US pursues return of Palestinian TV station’s equipment

For more than five months, the Ramallah-based private television broadcaster Wattan TV has been without key equipment, including transmitters, computers, files, and archives. On February 29, Israeli soldiers and officials from the Ministry of Communications raided the station without a warrant, saying it was broadcasting illegally and interfering with aircraft transmissions.

Wattan TV’s equipment, as CPJ reported in April, was funded in large part by U.S. agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Middle East Partnership Initiative, a fund controlled by the State Department. So CPJ appealed to the State Department in a letter last month for help in getting Israel to return the equipment. In response, Lawrence Silverman, director of State’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs, recently wrote to pledge assistance:

The United States Government provides funding in order to support free and independent media in the West Bank and Gaza. We consider it important that our projects, including funding for several independent media outlets, help Palestinian audiences gain access to free and fair news coverage and benefit from programming that provides in-depth information on political processes and decision making.

The full text of Silverman’s response can be read here.

Incidentally, CPJ also wrote to the Israeli Minister of Communications, Moshe Kachlon, in May, to urge the Israeli government to return Wattan TV’s confiscated equipment. The station’s general director, Muamar Orabi, has said that without it, the station faces financial ruin. The Israelis have yet to respond.