Beirut, November 21, 2019 -- Israeli authorities should allow Palestine TV and the Al-Arz Media Services Company to reopen their offices and resume their work, and cease conducting raids of media organizations, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, Israeli police and intelligence officers raided the Jerusalem offices of Palestine TV and the Al-Arz Media Services Company, seized broadcasting equipment, and ordered the companies to remain closed for six months on orders from Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, according to news reports and statements by the local press freedom group MADA and the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, a journalists’ union.
Police questioned Palestine TV reporter Christine Rinawi and Al-Arz manager Nizar Younes and director Ayman Abu Rmouz at the al-Maskobiya police station in Jerusalem following the raids, according to those reports. They were released a few hours later, according to Facebook posts by Rinawi and by local journalist Diala Jwehan.
Palestine TV is a local broadcaster funded by the Palestinian National Authority, and Al-Arz Media Services Company provides production and broadcast support for Palestine TV, according to local daily The Times of Israel.
Israeli authorities allege that the outlets had broadcasted programming on behalf of the Palestinian National Authority within Jerusalem, in violation of a 1994 agreement, according to MADA.
“Israeli authorities must stop using the police and intelligence services to bludgeon local news organizations,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Palestine TV and the Al-Arz Media Services Company should be allowed to reopen and resume their work; if Israeli authorities believe they have violated any agreements, then that should be dealt with in the courts, not through surprise raids and shutdowns.”
Israeli police seized broadcasting equipment from Palestine TV, including two computers and several external hard drives, according to the MADA statement.
The Times of Israel quoted a statement from Erdan saying that the broadcaster and production company were part of an “attempt by the Palestinian Authority to violate our sovereignty in the capital.”
The Israeli Internal Security Ministry did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.