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Israeli forces' harassment of Palestinian journalists continues

(MADA/IFEX) - The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) condemns the Israeli Occupation Forces' (IOF) direct attacks on Palestinian journalists during their coverage of the peaceful demonstrations in the village of K'naan in Hebron on 9 February 2013. The IOF assaulted, detained, and arrested journalists present in the village. The journalists arrested were Associated Press photographer Nasser Al Shiokhe, French Agency photographer Hazem Badir, and two Reuters photographers Ma'moun Wazoz and Yosri Al Jamal. MADA also condemns the extension of the administrative detention of Shehab Agency reporter Amer Abu Arfah.

The IOF arrested PalMedia cameraman Abdulghani Alnatsha for more than 24 hours, during which he was treated terribly. Alnatsha reported to MADA that he arrived in Kana'n village to cover the events, when at 10 am a group of officers from the IOF approached him by surprise then dragged and arrested him. Once he was handcuffed, he was forbidden from moving until 12 pm. He was then placed in a troop carrier for an hour in the heat.

"Around 3:30 pm I was taken, in addition to two international activists and three Palestinian activists, to the Kiryat Arba settlement area. There, we stayed in the cold until 2 am the next day, after which they took us to military barracks and recorded our personal data and our fingerprints," said Alnatsha, "Soon after, we were taken to jail, stripped naked to be searched, then we were given prison uniforms to wear while awaiting our trial at Ofar Court around midnight on Sunday [10 February 2013]."

The judge sentenced Alnatsha to 4 months in prison or a bail of 1,000 shekels (app. $US270). He chose to pay the bail and was released. Alnatsha stressed that the treatment he received was very bad, where he was either subjected to verbal harassment or left in a cold room without food.

The IOF also detained Associated Press photographer Nasser Al Shiokhe for hours while at the village. Al Shiokhe told MADA, “I headed with my colleagues to Kana'n village to cover the events, and that's when a group of soldiers approached us and assaulted my colleagues Eyad Hamad and Hazem Badir, meanwhile they arrested me and forced me to sit handcuffed for 6 hours. I was released once the event was over."

Al Shiokhe added, “The IOF targets us [journalists] heavily at all events systematically, we demand a major international movement to protect us."

The French agency photographer Hazem Badir reported to MADA that one of the IOF officers approached and hit him on the forehead with his helmet, causing him to bruise. "He didn't stop there," Badir added, "instead he sprayed me with filthy water, and pushed my colleagues from Reuters, Yosri Al Jamal and Ma'moun Wazoz, while shouting at them."

In regards to Shehab Agency reporter Amer Abu Arfah, MADA expresses its condemnation of and concern for the Israeli authorities' extension of Abu Arfah's administrative detention for the fourth time in a row since his arrest on 21 August 2011. His administrative detention was supposed to end and he was to be released on 19 February 2013.

MADA calls upon all international bodies to intervene immediately and rapidly to protect Palestinian journalists from the continued Israeli attacks on their rights. MADA also demands the release of Abu Arfah and an end to the administrative detentions against journalists. MADA emphasizes that the official international silence and lack of accountability at all crimes committed by the occupation against journalists in Palestine encourages more of such violations.

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