MADA Monitors Israeli Violations of Media Freedoms in OPt During August 2012

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Media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territories continued to deteriorate during August 2012, with new violations recorded against journalists who were simply pursuing their professional work. The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) monitored serious violations committed by Israeli forces through the targeting of journalists with gas bombs, detention and beatings, particularly the attack on French Agency photographer Jaafar Ishtayeh, which left him with a broken hand.

Palestinian violations by known and unknown parties against journalists also continued. The most serious was the abduction and prosecution of journalist Saher Aqra in the Gaza Strip, the closure of Al-Sho'la news website, and a death threat against the Director of Radio Bethlehem 2000 George Canawati.

Israeli violations:

Israeli forces threw a tear gas canister at Pal Media cameraman Ashraf Abu Shawish, hitting his left foot, while he was covering the Kofor Kaddoum weekly march, on Friday, 3 August 2012. Journalist Nihad Abu Ghosh was also was injured by a tear gas canister while travelling to Jerusalem through the Qalandia checkpoint on Tuesday, 14 August 2012.

Israeli occupation forces attacked a group of journalists during their coverage of the weekly march in Kofor Kaddoum on Friday, 17 August 2012. They are: French Agency photographer Jaafar Ishtayeh, Palestine Public TV cameraman in the city of Nablus, Bakr Abdel-Haq, Palestine Public TV cameraman Fares Fares, a photographer with Palestinian news agency "Wafa", Nidal Shtayyeh, and journalists Uday Kaddoumi and Noah Kaddoumi.

Israeli occupation forces also arrested photographer for the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Nabi Saleh, Bilal al-Tamimi, while he was covering the weekly march in the village on Friday, 31 August 2012.

An unknown person/s in an Israeli-registered car opened fire on Palestine TV correspondent Nizar Al-Samodi in the city of Jenin, on 8 August 2012. And unknown people hacked the website of the Palestinian network for media and uploaded phrases in Hebrew, English and Arabic that accuse the network of inciting against Israel.

Palestinian violations:

The internal security service of the Hamas Government in the Gaza Strip summoned the producer and manager of Surcareen Company, Salem Hamad, for investigation on Wednesday, 1 August 2012. Also Alsho'la news agency chief editor Saher Aqra' was kidnapped by men affiliated with internal security in Gaza and assaulted during a week of detention, from 23-30 August 2012.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian intelligence service confiscated equipment from Aqsa TV crew in the city of Hebron on Tuesday, 14 August 2012. Mayadeen channel correspondent Nisren Sulami was hit in her right foot and shoulder by stones from young demonstrators at Qalandia checkpoint while covering clashes there on Wednesday, 15/08/2012.

An unknown person made a death threat against the director of Radio Bethlehem 2000 George Canawati on Tuesday, 28 August 2012.

Conclusion and recommendations:

MADA expresses grave concern at the continuing deterioration in media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territories, which causes heightened stress for journalists, poses a risk to their safety and to their lives and encourages self-censorship. Therefore, MADA Center demands:

• That the international community takes immediate and effective steps to pressure the Israeli occupation to end attacks against journalists, particularly during their coverage of the weekly peaceful rallies.

• That the international community holds Israel accountable for violations against journalists in general, and holds to account those who attacked French Agency photographer Jaafar Ishtayeh.

• That both sides respect the Palestinian basic law, which guarantees freedom of expression, and refrain from prosecuting journalists.

• That the hijackers of journalist Saher Aqra in Gaza are held to account, and that the Alsho'la website is unblocked unconditionally.

MADA also expresses deep concern at the disappearance in Syria of the Palestinian journalist who was working as director of the Alhurra channel office in Turkey, Bashar Qaddoumi. The channel has had no contact with him since the third day of the Eid al-Fitr. MADA Center appeals to the international community to provide urgent assistance to help locate Mr. Qaddoumi.

Details of violations:

1 August 2012: The internal security service of the Hamas Government in the Gaza Strip summoned Surcareen company producer manager Salem Hamad for investigation. Hamad told MADA that he was summoned on 27 July 2012 to go to the headquarters of Internal Security at Ansar at 9am on 1 August. When he arrived he was asked to fill out a form with personal information, but he refused to provide his e-mail and password. Hamad added: "The investigation was about my work, my relationship with Egypt and whether I am pursuing a particular ideology with my work, which I denied, and after around one-and-a-half hours they released me."

3 August 2012: Israeli forces attacked Pal Media cameraman Ashraf Abu Shawish with a tear gas canister which hit his left foot while he was covering the Kofor Kaddoum weekly march. Abu Shawish told MADA that he was covering the march in an area between Israelis and demonstrators when he was injured. Abu Shawish added: "Youths took me to a nearby Red Crescent ambulance, but the injury was superficial and I continued my work after a short time."

8 August 2012: An unknown person in an Israeli-registered car opened fire on Palestine TV correspondent in the city of Jenin, Nizar Al-Samodi. Al-Samodi told MADA that he was returning from Ramallah to his home in Jenin when he arrived at the crossroads known at 'Tormos Aya and Singel' at around 10:30pm. He reported that someone fired a shot at him which hit the car mirror, missing him by centimetres. He added: "The bullet was fired from a white Israeli car with yellow number plates. I believe the goal was to kill me, but the shooter underestimated the speed of the car, so the bullet just missed me and broke the mirror of the car instead. I filed a complaint with the Israeli military liaison office."

14 August 2012: Israeli forces attacked journalist Nihad Abu Ghosh, Director of Masar office, with a tear gas canister while he was travelling to the city of Jerusalem through Qalandia checkpoint. Abu Ghosh said to MADA Center that Israeli forces were targeting Palestinians directly during the confrontations, and while attempting to pass the barrier he was targeted with the tear gas canister, which injured his left shoulder, causing burns and wounds.

14 August 2012: The Palestinian intelligence service confiscated equipment from an Al-Aqsa TV crew in the city of Hebron. Correspondent with Al-Aqsa TV in Hebron, Osaid Amarneh, told MADA that members of the Palestinian intelligence service also detained camera assistant Tariq Mahmood inside the headquarters of the intelligence service in the city of Hebron. Amarneh added: "When I learned of his detention I contacted the director of Prisoners' Club in Hebron which called the intelligence service and inquired about Tariq. They replied that they will question him and release him. They questioned him about me and our work and where we want to photograph, then they released him. They didn't return our equipment and instead asked us to return the next day. When we came back they refused to return our equipment and told us to come back again three days later. We contacted the Journalists' Syndicate who talked to the intelligence service, and they returned our equipment after we waited for around seven hours at intelligence services headquarters."

15 August 2012: Correspondent for Mayadeen channel, Nisren Sulami, was hit in her right foot and shoulder by stones thrown by young demonstrators at the Qalandia checkpoint while she was covering clashes in the area. Sulami told MADA: "I was covering the clashes between demonstrators and Israeli forces that were firing tear gas on demonstrators, and while covering the event I was injured. The injury was minor, and I was treated immediately by the crew of the Red Crescent. I returned to continue covering the event shortly thereafter."

17 August 2012: Israeli forces attacked a group of journalists during their coverage of the weekly march in Kofor Kaddoum. They are: French Agency photographer Jaafar Ishtayeh, Nablus-based Palestine Public TV cameraman Bakr Abdel-Haq, Palestine Public TV cameraman Fares Fares, photographer with Palestinian news agency "Wafa" Nidal Shtayyeh, and journalists Uday Kaddoumi and Noah Kaddoumi. Jaafar Ishtayeh, who was severely beaten, told MADA that he was covering events with his colleagues and after about half an hour a group of Israeli soldiers came between demonstrators. Ishtayeh said he and his colleagues filmed the soldiers, but they ordered them to stop filming, detained them, and began screaming at them. He added: "I asked them why they were treating us like this. So a number of soldiers violently attacked and beat me on my right hand and my feet with batons, tied up my colleagues and took us in a military vehicle to Kedumim camp near Ramallah. They treated us in a barbaric way, and forced us to sign a pledge not to return to this region as it is a closed military zone. They released us after around four hours, after which my colleagues took me to the Arab Specialist hospital in Nablus, where it became clear that my right hand was broken."

23 August 2012: Unknown persons hacked the website of the Palestinian Media Network and uploaded a picture of the Israeli secret service (Shin Bet) and phrases in Hebrew, English and Arabic that accuse the network of inciting against Israel. Network Chairman Abu Al-foul told MADA that the website was hacked by Shin Bet in an attempt to undermine the Palestinian media. Abu Al-foul added: "We have identified several recent attempts to penetrate the site, which failed as we were able to deal with them."

25 August 2012: Alsho'la news agency chief editor Saher Aqra' was kidnapped, detained and assaulted from 23 August to 30 August, by men affiliated with internal security in Gaza. Aqra' told MADA Center that while returning from his family home to his house in Gaza City, on Salah al-Din Street, seven cars blocked his way. He escaped once and continued on his way, but when he reached the area of Al-Saraya, Aqra, he was blocked again by a jeep and two cars. Masked and armed men kidnapped and blindfolded him and took him to an unknown location. Aqra' added:"I was subjected to a humiliating interrogation by several people about my work, my news website and my political affiliations. During the investigation they extinguished cigarette butts in my back and beat me severely. On Saturday, 30 August I was able to escape from the apartment where I was being detained. The severe beatings had left me with a leg wound, and I hid in a friend's house. After my escape, Al-Qassam men and internal security searched for me but were unable to find me." Aqra' was forced to close the news agency after persons connected to the Hamas Government put pressure on his family.

28 August 2012: An unknown person made a death threat against the director of Radio Bethlehem 2000 George Canawati, through his Facebook account. Canawati told MADA that he received the message days after writing a critical comment on Facebook about youth seen driving a Government-funded car. Canawati added: "After posting the comment, the security services and the car owner contacted and thanked me, and I thanked them for their response. I don't know who threatened me."

31 August 2012: Israeli forces arrested photographer for the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Nabi Saleh Bilal al-Tamimi while he was covering the weekly march in the village. Tamimi told MADA that before the start of the march he learned that there were demonstrators in the area of Nabaa near the village so he went to cover the event. During that he was approached by one Israeli soldier and asked why he was there, so Tamimi showed his press card. After a brief moment he was approached again by an officer and ordered to vacate the area within five minutes. Tamimi added: "After less than a minute the occupation soldiers came and arrested me with three protesters and told us to sit under a tree near the village for several hours. Then they took us to the investigation police center "Bin Yamina" near the village, where we were held until around 11:00 pm and then released.

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