Media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territories suffered a setback in June 2012, due to Israel's continued policy of targeting journalists, and due to fading hopes for the implementation of the Palestinian reconciliation agreements, which was reflected negatively on media freedoms , and the violations committed against journalists by various parties continued last month.
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) monitored the disturbing violations against journalists – most notably the Iraeli occupation's on-going policy of arresting journalists, extending their administrative detention and preventing them from covering events.
On the Palestinian side, the level of media freedoms fell for the second consecutive month, due to violations committed by various Palestinian parties in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israeli occupation violations:
Israeli occupation forces arrested Hebron's Al-Aqsa Radio correspondent Sharif Alrjoub on Sunday, 3 June 2012. Israeli authorities also extended the administrative detention of Palestine News Network (PNN) and Al Kaleej Emirates newspaper correspondent Amin Abu Wardeh, for another four months, on Sunday, 10 June 2012.
Israeli occupation forces threw a tear gas grenade at Watan TV correspondent Nibal Farsakh during her coverage of the anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip near Israel's Ofer prison, south of Ramallah, on Tuesday, 5 June 2012. They also prevented journalists who held local press cards from covering the events of the weekly march against the settlement in the village of Nabi Saleh, west of Ramallah, on Friday, 8 June 2012.
In Hebron, Israeli occupation forces detained Al-Aqsa TV cameraman Osaid Amarneh for two hours while he was covering the events of the anniversary of the occupation, on Tuesday, 5 June 2012.
The past month has seen a further deterioration in media freedoms, with numerous violations committed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, causing tension and concern among journalists and observers of the status of media freedoms in Palestine.
On Sunday, 3 June 2012, internal security services in Gaza City arrested Palestinian Network cameraman Rami Abu Marahel during his participation in the campaign 'Lazem tozbot', or 'It must be done', which calls for an end to the Palestinian division in the yard of the Unknown Soldier. He was released at 3pm the same day. Internal security services also arrested an employee of the Prisoners Media Department, journalist Mohamed Qunetah, on Sunday, 13 June 2012. The chief editor of 'Alsho'la' newspaper Sahir Aqra' was arrested while after a meeting with Amnesty International, on Tuesday, 19 June 2012. He was released after two days.
Freelance journalist Yahya Almadhoun was summoned on Sunday, 17 June 2012 to internal security headquarters in Jabalia.
In the West Bank the Palestinian police prevented Al-Aqsa TV cameraman Osaid Amarneh from filming a protest sit-in for the relatives of Palestinian political prisoners. The protest was being held in front of the Palestinian Authority prison, in Hebron, on Wednesday, 6 June 2012. Guards from Guest House Palace in Bethlehem also prevented Quds channel correspondent Mamdouh Hamamrah from covering the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Bethlehem, on Tuesday, 26 June 2012.
On 14 June 2012, unknown persons ransacked the office of Al-Quds newspaper correspondent Najib Farraj in Bethlehem, damaging newspapers and reports dating back to the 1990s. In addition, people in civilian clothes belonging to the police attacked freelance journalist Mohamad Jaradat who was covering a march in Ramallah on Saturday, 30 June 2012.
Conclusion and recommendations:
MADA condemns Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists, particularly their continued policy of detaining journalists, such as the detention of journalist Sharif Rajoub for the past month. There are now five Palestinian journalists detained in Israeli prisons. They are: Amin Abu Warda, Nawaf Al Amer, Waleed Khalid, Amer Abu Arafa, and Sherif Rajoub.
MADA Center demands that international bodies and human rights organizations exercise real pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities to cease attacks against journalists in the occupied Palestinian territories and to release the five detained journalists.
MADA also renewed its condemnation of the Palestinian violations, and expressed grave concern for the deterioration of media freedoms in Palestine. MADA welcomes the decision by President Mahmoud Abbas to form a committee to investigate the attacks against demonstrators and journalsts in Ramallah on 30 June and 1 July. However, we believe that the situation demands a serious response from journalists, human rights organizations and other concerned individuals or groups, to prevent such attacks in the future. These assaults are contrary to the Palestinian Basic Law, which guarantees freedom of opinion and expression.
Details of violations:
3 June 2012 - Israeli occupation forces arrested Al-Aqsa Radio correspondent Sharif Alrajoub in Hebron on Sunday, 3 June 2012. According to his brother, Mahmoud Alrajoub, the infantry unit of the Israeli forces surrounded the house at 12:30am, including three military jeeps, an Israeli officer knocked on the door and ordered them to come outside. The officer said that he wanted to arrest his brother. Mahmoud Alrajoub added: "My father told the officer that Alrajoub was to be married in a few days but the officer did not respond and he did not explain the reason for my brother's arrest. the officer took him away by force and he is now in Ofer Israeli detention camp without charge."
3 June 2012 - Internal security services in Gaza City arrested Palestinian Network cameraman Rami Abu Marahel during his participation in the campaign 'Lazem Tozbot', which calls for an end to the Palestinian division in the yard of the Unknown Soldier. His friend, Nasr Abu Elfoul, told MADA Center that the Hamas Government internal security forces arrested Abu Marahel while he was filming the campaign, which was held simultaneously in Gaza and the West Bank. Abu Elfoul said they took Abu Marahel to the headquarters of internal security at Ansar. Abu Elfoul said that his friend was released at 3pm that day. He said the arrest was made on the pretext that Abu Marahel wasn't carrying his press card.
5 June 2012 - Israeli occupation forces attacked Watan TV correspondent Nibal Farsakh during her coverage of the anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip near Israel's Ofer detention camp near Ramallah. Farsakh told MADA Center that she was covering the events of the anniversary of 'Alnaksah' and moved from the Israeli side to the demonstrators' side, to interview them. At that time, she says that one of the Israeli soldiers threw a tear gas grenade at her and she was having trouble breathing. Farsakh added: "I received first aid from the Red Crescent volunteers, including oxygen, then I regained my strength and continued my work at the scene."
5 June 2012 - Israeli occupation forces detained Al-Aqsa TV cameraman Osaid Amarneh for two hours while he was covering the events of the same anniversary in the city of Hebron. Amarneh reported that during his coverage of the march, one of the Israeli soldiers approached and asked for his identity card. While filming the detention of a Palestinian girl during the events, Amarneh says the Israelis detained both he and the girl for two hours and then he was released."
6 June 2012 - Members of the Palestinian police prevented Al-Aqsa TV cameraman Osaid Amarneh from filming a protest sit-in for relatives of Palestinian political prisoners, in front of the Palestinian Authority prison in Hebron. Amarneh told MADA Center: "I went to cover the sit-in by the families of Palestinian political prisoners, but the security services prevented me from filming, on the pretext that it is a closed military zone. I called the officer in the region, but he did not answer. I was the only journalist covering the event in front of the prison."
8 June 2012 - Israeli occupation forces prevented local journalists from covering the weekly march against settlements in the village of Nabi Saleh, west of Ramallah. WAFA Agency photographer Iyad Jadallah reported to MADA Center: "The occupation forces prevented us from covering the march and only allowed the journalists with international press cards to cover the March. I hold a press card from the Ministry of Information, but they prevented me from covering the event, as well as crews from Palestine Public TV crew, and 'Palestine Today' TV, on the pretext that their cards were not recognized. Most of these local journalists had travelled long distances through the mountains to reach the village and to do our job. Jadallah said this was the first time the occupation forces had prevented journalists from filming on the basis of the type of press cards they held.
10 June - Israeli occupation authorities extended the administrative detention of Palestine News Network (PNN) and Al Kaleej Emirates newspaper correspondent Amin Abu Wardeh for four months. Under an agreement with the Israeli military prosecution, this decision means his detention can no longer be extended His colleague Atef Daghlas told MADA Center that his lawyer will appeal the decision and attempt to reduce the duration of the extension of his arrest. Mr Daghlas also said that the family of Abu Warda had been badly affected by the latest extension of his arrest, especially since he was being held without charge."
13 June 2012 - The Hamas Government's internal security forces in Gaza arrested an employee of the Prisoners Media Department, journalist Mohamed Qunetah. His colleague, journalist Ibrahim Alyan, told MADA Center that members of internal security raided Qunetah's house on Saturday 12 March 2012 and handed him a summons for the next day. Alyan added: "Qunetah went on Sunday to the headquarters of internal security in Ansar. He was detained for a week and was re-arrested on 28 June 2012."
14 June – A group of unknown people ransacked the office of Al-Quds Newspaper correspondent Najib Farraj in Bethlehem. Farraj reported to MADA Center that the group broke into his office at around 7 pm on Thursday, June 14. They ransacked the office, damaging newspapers and reports dating back to the 1990s. Farraj had left the office at around 6 pm and received a call at around 8:30 pm. Upon returning, he found an old article of his from Al-Ayyam newspaper conspicuously placed at the scene, which was titled, "During his visit to Jenin: Fayyad emphasizes the rule of law and public order as a top priority in Jenin." Farraj told MADA Center that the lack of severe damage or theft suggests that the break-in was intended as an unmistakable threat to him and his work.
17 June 2012 - Freelance journalist Yahya Almadhoun was summoned to report immediately to internal security headquarters in Jabalia. When he arrived at 6pm, he was taken into custody and held without questioning until 10pm, when he was released. Almadhoun says that no one spoke to him during that time but, upon his release, officers ordered him to return at 9am the next day. Almadhoun reports, "I went there on Monday 18 June, and they questioned me about an article I wrote on the division between Fatah and Hamas and about the death of my brother Samih Almadhoun. They ordered me not to address issues related to the Government or to criticize them."
19 June 2012 – The Hamas Government internal security services in Gaza arrested the editor of 'Alsho'la' newspaper Sahir Aqra after a meeting with Amnesty International. Aqra told MADA Center that two civilian vehicles kidnapped him as he was leaving the restaurant and took him to the internal security headquarters in Ansar. He remained there until 12am and was transferred to Abu Khadra, where he was questioned about his meeting with Amnesty. He answered that he had said that internal security had raided his houses at Deir al-Balah and Gaza, confiscated his equipment and tortured him. Aqra added: "They took me again to their headquarters in Ansar and I was investigated on the same subject. They asked me to contact the Amnesty delegation and deny the previous information, close the 'Alsho'la' website, and to stop working as a journalist. They also asked me to sign a pledge, but I refused. During the arrest they did not let me eat, drink or use the bathroom, and they were verbally abusing me. I was released at 6pm on Thursday, 21 June 2012."
26 June 2012 - Guards from presidential Guest House Palace in Bethlehem prevented Quds channel correspondent Mamdouh Hamamrah from covering the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Bethlehem. Hamamrah reported to MADA Center that he asked why he was prevented from covering the visit, despite the inclusion of his name on the list of journalists permitted to cover the event. He was told the channel was banned from coverage, without being given further details.
30 June 2012 – People in civilian clothes belonging to police attacked freelance journalist Mohamad Jaradat who was covering a march in Ramallah. Jaradat reported that he went at 6pm on Saturday to cover the march, which was a protest against the planned visit by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. During the march, Mr. Jaradat reported that four people in civilian clothing, belonging to police, beat him within view of police. He says they confiscated his camera and took him to the police station, where he reports one of them said: "He is a journalist. Take care of him." Jaradat added: "After that they brutally attacked me, despite me showing my press identification. They took me to the upper floor and continued to beat me with a stick, causing bleeding in my nose. Then they arrested me, with six other people. While they beat me, I asked to see the Director of Police who is a relative of mine. He arrived after I had been detained and beaten for an hour. He apologized and I was released."