New York, January 31, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed by Israel’s closure of two local television stations and a radio station in the West Bank town of Hebron during an incursion into the West Bank.
On January 30, about 25 Israeli troops entered the building housing the private Al-Nawras TV and Al-Marah Radio, and informed the employees that they were closing the two stations by order of the regional military commander. The sources told CPJ that no reason for the closure was provided. The soldiers allowed the staff to collect their personal belongings before sealing the doors of the offices and the building shut. Nothing was taken or damaged in the process, the sources said, adding that the stations programs focus mostly on entertainment.
In a separate incident, troops shuttered the private Al-Majd TV, also in Hebron, a few hours later. Sultan Al-Tamimi, an employee at Al-Majd, told CPJ that the soldiers, who came to the station, threw things around the office, damaging a scanner and a computer screen, as well as breaking a glass tabletop. Al-Tamimi said that the soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed him and a colleague and asked if they had contacts with the militant organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The soldiers left with disks and CD-roms. Both station employees were eventually released.
An IDF spokesman told CPJ, that the stations were suspected of supporting the “incitement” of terrorism. He added that they would examine the possibility of reopening the stations “in the nearest future.”
“Closing down media outlets is censorship,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. “We call on Israeli authorities to allow these three stations to reopen immediately.”