Beirut, October 19, 2017–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Israeli authorities to stop harassing Palestinian media and to release two staff members of a media company arrested during a series of raids in the West Bank yesterday.
Avichay Adraee, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson for Arabic Media, said in a statement published on an IDF Facebook account yesterday that at least eight Palestinian telecom and production companies were raided, but he did not specify the companies’ names. Adraee said 11 offices of the companies were raided because they provide services to the Hamas-affiliated stations Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds, which incite against Israel.
In early morning raids in several West Bank cities, Israeli forces, in cooperation with the Israeli home security service Shin Bet, confiscated documents and broadcast equipment, and closed the media companies down, according to news reports and the pro-Palestinian press freedom group Journalists Support Committee. Footage on the IDF Facebook page shows soldiers using plywood and metal to physically prevent access to the offices. Notices were left on doors saying that the companies were closed for six months, and warning employees to stop assisting terrorism and incitement.
Three of the companies–TransMedia Palestine, PalMedia and RamSat–provide production services, facilities, camera crews, and studios to Hamas-affiliated TV channels including Al-Aqsa, Al-Quds, and Palestine Today, and to international channels including Russia Today, BBC, and France 24, according to the Journalists Support Committee and the local press freedom group, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom.
The IDF also arrested two Transmedia staff on suspicion of incitement, according to Adraee and a news report. The men, who are brothers, were named in a Facebook post by one of their relatives as Amr al-Jaabari, director of TransMedia, and Ibrahim al-Jabaari, a cameraman and managing director at the company.
“Israeli soldiers cannot simply allege incitement and raid broadcasters’ offices,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. “We call on the Israeli military to release Amr al-Jaabari and Ibrahim al-Jabaari, return all equipment seized from TransMedia, PalMedia, Ramsat, and any other outlets, and allow the media companies to resume their work without fear of reprisal.”
Israeli troops raided PalMedia’s offices in Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, and Ramallah; TransMedia’s offices in Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah; and RamSat’s Hebron office, according to news reports.
As well as allegedly providing services to Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa, the stations were raided for broadcasting inflammatory material that promotes terrorism, according to the IDF spokesperson. Transmedia broadcasts footage on its website and social media of Israeli military raids and clashes, and PalMedia broadcasts more general news coverage on its site and social media, according to news reports and video footage posted on Facebook.
TransMedia and PalMedia didn’t immediately reply to CPJ’s calls and emails requesting comment. CPJ was unable to find contact details for RamSat.
The Israel Defense Forces has previously said that it is illegal for companies to provide services to Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa because the stations incite violence against Israel, according to reports.
The raids came hours after the Israeli government said in a statement that it would not recognize an emerging Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless it made radical changes, including recognizing Israel and handing over its weapons.
Major General Yoav Mordechai, head of the IDF Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, was quoted by local and international media as saying after the raids that Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds TV channels broadcast incitement against Israel and have inspired terrorists on several occasions to carry out attacks. He did not mention specific coverage, but the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories’ Arabic Facebook page linked to a clip of what it said showed instances of incitement.
Mordechai did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via social media.
PalMedia was raided earlier this year, in a separate incident. CPJ documented a July 29 raid by Israeli soldiers raided the company’s Ramallah office, during which troops seized storage devices and documents.