Two Palestinian television stations raided in Ramallah

New York, February 29, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s early-morning raid by Israeli soldiers on two private Palestinian television stations in Ramallah.

About 30 Israeli soldiers raided the offices of Wattan TV, the privately owned news broadcaster, and confiscated the station’s transmitters, computers, and other equipment, the broadcaster and several news outlets reported. Israeli soldiers also raided the Ramallah-based Al-Quds Educational Television, a project of Al-Quds University, and confiscated the station’s transmitters and other equipment, according to news reports. The station broadcasts children’s educational programs, news reports said.

The Israeli military said Wattan TV was “a pirate station whose frequencies interfered with legal broadcasters and aircraft communications,” according to news reports. The military said they had “repeatedly warned both stations that they were using frequencies that violated Israeli-Palestinian agreements and that interfered with communications and transmissions systems in Israel,” news reports said. The Palestinian Authority denied receiving such warnings, the news reports said.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority said “the stations complied with legal requirements and the authority’s agreements with Israel,” The New York Times reported. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority denounced the raids on the broadcasters, called them acts of “aggression,” and said the actions undermined his government, news reports said.

“We urge Israel to return all confiscated equipment and permit the broadcasts to resume,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator. “This issue can be resolved without shutting down the broadcasters or confiscating their equipment.”

In November, Israeli police stopped the Hebrew broadcasts of the Israeli-Palestinian Radio All for Peace, saying that they were operating without a license. In January, CPJ wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing alarm over the deterioration of press freedom in Israel, which included ongoing attacks on and detention of journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.