May 2021 has witnessed a large-scale of Israeli offenses and assaults against media freedoms in Palestine, during which the occupation army and authorities committed 122 assaults and offenses against Palestinian, Arab, and international journalists and media, most of which fall under serious offenses and grave assaults, which will cause serious repercussions on the overall media work, the freedom of the press and its ability to work and fulfill its tasks as it supposed to, now and in the medium and long term in Palestine.
Undoubtedly, the murder of the broadcaster in “Sawt Al-Aqsa” in Gaza, journalist Yousef Mohammad Abu Hussein, as well as the media graduates Mohammad Shaheen and Abdul Hamid Kolk (who do not work), as a result of bombing their houses in the Gaza Strip, as well as targeting and injuring dozens of journalists in the West Bank and Gaza, in addition to the destruction of dozens of Palestinian, Arab and international media institutions, represented the peak of the Israeli crimes.
In addition to the martyrdom of Abu Hussein, Shaheen, and Kolk, a total of 54 journalists were injured in direct occupation assaults during May in the West Bank and Gaza (49 of them in the West Bank and 5 in Gaza), most of them were injured by metal bullets, gas and sound bombs fired by the soldiers directly at their bodies, while they were covering various events.
The occupation army also destroyed the headquarters and offices of 30 Palestinian, Arab, and international media organizations in the Gaza Strip, employing hundreds of people, in addition to destroying the houses of 8 journalists, entirely or partially, in Gaza, and arresting six journalists in the West Bank, not to mention the series of other assaults and bans from coverage it has committed.
Most of these assaults and offences were committed deliberately and systematically to obscure the crimes committed by the occupation army during its aggression on Gaza Strip, which lasted 11 days, and the escalation of the Israeli attacks and assaults witnessed in the occupied city of Jerusalem and across the West Bank last month.
In order to disrupt the activities of dozens of media outlets and hundreds of journalists and to exclude them from journalistic work, the occupation army, during its aggression on Gaza, destroyed the headquarters and offices of 30 Palestinian, Arab, and international media organizations operating in the Strip, through official and announced targeting of several huge towers that include most of these institutions. For instance, Al-Jawhara Tower, which was destroyed by the Israeli army, consisted of headquarters and offices of 16 Palestinian, Arab, and international media institutions, while Al-Jalaa Tower consisted of the headquarters and offices of 6 other institutions, including the Qatari TV Channel, Al-Jazeera, and the headquarters of the American Associated Press.
In addition to suspending the operation, partially or completely, of these institutions and the staff thereof, it inflicted long-term material damage to these institutions that may prevent them from being able to resume their activities again, and even if they managed to do so, not quit soon.
To be more accurate about what the destruction of these institutions represents, we note that the newspaper “Palestine”, which is the only daily newspaper published in Gaza, and one of the institutions whose headquarters were destroyed, has lost about 1,200,000 USD, knowing that 86 employees work therein. Similarly, the losses of “Sawt Al-Asra” Radio were estimated at 400,000USD, knowing that 30 employees work therein, while Al-Aqsa TV, where 200 employees work, lost about 1,000,000 USD.
The losses are not limited to the financial aspect – despite the great importance of course – but the greatest danger lies in the professional aspect of the press, as the National Agency, whose headquarters consisted of 12 apartments, an institution that provides media services to many TV channels, resulted in the direct damage to seven Arab channels that have offices there and receive services therefrom.
Violations by the Social Media Companies:
The recent Israeli aggression and escalation, and the widespread crimes and assaults against media freedoms in Palestine, were accompanied by widespread violations committed by social media companies and networks, by blocking the pages of dozens of journalists, as well as blocking or disabling the pages of hundreds of Palestinian citizens and activists in connection with what they post about the current events and the Israeli assaults.
The social media companies “Facebook”, “Twitter”, “WhatsApp”, “Tik Tok” and “Instagram” have deleted and closed the accounts of journalists, and restricted posting thereon, not to mention closing some large communication groups for journalists and media organizations (one of which includes 260 journalists), as well as blocking other accounts during the last month.
It is noteworthy that most of these blocks came on the last day of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. Some of which were also connected to the media popular campaign intended to support the families of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem who are threatened to be displaced from their houses to be seized by Israeli settlers.
MADA Center managed to document a total of 39 violations committed by various social media companies and networks against Palestinian journalists, distributed as follows: WhatsApp (15 blocks and suspension of accounts of journalists, one of which affected a group of 260 journalists that was suspended), Facebook (15 violations), Twitter (6 violations), and Tik Tok (3 violations).
Moreover, Instagram Application deleted a large number of posts supporting the campaign of solidarity with the cause of Sheikh Jarrah, “Save Sheikh Jarrah”. However, “Instagram” apologized later on and claimed that this was “an unintended mistake”, while the journalists and activists whose posts were deleted stated that their stories and posts on Instagram about the cause of Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem did not appear to the followers.
The Palestinian violations during May were limited to a total of 6 violations, 4 of which took place in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. All of which were summoning, ban from coverage, in addition to one threat in connection to covering the events.