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Report: Violations against press freedoms in Palestine declining, but still persisting

Feb. 9, 2017 8:07 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 22, 2017 10:30 A.M.)
Ofer protest journalist Photo Credit PLO
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) introduced their annual report on Thursday documenting press violations in the occupied Palestinian territory, revealing that 2016 saw a significant decrease in media violations both by Israeli forces and the Palestinian governments.

MADA recorded a total of 383 violations against the media in Palestine during 2016, representing a significant decrease from 2015 which saw at least 599 violations of media freedoms in the Palestinian territory.

While Palestinian governments in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip represented 35 percent of the violations, Israeli authorities committed 249 violations against Palestinian press freedoms, constituting 65 percent of the total.

The “gravest and most prominent violations” in 2016 included the killing of Omar Sajadiyya, 22, by Israeli forces. Sajadiyya was a media student at al-Quds University and was shot dead by Israeli forces in Qalandiya refugee camp during an overnight military raid.

Other Israeli violations involved the “injuring and arresting of dozens of Palestinian journalists, raiding, confiscating, and sabotaging media outlets, including the shutdown of 12 Palestinian media outlets and printing houses.”

The report stated that the decline in Israeli violations was attributed to the decrease of clashes and direct confrontations between Palestinians and Israelis. In contrast, 2015 saw a wave of violence erupt across the territory, with sustained clashes between Palestinian and Israeli military forces in multiple areas of the West Bank for several months.

Meanwhile, while the number of media violations committed by Palestinian parties had also dropped in 2016, the report highlighted that there were incidents of security forces both in the West Bank and Gaza inflicting “certain types of torture” against Palestinian journalists during their detentions.

A continuation of Palestinian authorities “prosecuting journalists in relation to their publications on social media sites,” was also reported.

According to MADA, 2016 saw 86 Palestinian violations against media freedoms in the West Bank, while a total of 48 violations were recorded in the besieged Gaza Strip. However, the report highlighted that the lower number of violations in Gaza did not reflect heightened media freedoms, but was instead caused by the limited number of journalists and media centers operating in the besieged enclave.

The political divisions between Fatah and Hamas since conflict broke out between the groups in 2007 were cited as the major reason behind media violations in the Gaza Strip.

MADA said that the reason for the decline in Palestinian violations against the press owed to a “relative stable situation.”

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. However, according to MADA’s report these incidents are 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."

Meanwhile, rights groups have continued to criticize the PA and Hamas, the de-facto government of the Gaza Strip, of suppressing both freedom of press and freedom of speech. Both governments have been the focus of condemnation for targeting Palestinian journalists who openly criticize the government.
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