“MADA”: Summoning journalists is a violation of their freedom of expression 

PNN/ Ramallah/

The Palestinian Center for Development & Media Freedoms “MADA” condemned summoning three journalists, at least, (in addition to other citizens) by the Palestinian Preventive Security Service against the backdrop of their posts on social media and other media activities related to the social security decree, with the fact of a recent announcement for a forthcoming peaceful and popular movement that will take place in the next week against the law as it stood at present.

MADA, in a statement, said it believes that the summons which have affected the journalists, Ihab Al-Jariri, Fadi Al-Arouri, and Jehan Hassan Awad, are deemed as a violation of the freedom of the press and the freedom of opinion and expression and are aimed at inciting fear among the Palestinian journalists and the public, as well as depriving them from their freedom of expression about a public case that is affecting different segments of the Palestinian society, especially since these calls were combined with demanding the journalists to sign pledges “not to incite”.

From a legal perspective, summoning journalists over the phone is essentially a conduct that is contrary to the Basic Law and other applicable laws. The Palestinian Laws have guaranteed to the citizens and journalists the freedom of expression and opinion, and that no person may be prosecuted over an opinion. Furthermore, calling someone without an offence and without an authorization from the Public Prosecution and/or the competent court is an invalid and illegal procedure. No citizen may be called on the whims of any security services. Calling someone for questioning by the law enforcement agencies is permissible in certain cases, not according to the whims of such agencies. Furthermore, searching or detaining a citizen for any period of time, no matter how short, shall not be permissible unless under a legal notice, and in strictly specific cases.

Having viewed the incidents of the three journalists which took place on Tuesday, corresponding 9th October 2018, all of the taken procedures were found to be illegal.

The journalist of FM 24, Ihab Al-Jariri, has stated to MADA that the Preventive Services Headquarters has called him on Tuesday, corresponding 9th September 2018, through the phone and asked him to immediately come. Indeed, he went to the headquarters, where he stayed for an hour and a half, the conversation was about “us – the group responsible for the popular mass movement against the social security law – and how we incite against the law, threatening the civil peace, disregarding the present circumstances of the country which cannot stand such acts” as he stated.

The journalist, Al-Arouri, has stated that, on Tuesday, he went to the headquarters of the Preventive Security in Ramallah after he was orally called. According to him “the discussion was about the need for the popular mass movement against the social security law, to obtain an authorization for the sit-in intended to take place on Monday, corresponding 15th October 2018. After they knew that we indeed applied to obtain an authorization, the tone of the discussion changed and moved on to address the need to adhere to the law. I commented that the Preventive Security is not the negotiating or the competent party to discuss with us the authorization for the sit-in. Especially that we have applied for an authorization from the competent party, which is the governorate, and it will get back to us on this regard, not to mention that we have no intention to confront the police”.

“They asked me to sign on a pledge not to incite, but I refused” Al-Arouri added.

Furthermore, the journalist Jehan Awad did not respond to the call she received, and stated to MADA “I received a phone call from the Preventive Security in Ramallah telling me to go to the headquarters for ten minutes, and when I asked about the reason and the subject, they replied that it is about the posts on my Facebook page concerning the social security law, but I do not intend to go at all, since the call is informal and if they wanted to question me, the Syndicate has to be informed”.