BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian press freedoms watchdog on Saturday said Israeli violations against media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territory had continued to rise at a rapid pace over the first half of 2016.
The increase came even after the group reported an “unprecedented” increase in violations throughout 2015
-- “the highest ever to be monitored in Palestine” since the group started monitoring violations against media freedoms more than a decade ago.
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, known as MADA, recorded a 17 percent escalation of violations by Israeli authorities during the first half of 2016.
MADA General Director Moussa Rimawi said in the semi-annual report
that while the total number of violations by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities declined from 224 in the first half of 2015 to 198 in the first half of this year -- a rate of 12 percent -- Israeli violations continued to climb, while Palestinian authorities committed 41 percent less violations during the same period.
A total of 133 violations committed by Israel were recorded, compared to 43 in the occupied West Bank and 22 in the blockaded Gaza Strip committed by Palestinian authorities.
Rimawi notes since MADA began monitoring and documenting violations against media freedoms more than a decade ago, “Israeli violations are considered as the most grave and dangerous,” not only in terms of quantity, but in terms of their severity.
Of the 15 different types of violations in MADA’s documentation, the top most common committed by Israel were physical attacks, arrests, confiscation of equipment, prevention of coverage, and detentions.
The most severe violation recorded during the first half of 2016 was the “execution” of the 22-year-old Palestinian journalism student Iyad Omar Sajadiyya, who was shot dead by Israeli forces
in March during fierce clashes that broke out when the military raided Qalandiya refugee camp in the occupied West Bank to extricate two soldiers.
Palestinian journalists were also exposed to 33 physical injuries from bullets, stun grenades, tear gas canisters, or beatings.
The report added that Israeli authorities closed two media institutions
after ransacking and confiscated equipment from their offices, while 23 journalists and media workers have been detained between January and June of 2016.
The report also highlighted the escalation of the Israeli practice of detaining Palestinians for social media activity, with Israeli authorities alleging that a wave of unrest that swept the occupied Palestinian territory last October was encouraged largely by "incitement."Legislation
was also recently approved in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to fine social media sites like Twitter and Facebook that do not remove content encouraging “terrorism,” expected to be joined with another bill that would allow courts to order social media providers to remove content that Israel seems to be a danger to personal, public or state security.
In contrast to Israeli violations, while violations by Palestinian authorities against media freedoms were fewer and considered “less serious” by MADA, the group said that “doesn’t by any means justify or reduce the severity” of their impact, “especially since some of these practices and methods of oppression and prosecutions are being practiced systematically to spread fear among journalists and to silence them.”
MADA noted that as a direct result of violations by Palestinian authorities, Palestinian journalists and media workers “avoid addressing several topics” and practice self censorship.
Most violations by Palestinian authorities documented by MADA were characterized as three types: interrogation by Palestinian security forces, detentions, and arrests.
“MADA is gravely concerned regarding all systematic attacks and violence against journalists and media workers by the Israeli occupation, and urges state members to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists, to ensure accountability, and bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against media freedoms,” the group said.