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MADA: 20 violations of media freedoms in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during March

Ramallah - (5/4/2021) - The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms "MADA" monitored and documented a total of 20 violations against media freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the month of March, most of which were committed by the Israeli occupation, compared to a total of 21 violations recorded during the month of February.

 

Israeli violations

The Israeli occupation forces, authorities and settlers committed a total of 15 attacks against media freedoms and press crews during the month of March. As it included the attack by a group of settlers on the Turkish Anatolian Agency staff, namely: (Mustafa Al-Kharouf, Fayez Abu Rumaila and Ejrippet Elalb), by beating and smashing their vehicle, while they were preparing a report on the Corona epidemic in the Asfrin neighborhood in the western part of Jerusalem. The Israeli army also prevented the Palestine TV crew, which included Omar Abu Awad, Fathi Brahma, Samer Abu Suleiman, Reuter’s photographer Adel Abu Nimah and Wafa photographer Suleiman Abu Sorour, from media coverage of the army’s demolition of Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley. The occupation soldiers detained the journalist, Mutassim Saqf Al-Hayt, after they handcuffed him for about three hours while he was on his way to cover an anti-settlement march in Beit Dajan, east of Nablus. The Israeli intelligence summoned the director of We One Company for Press, Media and Film Production, Akram Saeed Abu Shalabak, and interrogated him on charges of carrying out media activities inside Jerusalem. Journalist Mona Al-Qawasmi was arrested and deported from Al-Aqsa Mosque for a week and her photography equipment was seized. The Palestine TV crew (including Bakr Mamdouh and Mithqal al-Jayyousi), freelancer journalist Mahmoud Fawzi, and Quds News Network correspondent Abd al-Bahs were prevented from covering the settlers' storming of Jabal al-Urma in the town of Beita, south of Nablus. The Palestine TV crew in Hebron (including Jihad Al-Qawasmi, Areen Al-Amla and Iyad Al-Hashlamoun) were detained while preparing a report on settlement in the Ain Al-Bayda area, south of Hebron.

Palestinian violations

Last month witnessed a total of 5 violations committed by Palestinian parties in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (3 in Gaza, 2 in the West Bank), including summoning the Prosecutor for Institutions in Gaza, journalist Yusef Muhammad Faris, and interrogating him in connection with a complaint filed against him since 2020 by the Al Falah Charitable Society. On the pretext of a post on Facebook criticizing the performance of the association. Journalist Muhammad Awad was threatened with arrest and summoned twice through phone by unknown persons who once claimed that they were from the municipality of Nuseirat and from the police investigation at other time, then fom the police at a third time. Muhammad was threatened after he published a comment about the mayor of Nuseirat buying a jeep for 33 thousand dollars and renewing his office furniture at about 100 shekels. The Palestinian police arrested the journalist Mujahid Al-Saadi and assaulted him while covering a sit-in organized by women to protest the failure of the Palestinian security services to control conditions in the town of Burqin in Jenin, which witnessed repeated shootings.

 

Details of violations:

(1-3) The Institutions Prosecution Office in Gaza summoned the journalist Yusef Muhammad Faris and investigated with him about a complaint filed against him since 2020 by the Al-Falah Charitable Society due to a post he published criticizing the association’s performance. Yusef Muhammad Hussein Faris (32 years), who works for Naba Press Agency and the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper, stated that he received a summons from the Public Prosecution Office via a text message that he received on his personal phone on 2/28/2021, asking him to attend at exactly nine o'clock in the morning of the following day (Sunday 1 3/3/2021) to the Institutions Prosecution Office. Accordingly, the journalist went on the specified date to the Foundation Prosecution and after about half an hour of waiting, it became clear to him that his summoning was related to the complaint submitted against him by the Al-Falah Charitable Society due to a post he had previously published on his Facebook page criticizing the association’s performance and its humiliating behavior in fundraising. His interrogation began with reference to the investigation that took place with him at the North Investigation Center in November of 2020, and the investigator told him that in his post he had offended the association, the journalist Yusef told him that he spoke about a general association, which is part of his right and duty as a journalist. The investigator informed him that he was convicted of "misuse of technology" and the public prosecutor will be notified of this procedure to refer him to court. After the journalist Youssef left the Prosecution office at about 10:30 p.m., he received a call from the Al-Falah Charitable Society, informing him that they had withdrawn the complaints lodged against all those who had been exposed to them, and that they had no longer had a quarrel with him, and he could go to the association's lawyer office to obtain a paper proving the association's withdrawal of the complaint filed against him. He consulted one of his (non-specialized) friends who informed him that the prosecution is the current opponent even if the association dropped the complaint.

(3-3) Journalist Muhammad Awad received several arrest threats and two summons from unknown persons claiming that they were from the municipality of Nuseirat at one time and from the Mabahith of Nuseirat at other times, and from the police of the central governorate at a third time.

According to Muhammad Awad, who works as a reporter for Dunia al-Watan news agency in the Gaza Strip, he published on his personal Facebook page information related to the purchase of the mayor of Nuseirat, Iyad al-Maghari, a "jeep" of about 33 thousand dollars, and the renewal of his office furniture at about 100,000 shekels. Later, he received a call On Wednesday 3/3/2021, from a person claiming to be the head of the legal committee in the municipality of Nuseirat, asking him to delete the post, otherwise, he will be arrested, but journalist Muhammad Awad refused to deal with the unknown person who threatened him with arrest, and turned off his phone. About ten minutes later, he received another call from another unknown person and from an unknown number, claiming that he was from the Nuseirat investigation, asking him to come the next morning (Thursday 4/3/2021) to the Nuseirat police station, but the journalist refused to obey his orders and asked From him sending an official summons to his home or place of work, and the caller promised him to do so. After about three days, citizens of his neighborhood told him that a civilian car was carrying several people, asking about his house location. On 3/14/2021, a person claimed to be from Abu Arban Police Station in the Central Governorate called to summon him to the police station on the background of a complaint filed against him by the mayor of Nuseirat, but the journalist refused that, and asked the caller to send him an official summons to his office or home.

(3-3) On the morning of Wednesday 3/3/2021, Israeli settlers attacked the crew of the Turkish Anatolia Agency, while they were preparing a report in Jerusalem, and smashed the windows of their vehicle.

The photojournalists Mustafa Al-Kharouf, Fayez Hamza Abu Rumaila, and the Turkish journalist Egret Elalb, works for the Turkish Anadolu Agency arrived at around 12:00 p.m on Wednesday 3/3/2021 Al-Asfreen district in West Jerusalem to prepare a report on the neighborhood in light of the spread of Corona virus, and they parked their car in the neighborhood and walked on foot to the so-called “Saturday roundabout”. About an hour later, while they were working, a car passed by them and told them that their car was attacked and destroyed. Then they went to the car and found it destroyed and saw a group of settlers were gathering around it. Journalist Fayez Abu Rumaila called the Israeli police and informed them that the Turkish Anadolu Agency videographers' car had been attacked by right-wing settlers who were, at that time, besieging them and refusing to move away from the car. Police officers came to the scene and asked the journalists to remove the car from the scene. They managed to do that with difficulty, as the settlers did not stop their attack, they start beating and throwing eggs at them. The journalists submitted an official complaint to the Israeli police station in the Russian compound regarding the assault on them and their car, but they were not informed of any results until the moment of preparing this report.

(3-10) The occupation forces prevented several journalist crews from covering demolitions that they carried out in the village of Ein Shibli in the Jordan Valley, and attacked them.

Palestine TV reporter in Jericho, Omar Ahmed Abu Awad (34 years), said that he went to the village of Ein Shibli Wednesday morning to cover demolitions after knowing that an Israeli army force had stormed the area. When he reached the "Hamra" military checkpoint, he found that the army closed it and prevented him with his colleagues on the Palestine TV crew, (Fathi Brahma a reporter, Samer Abu Suleiman, a television cameraman, Adel Ibrahim Abu Nimah a photographer for Reuters Agency, and Suleiman Abu Sorour a photographer for Wafa Agency), from passing through, which forced them to take A bypass road to reach the site of the demolitions. After a journey that took about an hour and a half by car via the bypass road, they reached the Ain Shibli area at about 11:45 pm, and there they walked about 200 meters to the site of the demolition, where a crowd of citizens was demonstrating against it, while large numbers of soldiers (About 150-200) were deployed in the area trying to move the citizens and the journalists from the place. While the aforementioned journalists (who were among the protesting citizens) attempted to document the demolitions. From a distance of about a meter and a half, the soldiers sprayed them and the demonstrators directly with a substance resembling tear gas to prevent them from documenting and to deport the demonstrators, the journalists were forced to leave the place around 1:15 p.m. after the army ended the demolitions without being able to document the event.

(3-12) The Israeli occupation soldiers detained the journalist, Mutasim Saqf Al-Hayt, after they handcuffed him for about three hours, while he and a group of journalists were heading to cover a march against settlement in Beit Dajan, east of Nablus.

The Quds News Network reporter, Mutasim Samir Saqf Al-Hayit (31 years), and journalists Khaled Sabarneh, reporter of the Iranian channel, and Pal Post photographer Saja Al-Alami, arrived at about eleven o'clock in the morning on Friday 3/12/2021 at the military checkpoint at the entrance of Beit Furik village, east of Nablus, heading to the nearby village of Beit Dajan, to cover the weekly peaceful anti-settlement march there. When they reached the checkpoint, the soldiers forced them to get out of the cars and released them, but the soldiers confiscated Saqf Al-Hayit card and handcuffed him and took him to a room near the military checkpoint and held him there for about three hours until the responsible officer came and released him without interrogating or asking questions, or explaining to him the reason of detention.

(3-13) The Palestinian police arrested the freelancer journalist Mujahid Ahmad Saeed Al-Saadi (31 years) while covering a sit-in organized by the women of Burqin town in the city of Jenin, on Saturday (3/13/2021).

The women of the town of Broqin had organized a protest in front of the district headquarters in Jenin, against the "failure" of the Palestinian security services to control conditions in the town, which for weeks witnessed repeated shootings due to disputes between families from the town. Freelancer journalist Mujahid al-Saadi received an invitation to document the protest. He went to the location and as soon as he began filming the sit-in around 12:00 p.m using his phone, one of the security personnel at the gate of the district asked him to stop filming, and tried to grab him by his shirt.

 At those moments, five policemen came to the scene and beat Al-Saadi with their hands, confiscated his three phones, and took him to the city police station, where they recorded his testimony. Al-Saadi was surprised by a field report that arrived at the police station claiming that he had assaulted the policeman and obstructed his work during the altercation that took place between them during the sit-in. He was detained and transferred to the directorate responsible for the detainees, and there he was transferred to medical services as an introduction to his arrest. While he was transferred to the cell for his detention, the center received a phone call to return him to the city police station. There, he found the head of the Journalists Syndicate and a number of his relatives at the center, and he was released at about 3:30 in the afternoon.

(3-17) The occupation intelligence in Jerusalem summoned the director of We One company for Press, Media and Film Production, Akram Saeed Abu Shalabek (52 years) for interrogation.

On Monday 3/16/2021, Abu Shalbak received a phone call from the occupation intelligence on Monday 3/16, asking him to come to rooms No. 4 for interrogation at exactly ten o'clock in the morning of the next day 3/17/2021.

Abu Shalbak went on the appointed date, and there he was interrogated for two and a half hours on charges of carrying out media activities inside Jerusalem. The investigation with him focused on his media work and how he does it, and the nature of the media events he attends and how he is invited to them. The officer who interrogated him also asked him if he knew any of the members of the Palestinian security services who had a Jerusalem ID. After the investigation was over, Abu Shalbak left the place but the officer told him that the senior official in the larger section wanted to speak to him, but he was busy at the moment, and therefore he will be summoned again without setting a date.

(3-22) The Israeli forces prevented a group of journalists from documenting the storming by settlers of Jabal Al-Arma in the town of Beita, south of Nablus, and threatened to target them and destroy their cameras if they documented it.

A number of journalists went to the Jabal Al-Arma area in the town of Beita, south of Nablus, on Monday morning 3/22/2021 to document a demonstration organized by the townspeople to protest against the incursion that settlers had announced in advance that they would implement it in the area they were trying to control. The journalists Bakr Abdel Haq, Palestine TV reporter in Nablus governorate, Fadi Mithqal al-Jayyousi, Palestine TV cameraman, freelance journalist Mahmoud Fawzi, and Abdullah al-Bahs, reporter and photographer of the Quds News Network arrived at the top of the mountain to cover the demonstration and the storming, while groups of protesters spread down the mountain. At about 11:20 am a force of the occupation army arrived at the site and informed the journalists that they had 3 minutes to evacuate the place and threatened them with fire if they were late, also threatened to destroy their cameras if they filmed. Accordingly, the journalists who were on the top of the mountain were forced to go down, and when they reached the bottom of the mountain, the soldiers began to shine a green light on them, and every time they shone a light at them, a gas firing would follow in order to disperse them and prevent them from documenting the demonstration, which forced the journalists to move away from the scene.

22-3) The Israeli occupation forces detained the Palestine TV crew while they were preparing a report on settlements south of Hebron.

The Palestine TV crew, consisting of the director of the Radio and Television Corporation in Hebron, Jihad Ali Al-Qawasmi (49 years), TV reporter Areen Al-Amleh, and TV cameraman Iyad Al-Hashlamoun, went on the morning of 3/22/2021 to the "Ain Al-Baida" area, south of Hebron, to prepare a report on that area as it being attacked by settlers. After the crew finished their work around ten o'clock in the morning, three Israeli soldiers arrived and asked them for their cards and photographed them and asked them why they were there, claiming that it was a "closed military zone." The soldiers called the Israeli police, and after the police officers came, they asked the same questions and held them for about 10 minutes and released them.

(3-29) The Israeli police arrested the journalist, Mona Al-Qawasmi, on Monday 3/29/2021 from the Al-Aqsa Mosque squares, and transferred her to one of her centers in occupied Jerusalem, and seized her equipment. In the evening hours, she was released on condition of being removed from the Al-Aqsa Mosque for a week.

(3-30) The Israeli occupation intelligence summoned the journalist Nour-eddin Banat for an interview in Gush Etzion.

The freelance journalist Nour-eddin Muhammad Banat (26 years) from Hebron received a phone call from an Israeli intelligence officer who identified himself as Captain "Karam" at about 8 p.m. Monday, March 29, 2021, informing him of the need to review the Israeli intelligence at its headquarters in the Gush Etzion settlement complex north of Hebron. Accordingly, the next morning, at 9:00 in the morning of 3/30/2021, the journalist arrived at the intelligence headquarters, where the soldiers searched him, and he remained waiting for about 15 minutes, before he was transferred for an investigation, which lasted about two hours. He was interrogated about his work, the events he document, whether he published news about the death of Abu Asif al-Barghouti (a leader in Hamas), and if he was trying to prevent people during confrontations with the soldiers in the demonstrations? The investigator also asked him about some of his friends on his Facebook page. He was released at around 11:15 pm.