a total of 37 violations against media freedoms (the number of violation documented in the preceding month amounted to 35). The Israeli occupation and settlers committed a total of 32 violations, while different Palestinian sides committed only three violations, and the social media companies committed two other violations.

Israeli Violations:

The number of Israeli violations against Palestinian media freedoms doubled during January 2021, as MADA Center documented a total of 32 violations committed by the Israeli occupation and its settlers, noting that the preceding month witnessed 16 Israeli violations.

Over the past month, it was noticed that the scope of violations committed by settlers against Palestinian journalists and media outlets, some of which took place in the presence and even with the involvement of Israeli soldiers. Israeli settlers and soldiers assaulted three press crews of Palestine TV during a live broadcast organized by the TV in several neighborhoods in Hebron, and tried to prevent them from carrying out their work, even though no major events were taking place in the city. In the presence of soldiers, the settlers also assaulted 8 journalists and chased them with dogs while they were covering a peaceful march in Tawameen area in Hebron, which led to the injury of two of them (Hamza Al-Khattab and Mashhour Al-Wahwah) who got wounded and bruised, not to mention preventing them from media coverage.

 

Among the most notable assaults of the occupation documented over this month are the injury of journalists Mahmoud Shehdah Farash and Abdelhafeeth Al-Hashlamoun, with minor burns due to the sound bombs fired at them by the occupation soldiers while they were interviewing during a peaceful event (planting trees in an area threatened with confiscation in Halhoul), the injury of journalist Fadi Abdelraheem Yaseen by a sound bomb fired directly at his back by one of the occupation soldiers while covering a march against settlement in Kafr Qadoum, even though he was 70 meters away from the soldiers stationed on the roof of a residence, and the injury of Palestine TV cameraman Samer Habash while trying to escape from the soldiers who were targeting journalists with gas bombs while covering a march against settlement in Beit Dajan, and the arrest of the cameraman Mohammad Sharaqa after raiding his house at dawn.

 

The Palestinian Violations:

The Palestinian violations committed this month have decreased. These violations are limited to the arrest of journalist Ameed Shehadeh by the General Investigations in the West Bank, preventing MAAN TV staff (composed of the reporter Fidaa Mohammad Hels and the cameraman Ahmad Ibrahim Ghabayen) in addition to Al-Ghad Al-Arabi TV cameraman Ahmad Salman, by Hamas Police, from covering a sit-in organized by owners of local markets (basta) demanding to be allowed to presume their work suspended since the spread of COVID-19 pandemic a year ago, noting that the preceding month has witnessed 8 Palestinian violations, two of which committed in the West Bank and 6 in Gaza Strip. 

 

The Violations of Social Media Companies:

Facebook Company has closed a Facebook news page named "Beit Fajjar" managed by the journalist Ali Taqatqa, and two personal accounts for him, claiming to violate the standards of Facebook, while TikTok closed the account of Quds News Network without prior notice or explanation of the reasons thereof.

 

Details of Violations:

(1st Jan.) The occupation soldiers have prevented a group of journalists from covering a peaceful march against settlement in Deir Jreir, Ramallah.

The journalists: Isam Huda Al-Rimawi, Anatolia Agency cameraman and Al-Hayat Al-Jadida Newspaper cameraman, Abbas Al-Momani, the French Agency cameraman (51 years old), Hamza Shalash, Wafa Agency cameraman (31 years old), Imad Isaid, Associated Press Agency cameraman (52 years old), Abdelrahman Younes, a freelance cameraman (28 years old), Mohammad Turkman, Reuters Agency cameraman (53 years old), Majdi Ishtayya, AP Agency cameraman (38 years old), Adel Abu Neima, Reuters Agency cameraman (54 years old), at around 11:00PM, on Friday, corresponding 1st Jan. 2021, have arrived Al-Arma Mountain, Deir Jreir Village, Ramallah, to cover a peaceful march organized by the families of the village to protest against the construction of an outpost in that area. Once the march arrived the said area, the soldiers fired gas bombs at the demonstrators and journalists, and threatened the journalists asking them to move away and stop covering the incident. The journalists indeed responded and moved back more than once, but the soldiers kept chasing them and preventing them from covering the event, until 1:30PM, when the journalists left.

 

(1st Jan.) TikTok Platform deleted the account of Quds News Network on 1st Jan. 2021.

Hamza Ameen Al-Shwaiki (24 years old) stated that he was in charge of this account, who is the presenter of programs in Quds News Network. He said that when he arrived, on Friday morning, corresponding 1st Jan. 2021, he tried to log into the account, and a message popped out reading “you have logged out”. He asked his coworkers about it, but they said that they did not log into or out of the account. Later, he found that Quds Network account was closed by TikTok Platform without prior notice. In his capacity as the person in charge of the account, Al-Shwaiki tried for two days to communicate TikTok Platform via e-mail and via a supportive account, but he did not receive any response. He also tried to create a new account in the name of the previous account, but to no avail. Note that Quds News Network publishes through its account on "TikTok" platform, social, political, cultural, historical and geographical content related to Palestine, in addition to introductory videos of some areas in Palestine. It also gives space for young people to express their opinions and ideas by publishing their own videos, in addition to publishing news about the practices of the Israeli occupation against Palestinian civilians.

 

 

It should be noted that the TikTok account of Quds News Network has received previous notices on some of the videos it posts, but usually the account would object to TikTok Administration and the latter would respond. For a while the notices stopped, but the account this time got closed without even sending any prior notice or reasoned explanation.

 

(2nd Jan.) Facebook Company closed a news page for the photojournalist Ali Taqatqa, and few days later prevented Taqatqa from posting in another two personal accounts belonging to him.

On 2nd Jan. 2021, Facebook Company closed a page called “Beit Fajjar City” for the freelance photojournalist Hamad Ali Taqatqa (29 years old), followed by 47,000 users, without sending any prior notice to Taqatqa. A week later, specifically on 8th Jan. 2021, Facebook Company prevented Taqatqa from posting for a month in two other pages that he has, one of which holding an Arabic name while the other holds an English name. He usually posts through these pages local, Arab and international news. He was prevented from posting without receiving any prior notice, but he received about 51 notifications from Facebook Company claiming he violates Facebook posting standards.

 

(5th Jan.) Two journalists, Mahmoud Farash and Abdelhafeeth Al-Hashlamoun, were injured with minor burns after being targeted by the occupation soldiers while they were live covering a peaceful march against settlement in Halhoul.

Palestine TV reporter in Hebron, Mahmoud Shehdah Abdullah Farash (33 years old), and his coworker the TV cameraman Iyad Abdelhafeeth Al-Hashlamoun (30 years old), along with two other journalists, have arrived Al-Jomjoma Mount in Halhoul, at around 11:30PM, on 5th Jan. 2021, to cover peaceful popular event (planting olive trees) in that area threatened with settlement, In the presence of occupation soldiers and Palestinian citizens taking part in the event. While they were live covering the event, Palestine TV reporter Mahmoud Farash interviewed Waleed Assaf, the Head of Colonization & Wall Resistance Commission, and Mahmoud Al-Aloul, the Deputy of Fateh Official, who were taking part in the event, and in the meantime, the occupation army soldiers threw two sound bombs at the TV staff (the reporter and cameraman, Mahmoud Farash and Iyad Al-Hashlamoun), to impede their live broadcast, resulting in their injury with minor burns in the legs. Despite their injury, they continued covering the event until 12:30PM.

 

(11th Jan.) The Police in Gaza prevented MAAN TV staff and Al-Ghad Al-Arabi TV cameraman from covering a sit-in organized by the owners of local markets demanding to be allowed to resume their work suspended since the spread of COVID-19 one year ago.

The journalist Fida Mohammad Hils (29 years old), the reporter of MAAN TV, and the cameraman Ahmad Ibrahim Ghabayen (37 years old), along with Al-Ghad Al-Arabi TV cameraman Ahmad Salman, arrived, around 10:00AM, on 11th Jan. 20201, in front of the Legislative Council in Gaza, to cover the sit-in of hundreds of owners of local markets demanding to be allowed to go back to work after a one-year suspension since the spread of COVID-19. While the three journalists were preparing to cover the sit-in, one of the police officers who were guarding the Legislative Council HQ (around 10 police officers) approached the journalist Fida Hils, while she and her coworker were preparing to cover the event. He told them that “it is prohibited to film here” and told Al-Ghad TV cameraman the same. As a result, the journalists tried to contact the media of the Legislative Council to enable them to cover the sit-in, but no one responded. They also tried to convince the police to allow them to cover the event but the latter refused claiming that the sit-in was organized without an authorization from the Ministry of Interior, even though the demonstrators stated that they were unaware of such information and did not know that such sit-in requires an authorization.

The journalists were in the location for half an hour and then left without filming the sit-in for fear of being harmed or damaging their equipment.

(11th Jan.) The Israeli settlers and soldiers assaulted a group of Palestine TV reporters and cameramen, during a live broadcast program devoted by the TV to the city of Hebron, with the participation of several press crews deployed in several places in the Old City on the morning of 11th Jan. 2021.

These crews included: reporter Sari Hijazi Al-Awaiwi (32 years old), his accompanying cameraman Hamza Al-Sudani, the reporter Farah Al-Shawa, the cameraman Iyad Al-Hashlamoun, the reporter Azmi Waleed Banat (30 years old), Mahmoud Shehdah Abdullah Farash (33 years old), the accompanying cameraman Thaer Faqousa, and journalist Alaa Karaja. These crews distributed in Wadi Al-Husain area, Al-Sahla Street and the Sanctuary of Abraham. As the crews finished completing the necessary preparations to start the live broadcast at 8:00AM, the Israeli settlers and soldiers began deploying in the Old City of Hebron trying to prevent the crews from carrying out their work and assaulted some of them. The reporter, Farah Al-Shawa and her accompanying cameraman, Iyad Al-Hashlamon, were pushed and their camera lenses were closed by the settlers and soldiers, in addition to making sounds to confuse them and disrupt their live broadcast in the part dedicated to this team at Al-Shuhada Street. The team that included the reporter Sari Al-Awaiwi and Hamza Al-Sudani, that was in Al-Sahla Street, was also assaulted by an extremist settler known with his assaults against the media crews, named “Ofer”. The aforementioned settler deliberately stood in front of the camera and harassed the guest who was speaking to the television, and closed the camera lens, while soldiers approached to pull the journalist, Sari, and pushed him more than once while he was speaking live on the air. After this team finished its part, the settler "Ofer" and some soldiers moved to Jaber neighborhood, in which another group of television was present, including the reporter Mahmoud Farash and Thaer Fqousa in addition to one of the guests of the program, and he repeated the same with them as the settler "Ofer" tried to prevent the journalist Farash from live broadcasting until the journalist Farash and his guest had to move to several places to finish the broadcast.

(15th Jan.) The photojournalist Fadi Yaseen was injured by a sound bomb fired at him by an Israeli soldier directly while he was covering a march against settlement in Kafr Qadoum.

Fadi Abdelraheem Ibrahim Yaseen (41 years old), a photojournalist of Palestine TV, has arrived, along with another number of journalists on Friday morning, corresponding 15th Jan. 2021, Kafr Qadoum, to cover the weekly march organized there against settlement. At noon, while Fadi Yaseen was on the top of a hill about 70 meters away from the location of the occupation forces, which are usually deployed in the area to suppress the weekly march there, and the soldiers were present in three areas surrounding the journalists and demonstrators who were in the middle of the places where the soldiers were deployed, at about 12:30PM, while the journalists were covering the peaceful march, one of the soldiers fired a rubber bullet at Fadi and two journalists who were next to him, but it did not hit anyone. Few minutes later, a soldier standing on the roof of a house fired a sound bomb directly at the cameraman Fadi Yaseen, injuring him in the back, and it caused the vest to burn without causing him any harm as a result of wearing the protective vest.

 

(22nd Jan.) The occupation forces have targeted a group of journalists to prevent them from covering a march against settlement in Beit Dajan, eastern Nablus.

The journalists, Samer Mustafa Habash (36 years old), Palestine TV cameraman in Nablus, Baker Abdelhaq, Palestine TV cameraman in Nablus, the freelance cameraman Ashraf Abu Shawesh, and the French Press Agency cameraman Jafar Ishtayya, have arrived, on Friday noon, 22nd Nov. 2021, Beit Dajan, to cover a march against the construction of an outpost in the town territories. At about 1:30PM, a force from the occupation army arrived at the gathering place of protesters and journalists, and asked the journalists to leave the place immediately, and the soldiers began throwing sound bombs to disperse the demonstrators and journalists who tried to flee and move away with their equipment, resulting in the injury of the cameraman Samer Habash to fall and twist his foot while trying to flee and get away from the place.

 

(23rd Jan.) Israeli settlers assaulted 8 journalists and attacked them with dogs, while they were covering a peaceful march against settler assaults in Al-Tawameen area, Hebron governorate.

On Saturday, corresponding 23rd Jan. 2021, a group of journalists, including: Raed Al-Sharif, reporter for Al-Ghad TV, Mamoun Wazwaz, cameraman of Chinese Xinhua Agency, Hamza Mohammad Hattab, a cameraman of Wafa Agency, Mashhour Hassan Al-Wahawah, Wafa Agency reporter, Yusri Al-Jamal, cameraman of Reuters Agency, the photojournalist Ihab Al-Alami Musab Shawer, cameraman of Al-Hadath Newspaper, Sari Jaradat, a photojournalist, arrived on Saturday 23rd Jan. 2021 Tawameen area to cover a peaceful march organized there, to protest against the repeated attacks by settlers against Palestinian farmers in the area, and those targeting a Palestinian family living in a cave in its land. Upon completing the coverage, a large occupation force arrived and closed the area, and announced it as “military closed”, and ted the citizens and foreign demonstrators who were at the bypass road No. 60, close to settlement block in the area. When the journalists arrived road 60, it was 1:00PM, and they were surprised with a group of settlers in the area. The latter started assaulting the journalists and attacking with their dogs. The journalists withdrew from the area, and as they withdrew, the settlers and their dogs chased them, which led to the collapse and fall of Wafa Agency cameraman Hamza Al-Hattab, while the settlers were running behind him, causing a slight injury to his left hand as a result of his fall. In those moments, the well-known Wafa reporter, Al-Wahwah, was subjected to chasing, expulsion, insult and cursing with profanity and racist expressions by the settlers, while one of them released dogs to attack him, causing bruises to his left leg as a result of a forceful fall while trying to escape. All journalists had to leave at around 1:30PM.

 

(28th Jan.) The occupation forces detained three journalists while they were covering the demolish of Palestinian residencies in Jericho.

The journalists, Palestine TV cameraman in Jericho, Omar Ahmad Abu Awad (34 years old), the Reuters cameraman Adel Ibrahim Abu Nimah (52 years old), Wafa Agency cameraman Suleiman Abu Sorour (37 years old), learned about the demolition operation in Al-Wadi Al-Ahmar area near Fasayil Village, Jericho, at about 9:30AM, on Thursday 28th Jan. 2021 and immediately went to the place to cover the demolish, and they arrived at about 10:10AM, but they could not reach the place by car, so they had to walk for 40 minutes. When they arrived the site of the incident, two soldiers approached them and asked them to move away 200 meters and cover what was happening from that distance, and they responded to that, but after about 20 minutes an officer came to two female soldiers and apparently told them to allow the journalists to approach, the soldier called them and allowed them to approach. After filming the event, interviewing some citizens whose residencies were targeted, they moved at 11:40PM towards their cars, but this time they took a shorter way leading to their cars based upon some advice from the people around them, some of whom actually helped them carrying the filming equipment, and after walking 100 meters on foot, an Israeli civil liaison vehicle stopped them, and soon later the military jeeps that were present in the demolish aria and the truck that moved the residences and facilities after the demolish, arrived. An Israeli officer told the journalists they were arrested, asked for their IDs and left there for half an hour. Then asked them to walk in the center of the army forces until they passed the demolishing area and reached a sports track for settlers. Another officer told them that their vehicle (the TV vehicle) will be seized claiming they were in a military training area. When journalist Omar Abu Awad told them that the officer in charge allowed them to be there and cover the demolishing, but did not tell him it was a banned area and there is no sign indicating that. The journalist asked them for a letter proving that it is banned to enter this area, however, the officer did not show any. The soldiers continued the detention of journalists inside their vehicle, and after an hour and a half of detention, the officer gave them back their personal IDs and allowed them to leave, threatening them to never come back to this area or they will be arrested.

 

(28th Jan.) The occupation forces, at dawn, on Thursday 28th Jan. 2021, arrested the photojournalist Mohammad Ahmad Atta Sharaqa, after raiding his house in Jalazon Camp, northern Ramallah.

A force of the occupation army stormed the family house of the cameraman, Sharaqa, and asked about him by name, searched the house and arrested him without taking anything. He was transferred to the Etzion settlement compound where the Intelligence HQ is located, and it is not known yet (February 1) what charge he was arrested for, noting that Sharaqa, a graduate of Al-Quds Abu Dis University, from the Press Department, has not yet worked with any organization on a regular basis.

(31st Jan.) The Palestinian Investigations in Nablus, arrested on Sunday 31st Jan. 2021 the journalist Ameed Shehada on the background of what he posted about Mousa Prophet Tomb and for leasing one of his companies for its management thereof.

The journalist Ameed Zayed Shehada (35 years old), from Ajja village, Jenin, a reporter of Al-Arabi TV, received, on Saturday evening, 30th Jan. 2021, a phone call from the General Investigations in Nablus asking him to come on the following morning (noting that on Saturday he had visited the Investigations Office with his sister who was summoned and questioned about the internet access line registered in her name, used by an “anonymous person” named Ameed Shehada-whom she was with- to post on Facebook). Thus, he told them that he is not going as few hours earlier he was there and they did not charge him with any accusation requiring his summons again after few hours. He told them to send him a written request or send him a patrol if they wanted him (or to arrest him). Indeed, at about 11:00PM, a patrol of Jenin Investigations arrived at his home, and they treated him very respectfully, delivered a summons to him, and spoke to him and told Nablus investigation by phone that there was no problem and the journalists does not mind going with them at the time. But in the end, they did not take him provided he must show up the following morning to Nablus Investigations. Indeed, the following morning he arrived at around 9:00AM, they tried to take his statement on what he wrote and posted on Facebook the other day when he accompanied his sister. They informed him that a complaint has been filed against him (by a company in Nablus) in connection to what he posted about leasing Mousa Prophet Tomb to one of the companies to manage. It should be noted that this complaint is not build on what journalist Ameed posted, but on similarity of names between the intended company and the one that filed the complaint (journalist Shehada cleared the matter in a dedicated post saying who is the intended company and even posted the owner’s name). Based on that, the Investigations informed him, at 11:00PM, that he should be transferred to the prosecution office, but he was not transferred to the prosecution without knowing the reason for that, and the director decided to detain him for 24 hours. The journalist, Shehada, declined an offer of a "amicable" solution during his arrest on the grounds that he had committed no mistake and insisted on that. On the evening of the same day (Sunday 31st Jan. 2021) a representative of the Journalists Syndicate and lawyer Ahmad Al-Ashqar arrived at the Investigations HQ to release him, and at about 6:30PM, it was decided to release the journalist Ameed Shehada on a personal bail, but this was at about 10:00PM.