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MADA: (44) Violations against Media Freedoms during June, the most serious is the murder of Journalist WARASNAH

Ramallah – July 2022. June has witnessed a decline in the number of violations committed against media freedoms in Palestine. In spite of this decline, and for the second month in a row, the status of media freedoms is witnessing deterioration in terms of the type and seriousness of assaults against journalists. The occupation forces have murdered the journalist GHOFRAN WARASNAH, the second journalist murdered in less than a month after the murder of AL-Jazira Reporter, SHIREEN ABU AKLEH, bringing the number of martyrs to journalism to 48 since 2000.

During June, MADA documented a total of 44 violations against media freedoms compared to a total of 64 violations documented in May. These violations are broken down as 26 committed by the Israeli occupation, 8 by Palestinian authorities, and 10 by social media companies.

 

Israeli Violations:

The number of Israeli violations committed against media freedoms in Palestine decreased by 53%, as MADA documented a total of 26 violations, compared to 49 violations committed last May. The percentage of Israeli violations amounted to 59% of the total violations committed during June.

The most serious violation was the execution of journalist GHOFRAN ABU ARASNAH while she was on her way to Dream Radio in Hebron on the first day of work.

As in most months, physical assaults recorded the greatest percentage out of the Israeli violations, as MADA documented eight physical assaults against Quds Network Cameraman MUTASEM SAQF ALHAIT, and the European Agency Cameraman ABDELHAFIZ ALHASHLAMOUN. Furthermore, the Army soldiers, by spraying pepper gas, physically assaulted: Quds Network reporter ABDULLAH BAHSH, Reuters Agency reporter RANEEN SAWAFTAH, Reuters Agency cameraman ADEL ABU NIMA, Palestine TV cameraman AMEER SHAHEEN, the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission cameraman MOHAMMED HAMDAN, and J-Media Agency cameraman LAITH JA’AR, and banned them all from coverage.

By pushing, kicking, and cursing, the occupation forces targeted the journalist MUSAB SHAWER, Hebron Radio and Al-Sanabel Radio reporter, SARI JARADAT, Quds News Network reporter, MAMOUN WAZWAZ who works for several local and international agencies, YOUSRI ALJAMAL and MOUSA ALQAWASMI, Reuters cameramen, and AZMI BANAT, Palestine TV reporter, to ban them from coverage.

BAHSH was threatened by one of the female soldiers with pepper gas spray if he keeps covering the event started by citizens at Tayaseer Checkpoint, eastern Tubas, against settlement.

The occupation authorities also arrested the reporter of Sanad Agency, MUSAB QAFISHA, and released him after four days of detention.

It is noteworthy that the Israeli occupation authorities renewed the administrative detention of journalist BUSHRA AL-TAWEEL for another three months during June, and she has been detained since March.

 

Palestinian Violations:

The number of Palestinian violations increased remarkably during June compared to the previous month. While MADA documented one Palestinian assault against media freedoms during May, this number rose to eight during June, representing 18% of the total violations committed.

The Palestinian security services and members of the Student Youth Movement assaulted J-Media cameraman LAITH JA’AR and smashed his camera while covering an event for the Islamic Party in front of An-Najah University, and he and his colleague MAHMOUD FAWZY were banned from covering. The Palestinian security services kidnapped the reporter of the same agency, SAMER KHWEIRA, beat and cursed him while he was near Rafidia Hospital, and threatened to kill him.

The Preventive Security Organization (PSO) in Nablus summoned the journalist SAMI DAR SHAMI, questioned and tortured him in various ways, including “chaining” for an hour and a half before he was released that night.

 

Social Media Violations:

During June, MADA documented ten violations committed by social media against media freedoms in Palestine, recording a decline of four points compared to May. The rate of these violations accounted for 23% out of the total violations documented this month.

The violations of social media were mostly committed by "Meta" and "Twitter". "Facebook" platform closed the account of Al-Irsal Network, and blocked the page of "Quds Press" Agency and three of its managers, but lifted the block two days later. It further restricted two pages of AMAD Media Agency reporter SAFINAZ ALLOUH for months and definitively closed the page of journalist YAHYA ALYACOUVI, Palestine Newspapers, and the page of freelance journalist HASSAN ISLAIH. Twitter further restricted the account of ISLAIH for four days.

 

Details of Violations:

(1st June) The Israeli occupation forces fired gunshots at the journalist GHOFRAN HAROUN HAMED WARASNAH (31 years old), near Al-Aroub refugee camp, north of Hebron, in the southern West Bank, while she was heading to her workplace, Dream Radio.

The journalist's brother, AHMED WARASNAH, stated that his sister, the journalist, GHOFRAN, left the house in the morning, on Wednesday, 1st June, at 7:30, heading to Dream Radio on her first working day on the radio.

While passing through "Al-Aroub Gate" checkpoint, located at the entrance of the camp, she was targeted with two explosive bullets in the chest, from a distance of no more than seven meters away, which blew her heart out directly and led to her death on the spot.

 

(3rd June) The Israeli occupation forces obstructed the work of journalist MOTASEM SAQF AL-HAIT, banned him from coverage, and assaulted him while covering the funeral of the child "ODEH SADAQAH" in the village of "Ni'lin" west of Ramallah on Friday.

Quds News Network cameraman MOTASEM SAMIR SAQF AL-HAIT, (32 years old), stated to MADA that he was at the entrance to Ni'lin at about 12:30PM, on Friday afternoon, along with his colleague, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida Newspaper cameraman, ISSAM AL-RIMAWI, to cover the funeral of the child "SADAQAH".

The occupation forces attacked the funeral cars upon arrival. The journalist MOTASEM approached to cover this attack, but the army soldiers assaulted him with shoving, which led to a slight injury to his right hand. They banned him from covering at gunpoint and forced him to move away therefrom.

 

(4th June) One of the occupation army soldiers threw a sound bomb directly at the journalist MUSAB SHAWER while covering clashes at Bab Al-Zawiya, central Hebron, on Saturday.

The reporter of Al-Khalil Radio and Al-Sanabel Radio, MUSAB ABDEL HAMID SHAWER TAMIMI, (30 years old), stated that he was standing alone in Bab Al-Zawiya area and was six meters away from the occupation soldiers to cover the clashes between citizens and occupation soldiers, and none of the journalists had reached therein for coverage purposes.

While covering the clashes, journalist SHAWER was targeted with a direct sound bomb, but it did not injure him.

 

(6th June) The Israeli occupation forces assaulted a group of journalists with pepper gas spray and obstructed their work while covering an event against settlement near Tayaseer Military Checkpoint, eastern Tubas, on Monday.

Quds News Network Reporter ABDULLAH TAYSEER BAHSH, (24 years old), stated to MADA that he was present along with a group of journalists (Reuters reporter RANEEN SAWAFTA, Reuters cameraman ADEL ABU NIMA, Palestine TV cameraman AMIR SHAHEEN, Colonization & Wall Resistance Commission cameraman MOHAMMAD HAMDAN, and J-Media Agency cameraman LAITH JA’AR) in covering an event against settlement, near Tayaseer Military Checkpoint, at about 12:00PM, on Monday.

Meanwhile, the occupation forces banned journalists from coverage and obstructed their work and tried to move them away from the place more than once. Even one of the female soldiers sprayed pepper gas in the face of all journalists present in the coverage.

The journalists received the necessary treatment in the ambulance, but the same female soldier continued to pursue journalist "BAHSH" after he returned to cover again and continued threatening to spray pepper gas in his face if he did not leave the place.

The event ended around 1:00PM and all the journalists left therefrom.

 

(7th June) The management of "Meta" Company restricted Al-Irsal Network Page on "Facebook" for a month and reduced the followers' access to the Network's posts, starting from the seventh of last June.

HANIN JAD ZAIDANI, (24 years old), an editor for Al-Irsal Network stated to MADA that on Tuesday, the Network received a message from Facebook Administration restricting the Network’s content for a period of one month, as the followers’ access to the posts was very controlled. The page’s admins also noticed another punitive measure, which was to reduce interaction on the page's posts.

These penalties came against the background of the Network's coverage of the events in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, which began during the previous months, according to what the editor of Al-Irsal Network, “ZAIDANI” stated.

This action by “Facebook” led the Network to post on the alternate page that was created some time ago in anticipation of such an action.

 

(8th June) Officers of the Palestinian security services and members of the Student Youth Movement assaulted, by beating, J-Media Agency cameraman LAITH JA’AR and smashed his camera. They further banned journalist MAHMOUD FAWZI from covering the events and activities of a press conference for the Islamic Party in front of An-Najah University in Nablus.

J-Media Agency cameraman, LAITH BASEM JA’AR, (25 years old) stated to MADA that at 12:00PM, on Wednesday, he headed to An-Najah University to cover a protest organized by the Islamic Party in the University against the policy practiced by the University Administration against the Party.

The three young men suddenly assaulted the cameraman by hitting him with their hands and punching him in the back and stomach, while the Intelligence Service officer seized the cameraman’s camera and smashed it after hitting it on the ground several times. When the cameraman tried to defend himself and the camera, a larger number of young men assaulted him, which led him to immediately flee.

Few minutes later, the cameraman returned to recover his "smashed camera", but three young men from the Youth Movement attacked and assaulted him again, and the University Security members followed and beat him.

Members of the Preventive Security Organization followed him in an attempt to catch him, but he escaped from them.

The cameraman JA’AR stated that journalist MAHMOUD FAWZY was there for coverage purposes, but four people asked him to withdraw and prevented him from covering the protest as soon as he arrived, so he withdrew directly.

The cameraman JA’AR went to the hospital to check on his health as he felt severe pain in the abdomen and back and received the necessary treatment.

 

(10th June) Facebook deleted the page of freelance journalist HASSAN ISLAIH without any prior notification.

The freelance journalist HASSAN ABDELFATTAH ISLAIH, (34 years old), stated that his page was followed by 440K followers, and it was deleted by Facebook on Friday without notifying or informing him of any breach he might have done.

The deletion was preceded by a set of restrictive measures on the page, such as limiting followers' access to posts, deleting some posts that include words such as (prisoner, or martyr), and other terms that are now prohibited by the application.

The journalist contacted Facebook in an attempt to recover his account but couldn’t make it happen. (Until the date of the present report).

Journalist ISLAIH stated that his Twitter account was also restricted in the period between 6th -10th June, as access to posts was greatly controlled, but he was able to communicate with Twitter Management and solve the problem.

 

(12th June) The occupation soldiers deliberately targeted the European Agency cameraman ABDEL HAFEEZ HASHLAMOUN with a sound bomb in the head while covering the clashes that erupted between Tarqumiya residents, west of Hebron, and the occupation soldiers on Sunday afternoon.

EPA cameraman ABDEL HAFEEZ HASHLAMOUN, (58 years old), from MADA, stated that he was in Tarqumiya, Hebron, around 12:00PM, to cover a peaceful sit-in organized by the residents against the confiscation of their lands for the benefit of settlement. HASHLAMOUN was standing in an area where there are no protesters and was wearing the press uniform.

After the start of the sit-in, the settlers gathered in the place and provoked the residents with their attacks. This resulted in the presence of the army forces therein and they began firing sound and gas bombs to disperse the demonstrators. While the cameraman HASHLAMOUN was covering the events, he was targeted with a sound grenade directly in the head and from a distance of no more than ten meters, which caused major bruising and bruises to the head despite wearing a light helmet, which led to taking him to the hospital where he received the necessary treatment.

The occupation forces also beat, kicked, pushed, assaulted, and insulted the cameramen and journalists who were with him, namely (SARI JARADAT, reporter of Quds News Network, MAMOUN WAZAZ, who works for several local and international agencies, Reuters cameraman YOUSRI AL-JAMAL and MOUSA AL-QAWASMI, MUSAB SHAWER, the reporter of Hebron Radio and Al-Sanabel Radio, and AZMI BANAT, Palestine TV reporter), and prevented them from covering, as the soldiers declared the area a closed military zone.

 

(14th June) Members of the Palestinian security services kidnapped journalist SAMER KHWEIRA for approximately 40 minutes while he was near Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, beat and insulted him on Tuesday afternoon.

J-Media Agency reporter in the northern West Bank, SAMER AMIN KHWEIRA, (41 years old), stated that he was in front of Rafidia Hospital in Nablus around 4:00PM, where he was waiting for his colleague, the cameraman LAITH JA’AR, who went to the Hospital to interview some students who were attacked by the security forces while participating in the sit-in organized by An-Najah National University students on Tuesday in front of the University.

As he was leaving the place, the journalist was surprised by a civilian car blocking his way. Four armed men in civilian clothes got out of it. They beat him and then kidnapped him in the car for about 40 minutes.

During this time, this group assaulted the journalist KHWEIRA by beating, shouting, insulting, and verbally abusing him. They accused him of bias against Fatah Movement and covering the news of the Islamic Party only. They told him that this is a message to him and next time he could be "killed", as one of them addressed him "The Preventive Security will take action”.

Journalist SAMER stayed with them in the car for about 40 minutes, and then one of them addressed him, "Your problem is with Fatah and you are abusing Fatah, and this continued incitement against Fatah will result in self-abuse”.

(14th June) Meta Company restricted two pages of journalist SAFINAZ ALLOUH for a month, based on posts that the journalist had published on the page.

AMAD Media reporter, SAFINAZ BAKER ALLOUH, (32 years old), stated to MADA that “Facebook” restricted her account on 14th June as she was banned from posting, commenting, and going live for an entire month. The company took this action after the journalist shared a video on the rivalries between Fatah and Hamas, as the video was immediately deleted, and the account was restricted.

The journalist tried to re-log into another page it has created previously which was also closed on 29th June after she launched a campaign about Palestinian prisoners and the need to release them, which led to the restriction of the second account also for a month, as the journalist was banned from posting, commenting, and going live.

 

(19th June) The Preventive Security Service in Nablus summoned journalist SAMI DAR SHAMI for an interview on Sunday, and detained him for long hours, during which he was subjected to a violent interrogation that included torture and ill-treatment, and he was released at nine o'clock that evening.

The freelance journalist, SAMI YOUSEF DAR SHAMI, (32 years old), stated that he received a summons by phone from the Preventive Security Service in Nablus on Wednesday 15th June, and that he would go for an interview on Sunday 19th June, without knowing the reason for the summons.

The journalist went to the headquarters to the Preventive Security Service at the Ministry of Interior in Nablus, at 10:30AM, on Sunday. Immediately he was taken down to the ground floor where the investigation rooms and cells are located, where the journalist handed over his phone and his belongings. The journalist was entered into the investigation room and underwent a long investigation about his political affiliation, his journalistic work, and his communication with journalists. The investigation included ill-treatment during which he was insulted, cursed, shouted at, and threatened with beatings on his face and sensitive parts of his body. He was also beaten several times on the shoulder and forced to stand for several hours and face a wall.

After five o'clock in the evening, he was taken handcuffed to Al-Junaid Prison, where they conducted a medical examination and returned him to the headquarters of the Preventive Service again, and his hands were tied from behind with a rope that was attached to one of the doors, where the journalist stood bent over for an hour and a half.

The investigation continued with him during this situation, during which he was asked questions about his media coverage and communication with fellow journalists, and which social media groups he is a member. The harsh treatment intensified when investigators learned that he did not have a membership card in the Journalists' Syndicate.

SAMI remained under investigation until the Preventive Security Service got a phone call from the Journalists’ Syndicate representative in Nablus, as the investigator addressed the journalist “someone stepped in, we are going to get you out of here”.

He was released at 09:00PM provided he returns to investigations on 28th June.

Journalist SAMI returned on the morning of Wednesday 28th June as scheduled to the Preventive Security headquarters, but he was not subject to investigation and left after about a quarter of an hour, and his mobile phone was recovered by the Syndicate’s representative on Tuesday evening.

 

(20th June) The occupation forces arrested the reporter of Sanad Agency, MUSAB KHAMIS QAFISHA (28 years old), after storming his house in Hebron at dawn on Monday, and released him after four days of detention.

MUSAB QAFISHA stated to MADA that a force of the occupation army, about 30 soldiers (a troop carrier and a military jeep), raided his house in Hebron, southern West Bank at about three in the morning on Monday and blew up the door of the house, seized his personal identity card and cell phone and took him to an unknown destination.

The journalist was taken to a military point he was unaware of, and at about 11:00PM, he was in Ofer Detention Center, where he was entered into the ward rooms.

The day after his arrest, QAFISHA was subjected to a two-hour investigation of his journalistic work and his coverage of the marches and receptions for the released prisoners.

MUSAB remained in detention until the date of the trial scheduled for Friday 24th June, but he was not brought before a prosecutor or a judge. He was released through "Al-Jib" crossing near Birnabala, while his family was waiting for him near Betunia.

 

(16th June) Meta Administration definitively deleted the Facebook account of Palestine Newspaper journalist YAHYA ALYACOUBI in Gaza Strip after sending him a message on the reasons for deletion.

The journalist YAHYA MOUSA ALYACOUBI, (32 years old), stated to MADA that on 16th June he was in Qatar to attend to attend an international ceremony, through which ALYACOUBI qualified for the finals by participating with press materials. After the ceremony ended, the journalist tried to access his Facebook account, only to find that it was down. He found a message stating that the account had been deleted as a result of the journalist posting a story about a martyr in Jenin a month ago.

ALYACOUBI made repeated attempts to create another account with the same name, but the account was deleted every time since the first minute of its creation, forcing him to seek help from another party to create another account.

(20th June) Meta blocked the Facebook pages of Quds Press Agency and three of the directors of the Agency but the deleted pages were recovered two days later.

AMER ABDELHAKEEM ABU ARAFA, who works for Quds Press Network stated that Quds Press Agency and the pages of three journalists who are directors of the Agency’s page and reside in Jordan was deleted on 20th June without any prior notification.

 

Soon, journalist THAER FAKHOURY contacted Facebook Administration and demanded the recovery of the deleted pages because they belong to a media agency and journalists work to publish news thereon.

Based on the foregoing, the deleted pages were restored two days after they were deleted, and the company claimed that deleting the pages was a mistake.