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Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal released from prison as Gazans stage solidarity sit-in

Feb. 20, 2017 6:55 P.M. (Updated: April 17, 2017 7:00 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- The Democratic Journalists Assembly organized a sit-in in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Gaza on Monday in solidarity with Palestinian journalists imprisoned by Israel.

The sit-in was organized as Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal was released from prison and fellow journalist Muhammad al-Qiq continued his latest hunger strike against his administrative detention -- Israel’s widely condemned practice of internment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence.

Nazzal, 55, was released outside of the Ofer detention center near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank after serving 10 months in prison under administrative detention.

Nazzal was detained on April 23 at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan while he was en route to a journalism convention in Bosnia. His administrative detention was renewed three times without trial or indictment.

A member of the administrative council of the union of journalists, Nazzal was jailed in 1977 for one year, and was placed under house arrest in Jenin city for one year in 1986.

Al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for more than two weeks, was released from prison in May last year after having gone without food for a grueling 94 days to protest his administrative detention at the time.

However, the prominent journalist was redetained in mid-January after he participated in a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem demanding the release of bodies of slain Palestinians held in Israeli custody, and was once again placed under administrative detention.

Al-Qiq's lawyer, Khalid Zabarqa, told Ma’an on Sunday that the journalist has been held by Israel in a “grave-like” prison cell, and that al-Qiq was suffering from dizziness, loss of balance, and back pain.

According to Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun, Israeli authorities had not garnered confessions or issued charges against al-Qiq as of late January, although they had earlier expressed that they were investigating him for alleged “incitement” on social media, amid a crackdown on freedom of expression among Palestinian activists and journalists.

Al-Qiq’s previous imprisonment by Israel -- widely condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other rights groups -- and subsequent hunger strike cast a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, its arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinians, and the concerted targeting of Palestinian journalists.

Democratic Journalists Assembly member Ahlam Eid spoke at Monday’s sit-in, confirming her rejection of administrative detention, and stressing that the Israeli policy of detentions and killings [of journalists] “hasn’t and will not scare Palestinian journalists and will not prevent them from exposing the Israeli occupation’s crimes.”

Journalist and former prisoner Tariq Abu Shalouf also gave a speech during the sit-in echoing Eid’s sentiments.

The assembly called upon Palestinian journalists “to overcome all obstacles that the Israeli occupation puts up to hide the truth,” and demanded that the International Federation of Journalists “take responsibility towards Palestinian journalists and stop Israeli crimes.”

The assembly also demanded of the Palestinian Journalists’ Union “not to stand silent on the violations committed against journalists,” saying that union’s positions “should not be limited only to condemning violations.”

The assembly noted that 19 Palestinian journalists were currently being held in Israeli prisons, including four who were sick and not receiving proper medical care.

Israeli authorities have carried out a crackdown on Palestinian journalists and human rights activists since a wave of violence erupted in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory in October 2015.

According to a recent report by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), these incidents were on the decline, but still persisting.

Last year, Jamal Dajani of the Palestinian prime minister's office said in a press release following an attack on Palestinian journalists at a World Press Freedom demonstration that "Israel’s systematic assault on Palestinian journalists and media institutions is part of a broader campaign to instill fear and silence in an entire population.”

“Today, freedom of expression has become grounds for arrest, under the Israeli pretext of incitement. Israel wants to stop Palestinians from reporting on Israeli human rights violations; Israel doesn’t want the world to know the real facts on the ground."
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