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Israel under fire for attacks on Palestinian journalists and media institutions

July 30, 2017 5:19 P.M. (Updated: July 31, 2017 12:23 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces have been the target of fierce condemnation in recent days for attacks on Palestinian journalists and media institutions, following an overnight raid targeting a media production company in Ramallah on Saturday and multiple attacks on journalists who were covering mass protests in the occupied Palestinian territory against now dismantled security measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In a predawn raid Saturday, Israeli forces broke into the headquarters of PalMedia, a media production company that provides broadcast services to several media outlets, including Russia Today, al-Mayadeen, al-Manar, and al-Quds news, ransacked the offices, and destroyed equipment over accusations of alleged “incitement.”

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi denounced the raid in a statement, in which she said that “Israel’s policies of violence and repression are a blatant attempt to break the steadfastness of the Palestinian people” and represented a violation of international human rights law regarding freedom of expression.

“Clearly, Israel is engaging in an ongoing policy that deliberately targets media institutions and journalists in Palestine who courageously work to represent the Palestinian human narrative and report on Israel’s military occupation and its persistent policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing,” she said.

“Such Israeli policies of violence and repression, as well as the recent attacks against Palestinian members of the press in and around occupied East Jerusalem, are a blatant attempt to break the steadfastness of the Palestinian people.”

She urged the international community to take immediate action “to curb Israel’s ongoing breach of international law and conventions and to support our nonviolent and diplomatic efforts to seek justice and protection for the Palestinian people in all international legal venues."

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (Mada) also released a statement Sunday reacting to the raid of PalMedia and what it called a clear increase in attacks against journalists “who carry out their duty in conveying news about peaceful sit-ins organized by Jerusalemites."

“The wide range of indiscriminate violent attacks against media and journalists reaffirms the persistence of the Israeli occupation violations and attack on media freedoms through various violent means,” the Ramallah-based NGO said.

“Mada sees these incidents as means to block sending to the world a true image of what is happening on the ground and the policies it practices towards Palestinians, and also stresses the urgent need to prosecute the perpetrators of these attacks, which are still free from punishment."

Mada said that, over the past two weeks, it had monitored dozens of violations committed by Israeli forces against journalists in Jerusalem.

“These attacks varied but included arrests, beatings, threats, confiscation and destruction of equipment, prevention from covering events, interrogation, and targeting journalists with live ammunition and gas canisters.”

Ma’an TV correspondent Mirna al-Atrash was hit by a tear gas canister and lightly injured in the face during a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on July 22.

Mada highlighted the filmed, violent arrest of photojournalist Fayez Abu Rmeila during a protest on July 25, adding that he was subjected to two interrogation sessions after he was pushed and beaten by police who also confiscated his ID and memory card.

Abu Rmeila told Mada that "due to an argument that erupted between me and the policeman, he attacked me and threatened me that he was going to break my head if I spoke in a bad way.” Later, at the detention center, he said he was further beaten, insulted, and cursed.

Mada’s report listed at least 11 other journalists who were attacked by Israeli police in Jerusalem, representing local Palestinian outlets as well as international outlets such as Reuters.

Reporters Without Borders also condemned Israeli forces’ obstruction of media coverage during the Al-Aqsa crisis, which had already been widely denounced by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Palestinian Ministry of Information, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and others.

In a statement released Friday, the international press freedoms organization accused Israeli forces of using “intimidation, denial of access, violence and arrests to limit or prevent media coverage of the demonstrations and clashes sparked by the introduction of additional security measures around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem.”

Following a previous raid of PalMedia's office three years ago, Reporters Without Borders said that the raid had “joined the long list of violations of Palestinian news media rights by the Israeli security forces, with never-ending threats, arrests and military operations.”

Israel has been accused of labeling any media that is critical of Israel and its policies in Palestinian communities as “incitement” in order to stifle criticisms of Israel’s discriminatory policies in Israel, its continued occupation of the West Bank for its 50th year, and its decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip that has collapsed the territory into an interminable humanitarian crisis.

Amid the Jerusalem protests, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also blamed at the Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera for deliberately “inciting violence” at Al-Aqsa for its coverage of the events, and demanded that Israeli authorities shutter their offices in Israel.
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