Palestinian journalist prosecuted, TV channel seeks justice following Israeli raid
IPI concerned over the two cases in Palestine, urges authorities to ensure rights of journalists are respected
By: Nadia Danecek & Naomi Hunt
VIENNA, Nov 12, 2012 -- Political commentator Jihad Harb could be prosecuted by the Palestinian Authority for a piece published on a news website, while Palestinian broadcaster Watan TV has turned to the Israeli High Court for justice months after a raid by the Israeli Defense Forces, in which the station’s broadcasting equipment and documents were confiscated.
Jihad Harb, a commentator and employee of the Palestinian Authority, reportedly faces possible criminal charges in Ramallah for an article he wrote in August that questioned hiring and promotions practices in the office of President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a report on The Daily Beast.
According to a translation that was sent to IPI by reporter George Hale, who covered this story, Harb's article cited research from the Palestinian Coalition for Transparency and Accountability (AMAN), which alleged that public servants had been appointed to senior positions without having the requisite experience and in breach of laws governing the civil service.
Harb defended his piece, which was published on news websites, including the website of Watan TV: “The article does not contain any slander or defamation or contempt of the Palestinian Authority, and what I wrote was based on information and facts”, Harb told The Daily Beast.
Harb has been accused of libel, slander and making a “direct insult” to public employees of the president’s office, reports said. Harb was interrogated by the head of public prosecutions last week, as journalists, press freedom defenders and human rights activists reportedly protested.
IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said: “Reports that Jihad Harb has been interrogated and now faces possible prosecution for raising questions about official corruption are deeply worrying, and even more so because Harb was simply referencing the work of a transparency watchdog. Media play an integral role in informing the public and questioning government practices. Harb’s article, which summarized the findings of an NGO and added comment, appears to have done exactly that.”
Two other journalists working for Hamas-affiliated media, Walid Khaled and Mohamed Mona, were arrested by Palestinian security forces on Sept. 18 among a wider crackdown on Hamas, reports and local journalists said. They were freed after a month.
The Israeli High Court has given the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) until November 14 to respond to a petition from Watan TV “seeking the immediate return of equipment and records confiscated during the military raid on 29 February 2012,” according to a press release sent on Oct. 15. As IPI documented, Watan TV was the target of a raid by Israeli soldiers earlier this year, during which the station’s transmitter was removed along with other equipment and documents.
This is the second deadline that the High Court has given the IDF. The IDF missed its first deadline on Oct. 14. According to a press release from Watan TV, soldiers were seen late that night patrolling near the station but did not enter the premises or speak to staff.
As IPI reported, the Israeli Defence Forces had defended the February raid on the grounds that Watan TV was “broadcasting illegally.” However, spokespersons would not provide any justification for the confiscation of documents and other equipment, including computers. Moammar Orabi, the director general of Watan TV, told IPI at the time that the IDF had “also confiscated our financial and administrative files and left nothing for us”, setting the station’s work back considerably and forcing them to operate at a minimal level.
IPI has documented raids by the IDF on four Palestinian media houses in 2012, including Watan TV and Quds Educational TV on Feb. 29, Hona Al-Quds (Here Jerusalem) online media network in early April and Al-Asir TV in May.
“The IDF’s unwillingness to provide reasonable explanations for the raids it carried out on media houses this year has been disappointing and unacceptable. The IDF should provide a transparent response to the High Court’s request and we look forward to a decision by the Court that will uphold the rights of Palestinian media,” said IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi.