Category: Press Releases, MENA, Israel, Palestinian Territories, Palestinian Authority

Israeli forces raid Palestinian broadcaster

Police acknowledge intrusion part of investigation into programming content

Israeli policemen stand in front of a detained Palestinian demonstrator during a protest near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on June 5, 2014. Some 50 protesters took part in a demonstration marking the 47th anniversary of the 1967 Middle East war, when Israel captured East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

VIENNA, June 12, 2014 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today urged Israeli authorities to refrain from interfering in media outlets’ editorial decisions following a raid last Friday on the studios of a Palestinian broadcaster.

Israeli security forces raided the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC)’s East Jerusalem studios while the station was broadcasting the morning programme “Good Morning Jerusalem” (“Sabah Al-Khair Ya Quds”), demanded that journalists stop their live broadcast and arrested two staff members and a guest of the show, the PBC said.

The raid reportedly came as the programme was featuring a segment on approximately 100 Palestinian detainees who have been on a hunger strike since April 24 to demand their release.

“This type of police search represents serious harassment that greatly affects the ability of a media company to cover sensitive issues of public interest,” IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said. “IPI has often argued and continues to maintain that in times of conflict and political crisis it is of the utmost importance that people have access to different sources of information and opinion.”

The PBC identified those detained as Nader Bebers, “Good Morning Jerusalem” director of production; Pal Media Coordinator Ashfar Shweiki, identified in other reports as Pal Media cameraman, Ashraf Abu Shaweesh; and show guest Ala’ al-Haddad, who was identified as a member of the Jerusalem branch of a committee representing Palestinian detainees. The three were questioned, but later released.

Reports indicated that Israel authorities justified the raid by claiming that the broadcast was illegal, insofar as the company is not licensed by Israel, and that the content of the programme amounted to incitement to violence against Israel.

According to a report by the Times of Israel, police said three individuals were detained “in order to check the legality of the broadcast”. They continued: “The three presented the (necessary) broadcasting permits and were released after a short time.”

But concerns about the broadcaster’s license do not appear to be the only reason behind the attack.

Agence France-Presse quoted Israeli police spokesperson Luba Samri as saying that “Police carried out searches at the headquarters of the television channel, as part of an investigation into the content of its programm[ing]”. Samri also denied that the programme was disrupted and said that “the investigation is ongoing”.

The director of “Good Morning Jerusalem”, Mai Abu Asab told the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA): “All the accusations against the program, it is illegal, not licensed and inciting against Israeli occupation, are not true at all, since we have been broadcasting for five years through Pal Media company which is licensed in the city.”

In a similar development, IPI on May 30 condemned a raid two days earlier by Israeli security forces on a Palestinian printing plant that appeared to be part of an effort to halt the publication of several newspapers. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, citing statements by Israeli officials, said in a news release that the raid was carried out to stop newspapers that allegedly incite hatred of Israel.

Attacks against journalists also are not uncommon in the West Bank, where photojournalist Hamdi Abu Rahme was recently attacked by Israeli forces while he was covering a weekly march in Ramallah, MADA said. The attackers erased all of Rahme’s photos and broke his camera, reportedly beating him after he refused to surrender it to them.

MADA reported that cameraman Ahmad Khateeb similarly was beaten on June 6 after a security officer tried to confiscate his camera while Khateeb was covering a sit-in.