Report: Significant escalation in media freedom violations during 2017

PNN/ Ramallah/

“A total of 530 violations were committed, 71%by Israeli occupation and 29% by Palestinian parties”

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) announced its 2017 annual report on media freedoms throughout a press conference organized in its headquarters in Ramallah on Sunday 04/02/2018.

General Director of the Center, Mousa Rimawi, reviewed the report’s highlights, while two other colleagues Jihad Barakat and Amer Al-Ja’bari presented two testimonies summarizing the impact of media freedom violations on themselves, journalists and media work in Palestine.

Rimawi illustrated that 2017 marked a significant increase in the overall numbers of violations against media freedom in Palestine compared to 2016. MADA center monitored a total of 530 violations against media freedoms; an increase of 38%. In general, Israeli occupation committed a total of 375 violations, around 71% of total violations. Whereas, Palestinian parties in West Bank and Gaza Strip committed a total of 154 violations, around 29% of total violations recorded in 2017.

The significant escalation in the total number of violations against media freedom for the year 2017 was a result of the increased number of Israeli violations. Noting that, Israeli violations increased in total 127 violation compared to 2016 around 51%. On the other hand, Palestinian violations also witnessed an increase (but with a lesser amount of the Israelis) compared to 2016 with a total of 20 violations around 15%.

Rimawi also indicated that Israeli violations monitored by MADA center were recorded in 15 different types of violations, with new types practiced by Israeli parties emerged last year; as a new approach to suppress Palestinian media and media freedom in general. These types aimed at hindering the coverage of events on the ground, these were summarized in 4 major types (home confinement/ home detention against journalists, prevention from coverage of (demonstrations) for prolonged periods sometimes to three months, banishing journalists from events for long periods, and mass detention of journalists and not release them but after the end of the confrontations or the event.
MADA’s annual report clarified that Israeli violations monitored by the Center witnessed an escalation in physical assaults against Palestinian violations throughout 2017, a total of 139 attacks.

Moreover, Israeli Occupation targeted media outlets as well, with a significant increase compared to 2016, a total of 17 media outlets and service providerscompanied were shut down with military order in Area A in the West Bank. Whereas, in 2016 a total of 4 media outlets were shut. This reveals the Israeli policy to silence and suppress media freedom for Palestinians that remarkably escalated throughout the recent two massive protests,the first in July after Israel implemented electronic gates on the front entrance of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the other was in December following the recent US president decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

The report indicated that total violations committed by Palestinian parties in both (West Bank and Gaza Strip) increased in 2017 with a total of 20 violations compared to wasmoniterd in 2016 around 15%. Noting that, Palestinian violations (in West Bank and Gaza Strip) constituted a total of 29% violations in 2017.

The escalation of the Palestinian violations emerged due to the agreement between Hamas and the dismissed leader in Fateh Mohammad Dahlan which aggravated the situation, noting that, in June after these agreement were announced a total of 29 news websites were blocked.
Rimawi clarified that Palestinian Parties committed a total of 119 violations against media freedom in West Bank, 35 violations in Gaza Strip. This does not imply that media freedom in Gaza Stripare by any mean better than the one in West Bank, apart from the total fluctuations and distribution of numbers of Palestinian violations recorded in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the year 2017 did not carry any tangible or significant change in the political will in Palestinian official authorities in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to respect and maintain freedoms and a clear end of violations against media freedoms, although the recent months have witnessed a decline in numbers of violations as a result to the implementation of the reconciliation between both fractions (Hamas and Fateh).

He also added that 2017 witnesses a significant setback in the legal environment related to freedom of expression and media freedom in Palestinian, represented in the recent presidential decree on the Cyber- Crimes Law and the blockade of 29 news-websites, besides, the procrastination of the Palestinian government to adopt the rights to access information law or the higher council of media law.

Noting that 2017 also witnessed an increase in terms of Palestinian journalists detention by Palestinian parties, 32 journalists were detained at least 7 were subjected to various types of pressure and torture (physical and psychological) some of which were considered very cruel and severe.

Journalist Jihad Barakt who was arrested by Palestinian preventive service after filming the convoy of the Palestinian Prime Minister when it was stopped by Israeli checkpoint last year, he said that the decision of the court was fair, but official bodies were not fair, although the court’s decision revealed that the decision of my arrest wasinvalid, and pleaded him not guilty, yet the general prosecutor appealed the decision.

Barakat, also indicated the importance of the court’s decision in his case, which tackled the issue of privacy and the prominent role of media to cover public figures as part of their professional duties.

On the other hand, AmerJa’bary the board of Trans-media Company a service provider who the IOF shut down all its offices, in an operation that targeted 3 media outlets in West Bank, couple of months ago and the repercussions of this closure on the work of media in Palestine in general, and the significant decline of the Palestinian coverage and their attempt to expel these companies out of the market place.

Al Ja’bari director of Trans-media Company, Which was shut last year, by IOF and he and his colleague (Ibrahim Al-Ja’bari) were arrested during the raid he said that this violations was not the first that targeted Trans-media, yet since 2014 at least 3 times they were targeted by the IOF. But this operation was the most sever and cruel, as all their offices were shut and most of their equipment were either confiscated or destructed, which affected the company with huge financial amounts, and left at least 42 unemployed journalists, he also demanded the urgent active intervention to end the order and ensure redress to all parts and the return the equipment that were confiscated in the last raid.

He also highlighted that both he and his colleague Ibrahim Al-Ja’bari were subjected to very cruel pressure during their detention in Ashkelon prison, and the court decision condition they were forced to adhere to, not to work with anything that is related to media on any level for months.