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March witnessed a significant escalation of media freedom violations in Palestine

Palestinians hold placards in front of El Mehd Church during a protest after Israeli forces targeted Palestinian medical staff and journalists in Gaza, in Bethlehem, West Bank, 8 April 2018
Palestinians hold placards in front of El Mehd Church during a protest after Israeli forces targeted Palestinian medical staff and journalists in Gaza, in Bethlehem, West Bank, 8 April 2018

Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on on 14 April 2018.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) documented during March 2018 a total of 46 violations against media freedoms in Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The Israeli Occupation Forces committed 27 violations; some of these violations were considered as life threatening to journalists, noting that a lot of journalists suffered from suffocation during the peaceful protest on the Gaza borders. Whereas, 19 violations were committed by Palestinian parties.

Facebook closed the official pages of the Safa news agency and its account on Instagram, besides, 14 other accounts that belong to managers and editors of the same agency were blocked without any previous notice.

Israeli violations:

The Israeli occupation forces committed a total of 27 violations against media freedom - the most dangerous violations were targeting 9 journalists of which 5 journalists were targeted with live ammunition that resulted in serious injuries and critical health conditions; this occured during their coverage of the peaceful demonstration on the Gaza border.

Photographer Ahmad Salim Barbakh / Muamar was targeted with live ammunition and hit in the stomach after he finished covering the demonstration that was located on the east side of Khanyonis. This resulted in damage to his intestines, and he was subjected to surgery as doctors had to remove 30 cm of his intestines to save his life.

While Mahmoud Adnan Madookh, a cameraman for Media town, was targeted with live ammunition in his left leg, Wissam Atef Mousa who works for the Forsan Al-Hurriya radio station and is also a filmmaker, was shot and hit with 2 live bullets, in both of his legs. One of the bullets injured him very baldy, causing a severe rupture in his left leg muscle under the knee. Ahmad Kufeh was injured in his right thigh above the knee and Mohamad Ali Qadora was hit in the right shoulder.

It should be noted that all these journalists assured MADA that they were identifiable as members of the press (by wearing their press vests) and located hundreds of meters from the borders without posing any eminent threat, but were rather performing their professional duties.

In addition, the IOF arrested 3 journalists during this month.

Palestinian violations

Six months after Palestinian violations fell to very low levels and remained at low numbers, the number of violations topped 19 during March as a direct result of the media center at Al-Najah National University dismissing a group of employees and interns. They were dismissed for refusing to tweet on their personal accounts a hashtag about the bombing of the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah, recently in Gaza.

In addition, the security of An-Najah National University prevented student Osama Arrar at the media department from entering the university because of a post he wrote on Facebook comparing his university (Al-Najah) and Birzeit University, which was considered as a harmful action to the university itself and to its employees and students.

Details of violations

(1/3) Imad Mahmoud Hammad Abu Imad (34 years) was arrested by the Palestinian intelligence for three days; he is the programmer for Al Mashhad Al Sohyoni at Al Quds channel. Abu Imad reported to MADA: "On Thursday morning (1/3/2018) I received a phone call from the Palestinian intelligence service telling me that they wanted to search my house... after going to the house I was surprised that they didn't search the house but they confiscated my mobile and my personal computers, and then they arrested me."

Abu Imad added "then they took me to the headquarters of the intelligence service in Ramallah, and there they told me that I would leave in the afternoon. I was not interrogated, it was only a half-hour chat about my media work, without any charges being brought against me.

(2/3) Photographer Issam Rimawi, of Al Hayyat newspaper, was hit with a gas bomb on his arm while covering a peaceful demonstration in Bil'in. Rimawi reported to MADA: "on Friday (2/3) [there was] the weekly demonstration against the settlements and the apartheid wall, where it coincided with the 13th anniversary of the launch of this weekly march. The IOF fired rubber bullets, sound and gas bombs towards the demonstrators and journalists, which led a gas bomb to hit me on my left arm resulting in burns and bruises. I was transferred to the Palestinian Medical Complex where I received the needed treatment and left the hospital after about 5 hours."

The journalists who were located at the scene, Al- Ghad Al Arabi correspondent Mohammad Turkman, Hisham Abu Shaqra and Abbas Al Momani, all suffered from suffocation due to the gas bombs that were fired by the IOF.

(5/3) Facebook shut down Safa News Agency's primary page and its standby page and its Instagram account. Also they shut down 14 personal accounts that belong to the agency's managers and editors without any previous notice. Safa Agency reported to MADA (Yasser Hassan Abu Hien): "on (5/3) the standby Facebook page for the agency which has 17,000 followers was shut down, and on (24/3) the primary page which has one million and three hundred followers was shut down. Also 4 of the agency's managers had their personal accounts shut down and 10 editors as well.

For further details on the violations, read the full report on MADA's site.

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