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Israeli forces raid, shutdown Palestinian media offices over 'incitement'

Oct. 18, 2017 4:25 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 19, 2017 1:27 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli army, intelligence, and civil administration forces raided several offices of Palestinian media outlets and arrested two journalists overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, confiscating equipment and shutting down offices under the pretext that the organizations were “broadcasting inciting material.”

In the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli forces raided the Transmedia and Palmedia offices and confiscated all equipment before closing the offices with a six-month military order.

Locals told Ma’an that clashes erupted during the raids, resulting in the injury of several Palestinian youth.

Meanwhile, in the southern West Bank, Israeli forces raided the Palmedia offices in Bethlehem city and confiscated equipment.

In Hebron, Israeli forces raided the al-Quds TV, al-Aqsa, Palestine Today, Transmedia and Palmedia offices and confiscated equipment. The TransMedia and Palmedia offices were closed for 6 months by a military order.

Israeli forces also arrested t the director of TransMedia in Hebron, Amer Al-Jaabari, and the managing director, Ibrahim Al-Jaabari.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli army and security forces searched media offices “suspected in broadcasting inciting content and promoting violence and terrorism against Israelis.”

“Forces seized documents from companies that provided services to associations that promote terrorism and violence,” the spokesperson said, adding that the TransMedia and Palmedia offices in Nablus and Hebron were closed for “providing services” to Hamas-affiliated news channels al-Aqsa and al-Quds TV.

The Palmedia company released a statement on Wednesday condemning Israeli authorities, saying that “these actions threaten the company’s ability to continue its job providing services for TV channels and producing programs for local, Arab and International media.”

Palmedia called upon all Palestinian officials and human rights institutions to “aid the company to regain its equipment and reopen its offices, and to end this policy that threatens the existence of Palestinian media outlets and their continuance of sending the free Palestinian voice to the world.”

The Palestinian government strongly condemned the raids and closures on Wednesday, with government spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud describing the raids as a “blatant violation of all international resolutions,” according to official Palestinian Authority (PA) Wafa news agency.

Wafa quoted al-Mahmoud as saying “the assaults come as part of Israel's plans to distract attention from the atrocities’ committed by it,” adding that “such assaults will sap any international efforts, including those of the US, to advance peace and security in the region.”

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) also released a statement expressing their “grave concern” over the “drastic violations which we believe is a new harsh blow to the media profession and media freedoms in Palestine generally, that attempts to exile and silence the Palestinian media through shutting it down, and incurring it huge loses and prosecute it under the allegation and pretext of incitement.”

“We hereby call on all media and human rights international organizations to put real pressure on the Israeli Occupation Authorities to reopen all these media outlets and repair them of the losses and return all confiscated items and equipment, and to put an end to all violations that target media freedoms and hold all perpetrators accountable,” MADA said.

Israeli authorities have led a crackdown on alleged incitement since a wave of violence began in Oct. 2015, 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.

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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