Beirut, September 5, 2017--Israel should allow the al-Hurriya media network and its affiliates to resume work without fear of harassment, and the Palestinian Authority should release Ayman al-Qawasme, the chairman of the same media network, from its custody, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Israeli soldiers on August 31 raided the Hebron office of the Fatah-affiliated al-Hurriya Media Network, seized equipment of affiliate radio and television outlets, destroyed the office, and briefly detained two network employees, according to a video the Israel Defense Forces filmed and which has since been posted to Al Hurriya's Facebook page.
Three days later, the Palestinian Preventive Security forces summoned al-Qawasme, al-Hurriya's chairman, to its headquarters in Hebron, and promptly arrested him on the orders of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a report from al-Hurriya. Al-Qawasme remains in custody at security force headquarters in Hebron, and has not yet been charged.
Al-Qawasme's arrest came after he called on Abbas and prime minister Rami Hamdallah to resign if they are unable to protect Palestinians and their institutions from Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported.
"It seems the only thing Israel and the Palestinian Authority have in common right now is their desire to silence their critics in the media," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour from Washington D.C. "Israel must allow the al-Hurriya media network to operate freely, and the Palestine Authority must release the network's chairman immediately."
Rana Mohammad, a radio presenter for Manbar al-Hurriya, told CPJ that Manbar al-Hurriya has never broadcast any material that could have provoked violence or incited terrorism.
The spokesperson for the Israel Defense Force did not immediately respond to CPJ's request for comment.
In recent months, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have stepped up their crackdown on media outlets and journalists. According to CPJ research, Israel began to draft legislation aimed at closing Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera's office in Jerusalem. Palestine's security service on August 10 arrested five journalists working for Hamas-affiliated media outlets in several cities across the West Bank.