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PA detains Palestinian journalist for filming prime minister's convoy at Israeli checkpoint

July 7, 2017 7:57 P.M. (Updated: July 8, 2017 4:00 P.M.)
A Palestinian journalist covering protest at Israel's Ofer detention center (PLO/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority (PA) detained Palestinian journalist Jihad Barakat on Thursday in Tulkarem city in the northern occupied West Bank after he took photos and filmed Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s car convoy passing an Israeli-controlled checkpoint.

Palestinian journalists and activists launched a campaign on social media #وين_جهاد (Where is Jihad), condemning the detention on social media and demanding Barakat’s immediate release, after the Palestinian journalist was detained near the Israeli-controlled Anab checkpoint east of Tulkarem, according to Palestinian news outlet Al-Quds.

According to activists, Barakat was reportedly taking a video of Israeli forces searching Palestinian members of Hamdallah’s convoy before he was detained.

Al-Quds reported that the PA had extended Barakat’s detention for an additional week until Sunday.

Palestinians voicing their frustrations over social media said that this was the latest move by the PA characterized by “excessive” aggression against Palestinian journalists, and that activists and journalists experience “threats on a daily basis” for carrying out their work in the occupied West Bank.

PA spokesperson Tariq Rishmawi reportedly said that the PA had detained two Palestinian “youths” for “violating the laws on filming,” and said that no Israeli forces were deployed at the checkpoint while Barakat was filming, denying allegations that Barakat had been detained for filming PA members being searched by Israeli soldiers, most of whom are between the ages of 18-21.

Rishmawi added that the PA had been monitoring the two for “a long period of time” and they had been transferred to interrogation, adding that the PA was not violating anyone’s rights of free speech and opinion.

However, Palestinians quickly took to social media to denounce Barakat’s detention. One critic expressed his suspicions over what Barakat was technically detained for on Facebook. “Is it because he embarrassed Hamdallah while he was being searched? Or was it because he exposed the (Israeli) occupation?” he asked.

“What is wrong with filming a video and publishing it on Facebook of the Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah being searched at an occupation checkpoint? Do you think we might realize that our authority (PA) lacks sovereignty?” another said.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) documented a decrease in the amount of press freedom violations in the occupied Palestinian territory by both Israeli and Palestinian forces in their annual 2016 report.

However, MADA nevertheless documented instances of torture committed by Palestinian parties and a continuation of Palestinian authorities “prosecuting journalists in relation to their publications on social media sites.”

The PA also decided last month to block 11 Palestinian news websites -- all allegedly affiliated with either the Hamas movement or Muhammad Dahlan, a political rival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a move which has been condemned by rights groups as a "serious violation of freedom of the press and expression."

Rights groups have continued to criticize the Fatah-dominated PA and Hamas, the de facto leaders in the Gaza Strip, for 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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