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PA condemns Israeli clampdown on Palestinian media

March 11, 2016 6:00 P.M. (Updated: March 12, 2016 3:21 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- A spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority condemned on Friday the targeting of Falastin al-Yawm (Palestine Today) TV by Israel, which came amidst ongoing Israeli policies targeting Palestinian media.

Israeli forces raided the offices of Falastin al-Yawm and TransMedia Production Company in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah before dawn on Friday.

Locals told Ma’an that forces stormed the media outlets’ headquarters in al-Bireh and detained two journalists, confiscated property, and delivered military orders for the offices to be shut down.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that a closure order was issued only against Falastine al-Yawm, adding that the station was cited for "incitement" and for allegedly being “associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, an illegal terror organization.”

Israeli authorities shut down a number of Palestinian news agencies last November, also on the grounds of “incitement against Israel,” following an increase in unrest in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Youssef al-Mahmoud said on Friday that Israel has targeted Palestinian and foreign journalists reporting on the Palestinian cause for decades.

Al-Mahmoud cited as an example the airstrikes carried out against the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation’s headquarters in Ramallah in 2002.

Israeli forces carried out the attack after six people were killed by a Palestinian allegedly linked to the Fatah faction of then-Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

The Israeli crackdown on media organizations in the occupied Palestinian territory is part of a systematic policy that designates groups related to Palestinian political parties as terrorist organizations, according to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer.

“The practical implication of these broadly-defined offenses is the criminalization of many aspects of Palestinian civic life,” Addameer stated.

There are currently 16 Palestinian journalists -- including media students -- held in Israeli prisons, the latest of which was Sami al-Saie from Tulkarem and the head of Falastin al-Yawm TV, Faruq Iliyat from Jenin, a prisoners’ rights group said Friday.

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said that four journalists, identified as Mahmoud al-Qawasmeh, Usama Shahin from Hebron, Hamzeh Safi from Tulkarem, and Thamer Sabaaneh from Jenin, were released this month and in February and March.

PPS added that nine Palestinian journalists are currently serving prison sentences, identifying them as Mahmoud Issa, Ahmad Saifi, Salah Awwad, Anan Masaad, Walid Ali, Muhammad Atta, Amjad Samhan, Ahmad al-Bitawi and Qutaiba Qassem.

Meanwhile, journalists Mahmoud al-Qaddumi, Ali al-Uweiwi, and Muhammad al-Qiq are being held in administrative detention.

Al-Qiq ended a grueling 94-day hunger strike earlier this month protesting his administrative detention -- internment without trial or charge.

PPS also listed journalists Mujahid al-Saadi and Humam Attili as being detained by Israeli authorities, without specifying whether they were charged or held in administrative detention.

PPS pointed out that nine journalists have been detained since October 2015, some of whom have since been released while others are still held in detention.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu passed a series of measures last week, claiming “incitement” by Palestinian media led to individual attacks against Israelis, according to a Palestinian media freedoms organization MADA.

In a statement on Wednesday, MADA said it was “highly concerned” by the Israeli resolution to target Palestinian media, saying it neglected “the main reason for the whole conflict, which is the continuous occupation and all systematic violations against Palestinian people.”

“We demand that the international society put pressure on the Israeli government to withdraw the resolution,” MADA said the statement), calling for an end to “all escalating attacks against media freedoms in Palestine... and to hold accountable all the perpetrators of these violations.”
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