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Israeli forces raid, issue closure order on Palestinian radio station in Hebron

Aug. 31, 2017 1:39 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 5, 2017 10:28 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities raided and shut down a Palestinian radio station in Hebron city in the southern occupied West Bank during predawn hours on Thursday for allegedly “inciting terrorist attacks."

Israeli soldiers raided the al-Hurriya (Freedom) Media Company in Hebron -- which runs the Manbar al-Hurriya radio station and al-Nawras TV -- and destroyed, damaged, and confiscated various equipment, according to Ayman Qawasmeh, the head of the radio station.

“We were not surprised at the occupation’s barbaric policy and they will not be able to silence the voice of al-Hurriya,” Qawasmeh told Ma’an, adding that it was not the first time the radio had been shuttered by Israeli forces.

Israeli forces issued a military order that the station be closed for six months owing to charges of “inciting terrorist attacks,” according to the order posted on the door of the company. All employees and workers have been banned from entering the building until Feb. 14, 2018, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa.

According to Wafa, Mahmoud Iqnibi, public relations manager for the company, said that the radio and TV station had been raided, and that soldiers had “uninstalled transmission devices, broke the live camera and surveillance cameras and equipment.”

However, he added, the soldiers had only issued the closure order for al-Hurriya radio station.

Iqnibi added that the closure order was “an attempt to silence Palestinians and cover (up) Israel’s crimes.”

Qawasmeh told Ma’an that 56 employees work at the radio station, all of whom have families to support.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that the raid was part of the Israeli army’s “ongoing efforts against incitement” in the West Bank. She added that the station “regularly broadcasts inciting contents,” and has “encouraged acts of terror.”

Israeli authorities have long restricted Palestinian freedom of expression through censoring social media activity and imprisoning journalists, activists, poets, and novelists.

In Nov. 2015 al-Hurriya radio station was also closed for six months during an increase in violence that erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. At the time, the radio station was also shut down for “incitement to violence,” according Israeli daily Haaretz.

Israeli authorities have led a crackdown on alleged incitement since the increased violence, with Palestinian media outlets often being raided for allegedly inciting violence and hundreds of Palestinians detained over social media posts that Israeli forces believe amount to incitement against the Israeli state.

However, 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 half-century occupation of the West Bank, and its decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip that has collapsed the territory into an interminable humanitarian crisis.

In a high profile case, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has targeted the award-winning news network Al Jazeera with allegations of incitement, most recently during the two-week long civil disobedience campaign in occupied East Jerusalem held in protest of Israel’s security measures at the holy site last month.

Netanyahu has since worked to shutter Al Jazeera’s office in Israel and revoke the official credentials of Al Jazeera journalists.

Two weeks ago, Israel had announced that it would revoke the press card of senior Al Jazeera journalist Elias Karam. However, on Wednesday it was reported that Israeli authorities had postponed the decision and would “monitor” Karam’s work for six months.

Karam, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was threatened with the revocation of his credentials owing to an interview he had done with a Muslim Brotherhood television channel last year in which he said that he considered his work as a journalist to be a part of Palestinian “resistance.” However, he recently denied this conflation during a hearing with Israeli authorities.

Palestinian journalists often describe their work as a form of “resistance,” as they believe their stories show the world the devastating effects of Israel’s policies on Palestinians and provide Palestinians an outlet for their voices in a media climate that is often overshadowed by pro-Israeli narratives.
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